Climate change is happening, it has always happened, and it is happening faster then it should because of we humans, and our burning fossil fuels. Now, the non-morons can relax with the realisation that I wasn’t addressing them and was directing that at anthropogenic climate change deniers. Please enjoy this video from Hank as he dismisses 10 common climate denier memes. The only criticism I have of his video is that he speaks far too quickly for morons to comprehend. However, if they can operate a mouse they should be able to pause and replay as often as they need to. For the rest of you, enjoy.
Tag Archives: AGW
In this video, comparisons are drawn between the events that led to the end-Permian extinction and our current trajectory in terms of CO2 release and anthropogenic global warming. The climate system and physics don’t care about the source of CO2. They will just do what they do and we will have our consequences. It is easy for deniers to dismiss this sort of video as “alarmist” but the onus is on them to explain why the possible outcomes won’t happen without resorting to magical or wishful thinking. Good luck with that.
In light of the recent decision by the LA Times to not print letters to the editor from AGW deniers comes this awesome open letter. In the spirit of fairness I think the science deniers should have their say about this terrible case of censorship so here it is…
Stephen Williams & Brett Scheffers
from the Conversation October 10,2013
Australia is already feeling the effects of climate change, with record-breaking temperatures not just over summer, but over the past 12 months as well. Research suggests that such events are many times more likely thanks to climate change.
The IPCC fifth assessment report on climate science found evidence for climate change is unequivocal. The impacts of increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events on people and our environment are real and undeniable. But what’s happening to our animals and plants? Our research in Queensland is starting to give us some clues.
Warning from the rainforest
More than 10 years ago, we made predictions that the animals in the World Heritage-listed rainforests of north Queensland faced a grim future.
In the Queensland Wet Tropics we’ve compiled one of the most robust databases on species distributions on Earth, enabling us to vastly improve our understanding of these systems and to monitor changes.
Animals are adapted to specific temperature ranges. As temperatures increase thanks to climate change, we predicted animals and plants would move up mountains as they attempted to remain at cooler temperatures. Eventually they would reach the top of the mountain and have nowhere else to go.
Unfortunately, our predictions are now starting to come true.
In our monitoring in the world heritage rainforests, we recently confirmed that at least 13 bird species and four species of ringtail possums have moved up the mountains in order to remain at cooler temperatures just as we predicted a decade earlier. Strikingly, their shifts are detectable over just 10 years with only a fraction of the temperature change that we will experience over coming decades.
Thus, small changes in climate can have more severe effects on biodiversity than previously though.
In addition to a steady increase in mean temperature, climate also affects animals via the increasing severity and frequency of extreme events such as heat waves.
For example, our research over the past 10 years showed that lemuroid ringtail possums have declined in the northern mountain ranges. The culprit is heatwaves, which have increased in intensity and length over the past 50 years. In the summer of 2005, maximum temperatures went over the possum’s physiological tolerance for 27 days in a row. The possums couldn’t escape, and widespread deaths ensued.
Unlike heat extremes, increasing average temperatures will slowly but inexorably push species up mountain sides where they will eventually run out of room and shelter. We now have evidence that numerous species in the Wet Tropics region will share similar fates to the Lemuroid Possum.
Our recent work in the Philippines has added another dimension to our knowledge of climate change and its effects on rainforests.
We found that rainforest vegetation creates a climate gradient – much like the gradient you can find going up a mountain. This gradient is far steeper than changes in climate that may occur over hundreds of metres of elevation, or hundreds of kilometres of latitude. The tiered vegetation within just 20 metres of rainforests can reduce temperatures by more than 2C and increase humidity by over 10%.
Animals and plants organise themselves along this gradient, living in the part they find most comfortable.
But when the rainforest heats up thanks to climate change, animals and plants move down the trees because, at low elevations at least, the canopy becomes too hot. We call this process “flattening”, and it will have severe consequences for biodiversity. For example, we show that as animals move towards the ground in response to warmer temperatures, the density of animals on the ground may increase by over 80%. This is like trying to fit 100 people in a bus that only has space for 20 – it just doesn’t work.
Climate change may create an extinction zone in the lowlands that starts in the canopy and moves down towards the ground. As the Earth continues to warm, this zone will then expand upwards in elevation. This novel finding is relevant to many ecosystems in Australia and globally.
What to do now
So how do we deal with these dire forecasts? Both mitigation and adaptation will be critical for saving species.
Here in Australia and abroad we’ve discovered that intact forests that offer a variety of complex structures can reduce the severity of extreme climate events. These structures are like small air-conditioning units in the rainforest that smaller species can use. Thus, intact and protected rainforests will be critical for species adaptation and safeguarding biodiversity as the Earth warms.
But even this isn’t enough in the long term. By 2100 no amount of air-conditioning will offset the temperatures predicted.
Species loss offers a compelling argument to act now on mitigation policies like cap and trade, offsets and emissions reductions.
Why should we do so? The Wet Tropics of Queensland are a globally-significant world heritage area that provide habitat for species found nowhere else on earth, including nearly 100 unique mammals, birds, reptiles and frogs, and thousands of species of insects and plants.
