Tag Archives: CO2

100 000 000 people will die by 2030 if the world fails to act on climate change

from Reuters by NINA CHESTNEY

Rain clouds gather as a skytrain passes the victory monument in Bangkok September 25, 2012. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

Rain clouds gather as a skytrain passes the victory monument in Bangkok September 25, 2012. Credit: Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom

More than 100 million people will die and global economic growth will be cut by 3.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030 if the world fails to tackle climate change, a report commissioned by 20 governments said on Wednesday.

As global average temperatures rise due to greenhouse gas emissions, the effects on the planet, such as melting ice caps, extreme weather, drought and rising sea levels, will threaten populations and livelihoods, said the report conducted by humanitarian organisation DARA.

It calculated that five million deaths occur each year from air pollution, hunger and disease as a result of climate change and carbon-intensive economies, and that toll would likely rise to six million a year by 2030 if current patterns of fossil fuel use continue.

More than 90 percent of those deaths will occur in developing countries, said the report that calculated the human and economic impact of climate change on 184 countries in 2010 and 2030. It was commissioned by the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a partnership of 20 developing countries threatened by climate change.

“A combined climate-carbon crisis is estimated to claim 100 million lives between now and the end of the next decade,” the report said.

It said the effects of climate change had lowered global output by 1.6 percent of world GDP, or by about $1.2 trillion a year, and losses could double to 3.2 percent of global GDP by 2030 if global temperatures are allowed to rise, surpassing 10 percent before 2100.

It estimated the cost of moving the world to a low-carbon economy at about 0.5 percent of GDP this decade.

COUNTING THE COST

British economist Nicholas Stern told Reuters earlier this year investment equivalent to 2 percent of global GDP was needed to limit, prevent and adapt to climate change. His report on the economics of climate change in 2006 said an average global temperature rise of 2-3 degrees Celsius in the next 50 years could reduce global consumption per head by up to 20 percent.

Temperatures have already risen by about 0.8 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. Almost 200 nations agreed in 2010 to limit the global average temperature rise to below 2C (3.6 Fahrenheit) to avoid dangerous impacts from climate change.

But climate scientists have warned that the chance of limiting the rise to below 2C is getting smaller as global greenhouse gas emissions rise due to burning fossil fuels.

The world’s poorest nations are the most vulnerable as they face increased risk of drought, water shortages, crop failure, poverty and disease. On average, they could see an 11 percent loss in GDP by 2030 due to climate change, DARA said.

“One degree Celsius rise in temperature is associated with 10 percent productivity loss in farming. For us, it means losing about 4 million metric tonnes of food grain, amounting to about $2.5 billion. That is about 2 percent of our GDP,” Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said in response to the report.

“Adding up the damages to property and other losses, we are faced with a total loss of about 3-4 percent of GDP.”

Even the biggest and most rapidly developing economies will not escape unscathed. The United States and China could see a 2.1 percent reduction in their respective GDPs by 2030, while India could experience a more than 5 percent loss.

The full report is available at: daraint.org/

 

Original story here

 

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800000 years of atmospheric CO2

This was uploaded a few days ago and represents the latest data on CO2 levels upuntil January 2014. The physics of how CO2 acts as a greenhouse gas is well understood and has been for many years. Understanding this makes the following video all the more concerning.

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Ocean Acidification – the other big CO2 problem

from oceanacidification.net

Ocean Acidification is not a peripheral climate issue, it is the other CO2 challenge. The world’s leading marine scientists are warning us that our current rates of carbon emissions are making our oceans more acidic. This is happening so fast that it poses a serious threat to biodiversity and marine life.

Left unchecked, Ocean Acidification could destroy all our coral reefs by as early as 2050. It also has the potential to disrupt other ocean ecosystems, fisheries, habitats, and even entire oceanic food chains.

For resources and everything you need to know about ocean acidification go here.

 

 

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Palmer’s revolt leaves Abbott with no climate policy

by James Wight at Precarious Climate

Australian coal mining billionaire politician Clive Palmer announced on Tuesday that his party’s Senators will vote against the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF), the Abbott government’s proposed replacement for the carbon price it wants to repeal. Palmer wants the promised ERF funding to be redirected to pensions, and says he is even prepared to block budget bills if necessary.