The region is also incredibly valuable economically. Eco-tourism stimulates the regional economy to a tune of A$4-5b a year. And our fresh clean drinking water comes primarily from these forests.
We could say the same about other ecosystems in Australia and the animals and plants that are part of them. Without mitigation and adaptation, many will suffer from climate change, and that’s bad news for us too.
Every time there is a federal election in this country, new and strange political parties tend to pop up like daisies along with some colourful and entertaining individuals, all wanting to have a tilt at being elected to parliament. Good on them I say. It’s a sign of a healthy democracy that everyone has that opportunity. For me, I find these parties and people highly entertaining in what is usually a frustratingly long election campaign. I am also happy that many of them are prepared to just say whatever they think regardless of how they are perceived. There should be more of that from our major parties, but equally I am glad that these people rarely get elected because many of them are batshit crazy.
Every now and then we discover some pure gold in the crazy stakes. I would like to thank JB for providing a link to an article in one of his local papers about a candidate in the upcoming federal election. This has actually provided me with a real dilemma. There are so many things to look at it, that are so idiotic, it is difficult to choose just one. I’m also unsure whether I need to comment at all because it pretty much speaks for itself. Whether it’s the conspiracy ideation, the over the top predictions that god will destroy Australia because of gay marriage or the fact he thinks if he’s elected he’s going to singly have the power to disband government bodies, it’s all pretty nutty stuff. Here is the full article from the Gympie Times in Queensland.
‘UN caused CQ floods’, says Capricornia Rise Up candidate.
Emma McBryde 21st Aug 2013 8:54 AM Updated: 9:57 AM
CAPRICORNIA’S newest federal candidate believes the United Nations contracted a private company to cause the floods in Central Queensland in 2010 and 2011.
Rise Up Australia Party’s Paul Lewis yesterday expressed concern his views might not get him elected.
But he believes he has a better chance in Capricornia than in his home-town of the Gold Coast.
Mr Lewis said he told the newly-formed party he would be willing to move to Rockhampton and he liked the area.
“I came to Capricornia because it’s a marginal Labor seat,” he said.
“I knew this seat would be more winnable.”
The self-proclaimed born-again Christian said he had visited friends in the region over the past six years.
During his visits in the past three years he said it was obvious “weather manipulation” technology was being used.
He said aerial tankers bought by a private company from the US defence force were sub-contracted by the UN to spray chemicals on clouds over CQ in 2010, causing high levels of rainfall.
Mr Lewis said Labor was mindlessly following a “global agenda”.
He said Capricornia needed a voice in Canberra that was not politically correct and would not bow to the agenda of “global masters”. Mr Lewis explained the “global masters” consisted of large, wealthy families across the world who also own Australia’s four major banks.
“The general population has been dumbed down to accept the government we’ve got,” he said. “I am a disciple of truth. There is a spirit of deception that covers the whole world.”
Mr Lewis said part of the “global agenda” was legalising same-sex marriage.
He said Australia had a soul and would one day be physically annihilated by fire, like the kingdoms of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Old Testament, if same-sex marriage was made legal.
According to the Bible the people of Sodom and Gomorrah suffered God’s wrath for their sins, particularly of homosexuality.
Mr Lewis described same-sex marriage as one of the biggest issues facing Capricornia.
He believes gays can be taught to be heterosexuals again through Jesus Christ and his teachings.
Mr Lewis agrees with most of the teachings of the Christian pastor who created the party, Sri-Lankan born Daniel Nalliah.
The party was launched by British climate change sceptic Lord Christopher Monckton in February.
“When I get into power I will be disbanding the climate change commission,” Mr Lewis said.
So, there you have it. A plethora of idiotic comments to choose from. Take your pick. While there was no direct quote from Mr Lewis, if he did suggest that his views might not get him elected, it would have to be the understatement of the year. I mean seriously? I have a prediction and I will be watching. Without knowing who he is up against, I predict he will get fewer votes than the informal count for the seat. If he doesn’t, it will reflect very poorly on the people in the electorate. Watch this space.
Original article here.
A new paper in Nature Climate Change examines range shifts and phenological responses by marine organisms to anthropogenic global warming. They found >80% of 1700 species studied had undergone changes expected with warming oceans and they are doing so at rates 10x faster than terrestrial species. For some plankton species, the rate of shift was 100x faster.
Past meta-analyses of the response of marine organisms to climate change have examined a limited range of locations1, 2, taxonomic groups2, 3, 4 and/or biological responses5, 6. This has precluded a robust overview of the effect of climate change in the global ocean. Here, we synthesized all available studies of the consistency of marine ecological observations with expectations under climate change. This yielded a meta-database of 1,735 marine biological responses for which either regional or global climate change was considered as a driver. Included were instances of marine taxa responding as expected, in a manner inconsistent with expectations, and taxa demonstrating no response. From this database, 81–83% of all observations for distribution, phenology, community composition, abundance, demography and calcification across taxa and ocean basins were consistent with the expected impacts of climate change. Of the species responding to climate change, rates of distribution shifts were, on average, consistent with those required to track ocean surface temperature changes. Conversely, we did not find a relationship between regional shifts in spring phenology and the seasonality of temperature. Rates of observed shifts in species’ distributions and phenology are comparable to, or greater, than those for terrestrial systems.
For more information including some charts and full access ($$$) go here.
from the EPA in the USA (original article)
Introduction to Global Issues
Many global issues are climate-related, including basic needs such as food, water, health, and shelter. Changes in climate may threaten these needs with increased temperatures, sea level rise, changes in precipitation, and more frequent or intense extreme events.
Climate change will affect individuals and groups differently. Certain groups of people are particularly sensitive to climate change impacts, such as the elderly, the infirm, children, native and tribal groups, and low-income populations.
Climate change may also threaten key natural resources, affecting water and food security. Conflicts, mass migrations, health impacts, or environmental stresses in other parts of the world could raise national security issues for the United States.  
Although climate change is an inherently global issue, the impacts will not be felt equally across the planet. Impacts are likely to differ in both magnitude and rate of change in different continents, countries, and regions. Some nations will likely experience more adverse effects than others. Other nations may benefit from climate changes. The capacity to adapt to climate change can influence how climate change affects individuals, communities, countries, and the global population.
Impacts on Basic Needs: Food, Water, Health, and Shelter
Impacts on Agriculture and Food
Changes in climate could have significant impacts on food production around the world. Heat stress, droughts, and flooding events may lead to reductions in crop yields and livestock productivity. Areas that are already affected by drought, such as Australia and the Sahel in Africa, will likely experience reductions in water available for irrigation. 
At mid to high latitudes, cereal crop yields are projected to increase slightly, depending on local rates of warming and crop type. At lower latitudes, cereal crop yields are projected to decrease. The greatest decreases in crop yields will likely occur in dry and tropical regions. In some African countries, for example, yields from rain-fed agriculture in drought years could decline by as much as 50% by 2020. This decline will likely be exacerbated by climate change.  
Climate change has already affected many fisheries around the world. Increasing ocean temperatures have shifted some marine species to cooler waters outside of their normal range. Fisheries are important for the food supply and economy of many countries. For example, more than 40 million people rely on the fisheries in the Lower Mekong delta in Asia. Projected reductions in water flows and increases in sea level may negatively affect water quality and fish species in this region. This would affect the food supply for communities that depend on these resources.  
For more information about the impacts of climate change on agriculture and food production, please visit the Agriculture and Food Supply Impacts & Adaptation page.
Impacts on Water Supply and Quality
Semi-arid and arid areas (such as the Mediterranean, southern Africa, and northeastern Brazil) are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change on water supply. Over the next century, these areas will likely experience decreases in water resources, especially in areas that are already water-stressed due to droughts, population pressures, and water resource extraction.   
The availability of water resources is strongly related to the amount and timing of runoff and precipitation. By 2050, annual average river runoff is projected to increase by 10-40% at high latitudes and in some wet tropical areas, but decrease by 10-30% in some dry regions at mid-latitudes and in the subtropics. As temperatures rise, snowpack is declining in many regions and glaciers are melting at unprecedented rates, increasing flood risks. Droughts are likely to become more widespread, while increases in heavy precipitation events would produce more flooding.  
Water quality is important for ecosystems, human health and sanitation, agriculture, and other purposes. Increases in temperature, changes in precipitation, sea level rise, and extreme events could diminish water quality in many regions. In particular, saltwater from rising sea level and storm surges threaten water supplies in coastal areas and on small islands. Additionally, increasing water temperatures can cause algal blooms and potentially increase bacteria in water bodies. These impacts may require communities to begin treating their water in order to provide safe water resources for human uses. 
For more information about the impacts of climate change on the water supply, please visit the Water Impacts & Adaptation page.
Impacts on Human Health
The risks of climate-sensitive diseases and health impacts can be high in poor countries that have little capacity to prevent and treat illness. There are many examples of health impacts related to climate change.
- Sustained increases in temperatures are linked to more frequent and severe heat stress.
- The reduction in air quality that often accompanies a heat wave can lead to breathing problems and worsen respiratory diseases.
- Impacts of climate change on agriculture and other food systems can increase rates of malnutrition. 
- Climate changes can influence infectious diseases. The spread of meningococcal (epidemic) meningitis is often linked to climate changes, especially drought. Areas of sub-Saharan and West Africa are sensitive to the spread of meningitis, and will be particularly at-risk if droughts become more frequent and severe. 
- The spread of mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria may increase in areas projected to receive more precipitation and flooding. Increases in rainfall and temperature can cause spreading of dengue fever. 
Certain groups of people in low-income countries are especially at risk for adverse health effects from climate change. These at-risk groups include the urban poor, older adults, young children, traditional societies, subsistence farmers, and coastal populations. Many regions, such as Europe, South Asia, Australia, and North America, have experienced heat-related health impacts. Rural populations, older adults, outdoor workers, and those without access to air conditioning are often the most vulnerable to heat-related illness and death.  For more information about the climate impacts on vulnerable populations, please visit the Society Impacts & Adaptation page.
Impacts on Shelter
Climate change may affect the migration of people within and between countries around the world. A variety of reasons may force people to migrate into other areas. These reasons include conflicts, such as ethnic or resource conflicts, and extreme events, such as flooding, drought, and hurricanes. Extreme events displace many people, especially in areas that do not have the ability or resources to quickly respond or rebuild after disasters. Extreme events may become more frequent and severe because of climate change. This could increase the numbers of people migrating during and after these types of events. 