Undeterred, the Government has pressed on, releasing the ERF White Paper on the eve of Anzac Day (in the tradition of the Green Paper released on the last day before Xmas). But with Palmer offside, ERF legislation will struggle to find any support from non-government Senators.

Labor and the Greens oppose the ERF as too weak. The Motoring Enthusiasts will vote with Palmer United. The Liberal Democrats, Family First, and Democratic Labor are unlikely to support any climate policy because they don’t believe the problem is real. And independent Nick Xenophon won’t support the ERF unamended. That makes up to 43 votes against the ERF, and only 38 votes are needed to block legislation. So it is very unlikely that Abbott will be unable to pass the legislation. This leaves Abbott with almost no climate policy (except the soon-to-be-neutered Renewable Energy Target, and some other bits and pieces that won’t achieve much).

Whether or not Abbott is able to implement the ERF probably won’t make much difference to emissions, because the ERF is a laughable scheme which will pay polluters to (in theory) voluntarily act to avoid emitting CO2 they otherwise would have emitted. I’ve written previously about 21 reasons why Abbott’s policy won’t work, including some issues which have received little attention – and almost all of what I said then remains essentially accurate.

Another thing which will make no difference is the “safeguard mechanism”, the penalty for polluters who exceed their baseline emissions levels under the ERF. Too many people are withholding judgment until the details are announced, when in fact we already know all we need to know. All ERF policy documents have made clear that both the fund itself and the supposed safeguard will allow emissions to increase wherever production increases (even if historical absolute baselines are used they will not apply to new companies or significant business expansion). In other words, the ERF is designed to cut emissions intensity (emissions per economic output), not absolute emissions. This is pointless as emissions intensity will fall automatically even if emissions rise; the problem is that those efficiency gains are being cancelled out by the exponential growth of the fossil fuel economy. The Government is budgeting zero revenue from the safeguard mechanism because they know it will never come into play.

What’s new in the White Paper?

  • The policy objective, which used to be to meet Australia’s inadequate emissions target of 5% below 2000 by 2020, is now merely “to reduce emissions at lowest cost over the period to 2020, and make a contribution towards Australia’s 2020 emissions reduction target”.
  • The White Paper contains endless impenetrable text about how the Government will design emissions-reduction-verifying “methods” (through consultation with polluters), but there is still no reason to think these methods will have any validity. We do learn that methods will be reviewed by an “independent expert committee” called the Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee, which would be reassuring if the Abbott government didn’t have a history of appointing ideological allies to such panels.
  • ERF funding is still capped for the first four years, and it sounds like beyond that funding will be decided in each budget. Again this is hardly reassuring, as every climate program’s funding seems to diminish over time.
  • Polluters who fail to deliver emissions cuts contracted by the government must “make good” by purchasing offsets from other domestic companies. I cannot find any mention of earlier proposals to allow international offsets, though business groups continue to lobby for this.
  • The 2015 review of the ERF will focus merely on operational elements.

A few journalists have made some half-hearted attempts to get more information out of Environment Minister Greg Hunt, but whenever he is asked a question about the ERF he just starts rabbiting on about how bad the carbon price was. Meanwhile, we’re hearing more and more from government members and advisors that climate change isn’t real after all. In the last fortnight, Attorney-General George Brandis, government backbencher George Christensen, and Abbott’s business advisor Maurice Newman have all challenged the science of climate change.

Perhaps they’re ramping up their attacks on science because they realize the ERF is losing credibility. Because there is one way in which it does matter whether the ERF goes ahead. If it proceeds, Abbott will be able to use it to support the talking point that his government has a policy on climate change, reassuring voters who are concerned about climate change but nervous about the alleged costs of a carbon price. But if the ERF founders, and Abbott succeeds in his overall agenda of climate deregulation, then he will have no significant policy to greenwash his government. And as the hot summers keep coming, there’ll be nothing to stop those concerned voters from becoming alarmed.

Read the original and check out all the other excellent articles at Precarious Climate here.

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Climate change is already changing the Australian landscape

from David Donaldson at the Guardian

Climate zones along the coast of southeastern Australia have already moved south by around 350km. Those fluctuations are also altering the way rural communities live.

tree guardian

I was in high school when crested pigeons started showing up at the farm where I grew up. Situated in a flat, pastoral corner of southwest Victoria, the pointy-haired birds first seemed out of place – a budding wildlife enthusiast, I’d previously only seen photos of them in the desert.

But thanks to the millennium drought – which became progressively worse from around the time I started primary school until my final year of high school – the crested pigeons had obviously decided southwest Victoria was now sufficiently dehydrated for them to take up residence. Though the drought ended several years ago, the pigeons are now a permanent fixture on the farm; I hear their distinctive whirring sound every time I go back to visit.

The same thing happened with galahs when my father was young. The pink and grey cockatoos flew in from the north during the 1965-68 drought and have never left. Other birds, such as the charismatic grey fantail, have changed their migratory behaviour in recent years as winters become milder and shorter, as have countless species right around the world.

It’s not just the wildlife that’s changing. The hotter, drier climate gradually imposing itself on southeastern Australia is forcing changes to agriculture. In southwest Victoria, this means it’s becoming harder to produce the beef and wool my father grew when I was a child. Cereal cropping, which uses less water and creates fewer jobs, is becoming more popular.

A Crested Pigeon.
A Crested Pigeon. Photograph: Ed Dunens/Flickr

Old European trees in gardens and town centres are dying in the long, waterless summers. Aquifers are becoming harder to access as runoff remains low, while decreasing autumn precipitation is leading to a shorter growing season. Frosts are becoming less common, though clear skies, which allow heat to escape at night-time, mean minimum temperatures are not increasing at the same rate as maximums.

The changes are also altering the way rural communities live. The drought in particular had a huge and traumatic effect. Livestock previously had to be shot when feed and water ran out. Many workers ended up leaving farming because it was just too hard. Tragically, the suicide rate among farmers spiked during the final years as entire livelihoods were reduced to dust. Though drought is a recurrent theme of the Australian landscape, this one was especially long and harsh – and the research suggests such phenomena will only become more common.

As the IPCC’s fifth assessment report has reiterated, climate change is not merely a beast of the future – it’s been happening for a while. Victoria’s average annual mean temperature has increased by almost 0.9°C over the past century, around the same as the rest of Australia. Although rainfall is more variable, droughts are becoming longer and drier. Record high temperatures are regularly broken, while record lows are becoming harder to find.

Climate zones along the coast of southeastern Australia have already moved south by around 350km. Those on the northeast coast have shifted around 200km. Fish species are travelling further south than before. Long-spined sea urchins, previously found only as far south as southern NSW, have been caught in eastern Tasmania. Other organisms have specific, geographically-bound ranges that do not allow them to move, and will find it difficult to adapt to warmer seas.

Terrestrial animals will increasingly face the same problem. Our national parks are poorly connected in large areas of Australia, meaning many creatures will be unable to migrate as temperatures increase. Some animals escaping monsoonal northern Australia will find it difficult to survive in drier inland areas. Alpine animals, such as the Leadbeater’s Possum, will be especially challenged as thin snowfall and bigger bushfires cause their habitat to disappear.

But while the outlook is concerning for agricultural production and downright terrible for our natural habitat, there are a few glimmers of hope. It’s reassuring that, despite the acrimony surrounding climate politics at a national level, there are plenty of community groups and governmental bodies conducting important research into how we deal with a hotter, drier Australia. While politicians and vested interests have muddied the waters of public opinion for strong action to stop climate change, pragmatism based on evidence is leading progress in adaptation and mitigation.

Though it may be politically conservative, southwest Victoria is no exception. In 2013 for example, Moyne shire released an extensive coastal hazard assessment report for popular holiday town Port Fairy, finding that several hundred buildings would be at risk of inundation by seawater as ocean levels rise.

Individual farmers, landcare groups and catchment management authorities are working on a range of projects to increase biodiversity and improve agricultural processes. Nationally, the CSIRO is breeding new types of drought-tolerant wheat that will hopefully prevent a decline in productivity as the landscape becomes drier.

We’re already seeing the effects climate change is having on the natural world. Even if governments start making a serious effort to combat climate change today, we won’t be starting from zero – the clock started long ago, but we’re still crouched at the starting block.

Sooner or later, we’ll all be touched by climate change in some way, as indeed many already have. Hopefully we’ll be prepared for it.

Original story here

 

 

 

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Tony Abbott’s “Direct (in)Action” plan flawed.