Coastal settlements are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts, such as sea level rise and extreme storms. As coastal habitats (such as barrier islands, wetlands, deltas, and estuaries) are destroyed, coastal settlements can become more vulnerable to flooding from storm surges. Both developing and developed countries are vulnerable to the impacts of sea level rise. For example, the Netherlands, Guyana, and Bangladesh are low-lying countries that are particularly at-risk. 
For more information about the impacts of climate change on coastal areas, please visit the Coastal Impacts & Adaptation page.
Impacts on Vulnerable Populations
Indigenous groups in various regions–such as Latin and South America, Europe, and Africa–are already experiencing threats to their traditional livelihoods. Rising sea levels and extreme events threaten native groups that inhabit low-lying island nations. Higher temperatures and reduced snow and ice threaten groups that live in mountainous and polar areas. Climate effects in these areas can affect hunting, fishing, transport, and other activities. 
About 1.4 billion people live below the World Bank’s measure of extreme poverty, earning less than US$1.25 a day. This represents about one quarter of the population of the developing world.  Many lower-income groups depend on publicly provided resources and services such as water, energy, and transportation. Extreme events can affect and disrupt these resources and services, sometimes beyond replacement or repair. Many people in lower-income countries also cannot afford or gain access to adaptation mechanisms such as air conditioning, heating, or climate-risk insurance. 
Older and younger people are also especially sensitive to climate change impacts. Children’s developing immune, respiratory, and neurological systems make them more sensitive to some climate change impacts, including extreme events, heat, and disease.   Elderly populations are also at risk due to frail health and limited mobility. Extreme heat and storm events can disproportionately affect older people. 
Climate change impacts will also differ according to gender. Women in developing countries are especially vulnerable. The ratio of women (to the total population) affected or killed by climate-related disasters is already higher in some developing countries than in developed countries. 
For more information about the impacts of climate change on vulnerable populations, please visit the Society Impacts & Adaptation page.
Impacts on National Security
Climate change impacts have the potential to exacerbate national security issues and increase the number of international conflicts. 
Many concerns revolve around the use of natural resources, such as water. In many parts of the world, water issues cross national borders. Access to consistent and reliable sources of water in these regions is greatly valued. Changes in the timing and intensity of rainfall would threaten already limited water sources and potentially cause future conflicts. 
Threatened food security in parts of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa could also lead to conflict. Rapid population growth and changes in precipitation and temperature, among other factors, are already affecting crop yields. Resulting food shortages could increase the risk of humanitarian crises and trigger population migration across national borders, ultimately sparking political instability.    
Increased melting of ice in the Arctic Ocean is a very likely climate change impact with national security implications. The Arctic Ocean has a long history of modest, though growing, shipping activity, including trans-Arctic shipping routes. Declining sea ice coverage will improve access to these waters. However, a number of other international issues will influence the potential growth in shipping. In the case of the Arctic Ocean, increasing access to these waters means that issues of sovereignty (priority in control over an area), security (responsibility for policing the passageways), environmental protection (control of ship-based air and water pollution, noise, or ship strikes of whales), and safety (responsibility for rescue and response) will become more important. 
Highlights of recent and projected regional impacts are shown below.
Impacts on Africa 
- Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate variability and change because of multiple existing stresses and low adaptive capacity. Existing stresses include poverty, political conflicts, and ecosystem degradation.
- By 2050, between 350 million and 600 million people are projected to experience increased water stress due to climate change.
- Climate variability and change is projected to severely compromise agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries and regions.
- Toward the end of the 21st century, projected sea level rise will likely affect low-lying coastal areas with large populations.
- Climate variability and change can negatively impact human health. In many African countries, other factors already threaten human health. For example, malaria threatens health in southern Africa and the East African highlands.
Impacts on Asia 
- Glaciers in Asia are melting at a faster rate than ever documented in historical records. Melting glaciers increase the risks of flooding and rock avalanches from destabilized slopes.
- Climate change is projected to decrease freshwater availability in central, south, east and southeast Asia, particularly in large river basins. With population growth and increasing demand from higher standards of living, this decrease could adversely affect more than a billion people by the 2050s.
- Increased flooding from the sea and, in some cases, from rivers, threatens coastal areas, especially heavily populated delta regions in south, east, and southeast Asia.
- By the mid-21st century, crop yields could increase up to 20% in east and southeast Asia. In the same period, yields could decrease up to 30% in central and south Asia.
- Sickness and death due to diarrheal disease are projected to increase in east, south, and southeast Asia due to projected changes in the hydrological cycle associated with climate change.
Impacts on Australia and New Zealand 
- Water security problems are projected to intensify by 2030 in southern and eastern Australia, and in the northern and some eastern parts of New Zealand.
- Significant loss of biodiversity is projected to occur by 2020 in some ecologically rich sites, including the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland Wet Tropics.
- Sea level rise and more severe storms and coastal flooding will likely impact coastal areas. Coastal development and population growth in areas such as Cairns and Southeast Queensland (Australia) and Northland to Bay of Plenty (New Zealand), would place more people and infrastructure at risk.
- By 2030, increased drought and fire is projected to cause declines in agricultural and forestry production over much of southern and eastern Australia and parts of eastern New Zealand.
- Extreme storm events are likely to increase failure of floodplain protection and urban drainage and sewerage, as well as damage from storms and fires.
- More heat waves may cause more deaths and more electrical blackouts.
Impacts on Europe 
- Wide-ranging impacts of climate change have already been documented in Europe. These impacts include retreating glaciers, longer growing seasons, species range shifts, and heat wave-related health impacts.
- Future impacts of climate change are projected to negatively affect nearly all European regions. Many economic sectors, such as agriculture and energy, could face challenges.
- In southern Europe, higher temperatures and drought may reduce water availability, hydropower potential, summer tourism, and crop productivity.
- In central and eastern Europe, summer precipitation is projected to decrease, causing higher water stress. Forest productivity is projected to decline. The frequency of peatland fires is projected to increase.
- In northern Europe, climate change is initially projected to bring mixed effects, including some benefits such as reduced demand for heating, increased crop yields, and increased forest growth. However, as climate change continues, negative impacts are likely to outweigh benefits. These include more frequent winter floods, endangered ecosystems, and increasing ground instability.
Impacts on Latin America 
- By mid-century, increases in temperature and decreases in soil moisture are projected to cause savanna to gradually replace tropical forest in eastern Amazonia.
- In drier areas, climate change will likely worsen drought, leading to salinization (increased salt content) and desertification (land degradation) of agricultural land. The productivity of livestock and some important crops such as maize and coffee is projected to decrease, with adverse consequences for food security. In temperate zones, soybean yields are projected to increase.
- Sea level rise is projected to increase risk of flooding, displacement of people, salinization of drinking water resources, and coastal erosion in low-lying areas.
- Changes in precipitation patterns and the melting of glaciers are projected to significantly affect water availability for human consumption, agriculture, and energy generation.
Impacts on North America 
- Warming in western mountains is projected to decrease snowpack, increase winter flooding, and reduce summer flows, exacerbating competition for over-allocated water resources.
- Disturbances from pests, diseases, and fire are projected to increasingly affect forests, with extended periods of high fire risk and large increases in area burned.
- Moderate climate change in the early decades of the century is projected to increase aggregate yields of rain-fed agriculture by 5-20%, but with important variability among regions. Crops that are near the warm end of their suitable range or that depend on highly utilized water resources will likely face major challenges.
- Increases in the number, intensity, and duration of heat waves during the course of the century are projected to further challenge cities that currently experience heat waves, with potential for adverse health impacts. Older populations are most at risk.
- Climate change will likely increasingly stress coastal communities and habitats, worsening the existing stresses of development and pollution.
Impacts on Polar Regions 
- Climate changes will likely reduce the thickness and extent of glaciers and ice sheets.
- Changes in natural ecosystems will likely have detrimental effects on many organisms including migratory birds, mammals, and higher predators.
- In the Arctic, climate changes will likely reduce the extent of sea ice and permafrost, which can have mixed effects on human settlements. Negative impacts could include damage to infrastructure and changes to winter activities such as ice fishing and ice road transportation. Positive impacts could include more navigable northern sea routes.
- The reduction and melting of permafrost, sea level rise, and stronger storms may worsen coastal erosion.
- Terrestrial and marine ecosystems and habitats are projected to be at risk to invasive species, as climatic barriers are lowered in both polar regions.
Impacts on Small Islands 
- Small islands, whether located in the tropics or higher latitudes, are already exposed to extreme events and changes in sea level. This existing exposure will likely make these areas sensitive to the effects of climate change.
- Deterioration in coastal conditions, such as beach erosion and coral bleaching, will likely affect local resources such as fisheries, as well as the value of tourism destinations.
- Sea level rise is projected to worsen inundation, storm surge, erosion, and other coastal hazards. These impacts would threaten vital infrastructure, settlements, and facilities that support the livelihood of island communities.
- By mid-century, on many small islands (such as the Caribbean and Pacific), climate change is projected to reduce already limited water resources to the point that they become insufficient to meet demand during low-rainfall periods.
- Invasion by non-native species is projected to increase with higher temperatures, particularly in mid- and high-latitude islands.
To learn more about international adaptation measures, please see the international adaptation section.
1. NRC (2010). Advancing the Science of Climate Change . National Research Council. The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, USA.
2. USGCRP (2009). Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States . Karl, T.R. J.M. Melillo, and T.C. Peterson (eds.). United States Global Change Research Program. Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, USA.
3. Boko, M., I. Niang, A. Nyong, C. Vogel, A. Githeko, M. Medany, B. Osman-Elasha, R. Tabo and P. Yanda (2007). Africa. In: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability . Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Parry, M.L., O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden, and C.E. Hanson (eds.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
4. Easterling, W.E., P.K. Aggarwal, P. Batima, K.M. Brander, L. Erda, S.M. Howden, A. Kirilenko, J. Morton, J.-F. Soussana, J. Schmidhuber, and F.N. Tubiello (2007). Food, Fibre, and Forest Products. In: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability . Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.Parry, M.L., O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden, and C.E. Hanson (eds.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
5. Cruz, R.V., H. Harasawa, M. Lal, S. Wu, Y. Anokhin, B. Punsalmaa, Y. Honda, M. Jafari, C. Li and N. Huu Ninh (2007). Asia. In: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Parry, M.L., O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson (eds.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
6. Kundzewicz, Z.W., L.J. Mata, N.W. Arnell, P. Döll, P. Kabat, B. Jiménez, K.A. Miller, T. Oki, Z. Sen and I.A. Shiklomanov (2007). Fresh Water Resources and Their Management. In: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability . Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Parry, M.L., O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson (eds.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
7. Confalonieri, U., B. Menne, R. Akhtar, K.L. Ebi, M. Hauengue, R.S. Kovats, B. Revich and A. Woodward (2007). Human Health. In: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Parry, M.L., O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson, (eds.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
8. Wilbanks, T.J., P. Romero Lankao, M. Bao, F. Berkhout, S. Cairncross, J.-P. Ceron, M. Kapshe, R. Muir-Wood and R. Zapata-Marti (2007). Industry, Settlement and Society. In: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability . Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Parry, M.L., O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson (eds.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
9. Nicholls, R.J., P.P. Wong, V.R. Burkett, J.O. Codignotto, J.E. Hay, R.F. McLean, S. Ragoonaden and C.D. Woodroffe (2007). Coastal Systems and Low-Lying Areas. In: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability . Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Parry, M.L., O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
11. CCSP (2008). Analyses of The Effects of Global Change On Human Health and Welfare and Human Systems. A Report by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research. Gamble, J.L. (ed.), K.L. Ebi, F.G. Sussman, T.J. Wilbanks, (Authors). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, USA.
12. Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment 2009 Report (PDF). Arctic Council, April 2009, second printing.
13. Hennessy, K., B. Fitzharris, B.C. Bates, N. Harvey, S.M. Howden, L. Hughes, J. Salinger and R. Warrick (2007). Australia and New Zealand. In: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Parry, M.L., O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
14. Alcamo, J., J.M. Moreno, B. Nováky, M. Bindi, R. Corobov, R.J.N. Devoy, C. Giannakopoulos, E. Martin, J.E. Olesen, A. Shvidenko (2007). Europe. In: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Parry, M.L., O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
15. Magrin, G., C. Gay García, D. Cruz Choque, J.C. Giménez, A.R. Moreno, G.J. Nagy, C. Nobre and A. Villamizar (2007). Latin America. In: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability . Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Parry, M.L., O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
16. Field, C.B., L.D. Mortsch, M. Brklacich, D.L. Forbes, P. Kovacs, J.A. Patz, S.W. Running and M.J. Scott (2007). North America. In: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change[Parry, M.L., O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
17. Anisimov, O.A., D.G. Vaughan, T.V. Callaghan, C. Furgal, H. Marchant, T.D. Prowse, H. Vilhjálmsson and J.E. Walsh (2007). Polar Regions (Arctic and Antarctic). In: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability . Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Parry, M.L., O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson, (eds.)], Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
18. Mimura, N., L. Nurse, R.F. McLean, J. Agard, L. Briguglio, P. Lefale, R. Payet and G. Sem (2007). Small Islands. In: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability . Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Parry, M.L. O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson, (eds.)], Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
Research was published this week showing the financial cost of methane being released from Earth’s permafrosts. But the risks go beyond financial – Earth’s history shows that releasing these stores could set off a series of events with calamitous consequences.
The sediments and bottom water beneath the world’s shallow oceans and lakes contain vast amounts of greenhouse gases: methane hydrates and methane clathrates (see Figure 1). In particular methane is concentrated in Arctic permafrost where the accumulation of organic matter in frozen soils covers about 24% of northern hemisphere continents (see Figure 2a) and is estimated to contain more than 900 billion tons of carbon.
It is common for climate change cynics and deniers, when confronted with the extraordinary situation in the Arctic where melting is unprecedented and ice free summers are expected within the next decade or two, to point to the Antarctic where they feel more comfortable, claiming there is no evidence of global warming there. Well….they are wrong as usual. Numerous studies have examined various aspects of the Antarctic cryosphere from GRACE measurements, surface melt, glacial flow, sea salinity etc etc and now another study has looked at Antarctic permafrost.
From Brian Walsh and Time magazine
Antarctica Melted in the Past, and As the Climate Warms, It’s Poised to Melt Again
The South Pole has been the stable one in the climate change era—relatively speaking. But a pair of studies about Antarctica’s past and its present point towards a very different future.
When it comes to polar melting, the Arctic hogs all the attention. And not without reason—last summer Arctic sea ice melted to its smallest extent on record, 49% below the 1979-2000 average. During the first two weeks of July, sea ice declined 61% faster than the 1981-2000 average, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. As sea ice melted, Arctic shipping set a record, with trips quadrupling in 2013 from the year before. The Arctic permafrost—the frozen soil that covers much of the tundra—is melting, which threatens the release of vast amounts of the greenhouse gas methane. Thanks largely to climate change, the Arctic is changing before our very eyes.
The Antarctic, on the other end of the globe, is pretty boring by comparison. Antarctica is losing ice, but not as fast or dramatically as the Arctic is. Relatively little warming has occurred to change the endless ice sheets of Eastern Antarctica, which contain enough frozen water that sea levels would rise by nearly 200 ft. if it all melted. Ice sheets break off in Western Antarctica, which is really more of a series of frozen islands, but altogether the rate of change has been more gradual in the forbidding and largely uninhabited South Pole.
But Antarctica hasn’t always been so relatively stable—and it won’t remain that way in the future.
A new study in the journal Nature Geoscience suggests that large of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet experienced significant melting during the Pliocene epoch*, between 5.3 and 2.6 million years ago, when atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide were similar to where they are today, and temperatures were about 2 to 3 C warmer than they are now. It was a time when sea levels were some 66 ft. higher than they are today—more than high enough to swamp coastal cities. While scientists knew that all of Greenland and West Antarctica had to be ice-free at the time, the sediment data in the Nature Geoscience shows that the East Antarctic ice sheet must have retreated a couple hundred miles inland. “The East Antarctic Ice Sheet has been much more sensitive to climate change in the past than previously realized,” said the study’s lead author, Carys Cook of Imperial College London, in a statement.
In another study, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin found that coastal Antarctic permafrost—which, unlike Arctic permafrost, was considered to be stable—is actually melting much faster than scientists had expected. Researchers had though that the permafrost in the region was in equalibrium—ice would melt during the summer, only to refreeze in the winter. But the Texas study, published in Scientific Reports, shows a rapid melting of permafrost in Antarctica’s Garwood Valley, diminishing the overall mass of ground ice. “The big tell here is that ice is vanishing—it’s melting faster each time we measure,” said Joseph Levy, a research associate at the University of Texas’s Institute for Geophysics and the lead author on the paper.
“That’s a dramatic shift from recent history.”
It’s important to note that global warming is not responsible for the permafrost melt here—that region of Antarctic actually experienced a cooling trend from 1986 to 2000, followed by relatively stable temperatures. The Scientific Letters researchers suggest instead that the melting is due to an increase in radiation from sunlight resulting from changing weather patterns that allow more light to reach the ground during the summer. (In the winter, of course, Antarctica experiences 24-hour darkness.) As the permafrost melts, it actually alters the land surface, creating “retrogressive thaw slumps.” The changes observed in the study are occurring around 10 times faster than the average during the Holocene, the current geological epoch, and can actually be seen with time-lapse photography: (click image to see animation)
Climate models expect Antarctica to warm in the decades to come, which means melting and land change are likely to accelerate. The Arctic has been unstable for years, but for as long as researchers have been concerned about climate change, Antarctica has been relatively steadfast. But it looks like that’s about to change.
Recently I have highlighted the differences between the conservatives and Labor in Australia when it comes to the acceptance or rejection of the scientific consensus on climate change. I have pointed out the serious disconnect within the National Party over the issue and how that party is failing the very people whom elect them. I have also shown what a Coalition cabinet will look like under Tony Abbott in terms of climate change policy and acceptance of the science, should the conservatives win in the upcoming federal election. Earlier, I wrote a post about the LNP convention last year where the party’s executive passed a motion to have the banning of climate science eduction in Queensland schools included as a policy.
In all these cases, we have politicians or political institutions, pretending to know more about climate science than climate scientists or elevating their uneducated opinion over that of science. I always find this sort of attitude quite strange. I am sure these people don’t claim to know more than their doctor, or their mechanic, or their financial advisor, or their lawyers, recognising that gaining expertise in a profession takes a lot of time and a lot of hard work. Yet somehow, climate scientists are not given the same respect. What really galls me, as a scientist, is knowing that most of the politicians who do reject the expert opinions of climate scientists, do not have the intelligence to even complete a basic undergraduate science degree. They just aren’t smart enough and in most cases are too arrogant to ever admit they might be wrong about something, and that, is an essential part of being a scientist.
Anyway, every now and then, one stumbles on a piece of writing that says everything one wants to say but in the most eloquent and thought provoking way. This piece by Brian Cox and Robin Ince is one of those. Enjoy.
Brian Cox and Robin Ince: Politicians must not elevate mere opinion over science
Climate science is just one area that has become controversial for primarily non-scientific reasons. Controversies like this risk undermining confidence in the very idea of science.
The story of the past hundred years is one of unparalleled human advances, medically, technologically and intellectually. The foundation for these changes is the scientific method. In every room in your house, there are innovations that in 1912 would have been considered on the cusp of magic. The problem with a hundred years of unabated progress, however, is that its continual nature has made us blasé. We expect immediate hot water, 200 channels of television 24 hours a day, and the ability to speak directly to anyone anywhere in the world any time via an orbiting network of spacecraft. Any less is tantamount to penury. Where once the arrival of a television in a street or the availability of international flight would have been greeted with excitement and awe, and the desire to understand how those innovations came into being, it is now expected that every three months you’ll be queuing outside the Apple store for a new wafer-thin slab of brushed metal, blithely unaware that watching a movie in the palm of your hand has been made possible only through improbable and hard-won leaps in the understanding of the quantum behaviour of electrons in silicon.
With each new generation, the memory of appallingly high child mortality rates, tuberculosis and vast slums grows fainter and fainter. As the past becomes hazy, we start to believe that there can be no other sort of world. We become nonchalant about vaccines, to the point of seeing them as a lifestyle choice akin to a decision to eat only organically farmed fruit, because we attend fewer and fewer funerals of those who died too young. The technology and advances in knowledge that cosset us have removed, to a large extent, the need to use our ingenuity and to think rationally. Believing complete drivel was once selected against; now it gets you an expert slot on daytime TV.
Against this rather depressing introductory backdrop, however, there are faint glimmers of hope, because science, rational think-ing and evidence-based policy-making are enjoying a revival. Part of the evidence for this statement can be found on the pages of a certain type of newspaper, where the idea that there may be an adjudicator above opinion is treated as an affront to the ideology of the columnist. The adjudicator in question is nature, the universe beyond the Notting Hill basement kitchen, and the wonderful thing about nature is that opinions can be tested against it. The key to science is in this simple statement from the Nobel Prize-winning scientist Richard Feynman, who once remarked: “It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is. It does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is – if it disagrees with experiment it is wrong.”
The assertion is surely uncontroversial, but implementing it can be prohibitively difficult, primarily because it demands that everything be subordinate to evidence. Accepting this is fraught with cultural difficulty, because authority in general rests with grandees, gods, or more usually some inseparable combination of the two. Even in a secular democracy, a fundamental tenet of the system is that politicians are elected to reflect and act upon the opinions of the people, or are at least given temporary authority by the people to act upon their own. Science is a framework with only one absolute: all opinions, theories and “laws” are open to revision in the face of evidence. It should not be seen or presented, therefore, as a body of inviolate knowledge against which policy should be judged; the effect of this would be to replace one priesthood with another. Rather, science is a process, a series of structures that allow us, in as unbiased a way as possible, to test our assertions against Nature.
Let us take the politically controversial issue of climate change as an example. Climate scientists make measurements of observable properties of our planet, such as sea surface temperatures and the area of Arctic sea ice. Over many years, these measurements have formed a large data set. The only grounds for arguing with the data would be specific technical issues with the measurements themselves. One could assert that the satellites measuring sea temperatures were not calibrated correctly, or that there was a methodological error in the measurement of the area of the sea ice. Such criticisms are relatively rare. A more common criticism is of the interpretation of the data using computer models.
All models are, by nature, an approximation to reality. But they are the best we can do, given our current understanding and the power of our computers. The important words here are “the best we can do”. There is no other way of predicting the probability of weather in the future. The only legitimate criticisms would be of specific issues with specific models, or of specific inferences drawn from them. It would certainly be wrong to assert that the ensemble of climate models from various research groups around the world encompassed all possible uncertainties about the future, but it is not logical to attack climate science as a whole, because to do so is to attack scientific method.
The loud criticism of climate science is motivated in the main not by technical objections, but by the difficult political choices with which it confronts us. This is important, because there must be a place where science stops and politics begins, and this border is an extremely complex and uncomfortable one. Science can’t tell us what to do about our changing climate. It can only inform us that it is changing (this is a statement based on data) and tell us the most probable reasons for this given the current state of our understanding. For a given policy response, it can also tell us how likely that response is to be effective, to the best of our understanding. The choice of policy response itself is not a purely scientific question, however, because it necessarily has moral, geopolitical and economic components.
Climate science is one of a series of areas that, for primarily non-scientific reasons, has become controversial; and these controversies risk undermining confidence in the very idea of science. Others are the use of genetically modified crops, vaccination policy and even (God help us) the teaching of evolution in schools. These socio-political-religious controversies risk damaging public confidence in science, partly because of the tactics employed by their advocates, which, if unchecked, will have grave consequences because we live in a society dominated by science. People who rail against science risk becoming disenfranchised, because many of the most important decisions we face as a society have a scientific component. And the larger and more vocal the disenfranchised minority, the less likely we are to make decisions based on the best available evidence and understanding.
Science is the framework within which we reach conclusions about the natural world. These conclusions are always preliminary, always open to revision, but they are the best we can do. It is not logical to challenge the findings of science unless there are specific, evidence-based reasons for doing so. Elected politicians are free to disregard its findings and recommendations. Indeed, there may be good reasons for doing so. But they must understand in detail what they are disregarding, and be prepared to explain with precision why they chose to do so. It is not acceptable to see science as one among many acceptable “views”. Science is the only way we have of exploring nature, and nature exists outside of human structures.
We live in exciting times; our access to knowledge has never been greater, but this also means that humbug and charlatanism are able to creep into our lives with greater ease. We cannot afford to sit back and enjoy the achievements of previous generations, and decide that we are no longer obliged to continue the scientific exploration of nature. Fortunately for us, Michael Faraday was not dazzled by the convenience of gaslight. We must not use our comparative comfort and luxury to elevate opinion above science or, even worse, to argue that scientific progress is no longer desirable or necessary. It would be a gross mistake to assume, for the first time in human history, that there are no great discoveries left to make.
Brian Cox is a broadcaster and professor of physics at the University of Manchester. Robin Ince is a writer and comedian.