Everyone knows it, even the coalition themselves. The vast majority of them are climate change deniers and their plan will actually put money in the pockets of polluters and allow them to increase emissions. Now, a Senate committee has examined the plan and given it a huge tick of disapproval.

from the Guradian

‘Flawed’ Direct Action climate plan should go, says Senate committee

Increased cuts in emissions and floating carbon price recommended to replace Coalition scheme

cooling towers

The federal government’s climate change plan is “fundamentally flawed” and should be ditched in favour of a floating price on carbon, a Senate committee report has found.

The committee report recommended the government “immediately adopt” the emissions reduction targets put forward by the independent Climate Change Authority, which the Coalition has vowed to disband.

This would deepen the cut in emissions by 2020 – from the present target of 5% – to 15% below levels in 2000. The cut would become 19% if Australia’s Kyoto Protocol commitments were factored in.

The committee also recommended the clean energy package introduced by the previous Labor government should not be repealed, including the retention of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which the government again moved to abolish on Thursday.

 A floating carbon price should be introduced in place of the proposed Emissions Reduction Fund, which is the centrepiece of the Coalition’s Direct Action climate plan, the committee recommended.

The fund, which will pay out $2.55bn over the next four years, is designed to help lower emissions by paying businesses and farmers to undertake projects which cut CO2 output or store carbon in soil and plants.

But the committee said the fund was “fundamentally flawed” in a number of ways.

The report states the plan does not have enough money to fund the abatement required for Australia to meet its 5% emissions cut, that there is no legislated limit on Australia’s emissions, no access to international emissions credits and no proper system around how to work out a business’ baseline emissions.

However, the committee was split along party lines, with Coalition senators John Williams and Anne Ruston dissenting from almost all the report’s findings.

 The two senators said Direct Action had to replace the carbon tax due to the high cost of the current policy in return for a questionable emissions cut.

“The government believes there is a better way to tackle climate change than by imposing a $7.6bn, economy-wide tax that hinders business and does nothing for the environment,” Williams and Ruston said in a statement.

“The Direct Action plan with the Emissions Reduction Fund as its centrepiece will provide incentives rather than penalties to reduce emissions: incentives for businesses to innovate and invest in new technologies, incentives to improve the efficiency and productivity of businesses’ operations and incentives to encourage farmers and landholders to store carbon on the land.”

The federal environment minister, Greg Hunt, has dismissed the findings of the report, noting that four of the six committee members are Labor or Greens senators.

“This was written by Labor and Greens senators – of course they’re going to be running a whitewash of their own policy,” he told ABC Radio.

Several independent studies of the Direct Action plan have raised doubts over whether it can meet the 5% reduction target without more funding, something the government has ruled out.

The Climate Institute has run an analysis that is critical of the Direct Action plan, but said that both Labor and the Coalition needed to increase their ambition over emissions cuts.

“Neither party can claim any climate credibility for their policies if they remain fixated on the minimum reduction effort required and not what is Australia’s fair share in avoiding the internationally agreed climate goal of avoiding two-degrees warming,” said John Connor, the chief executive of the Climate Institute.

“As one of the countries most exposed to climate risks it is in our national interest to establish credible targets.”

 Mark Butler, Labor’s environment spokesman, said expert advice heard by the committee showed that the Direct Action plan was deficient.

“After four years, three Senate inquiry hearings and two Senate estimates hearings, no one, not least the government or the Environment Department, can describe how Direct Action is going to achieve its goals,” he said.

“Direct Action is nothing more than a dressed-up slush fund with a pretty name.”

The Greens leader, Christine Milne, said: “The inquiry has made it crystal clear that Direct Action is not a viable replacement for carbon pricing and is vastly inferior to the existing law.”

“Direct Action is just a slogan. There was not a single economist in written submissions or testimony who supported Direct Action over the existing emissions trading scheme. Not Ross Garnaut, not Bernie Fraser, no one.”

Original article here

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It’s going to be hot…very hot

Most of us who follow climate science closely have been watching with interest the developing situation in the Pacific Ocean with the Southern Oscillation and the predictions that we are headed for an El Nino..and a big one at that. First, for anyone unaware of what I’m talking about, this short video explains things very nicely and simply.

What this video doesn’t discuss are the implications for the global climate of the Southern Oscillation and in particular what the relative strength of an El Nino does. It is hypothesised that during neutral and La Nina years, energy from the sun accumulates in the deep ocean and as the Southern  Oscillation switches to an El Nino phase, surplus energy is released at the ocean surface/air interface, raising the average surface air temperature. With the enhanced greenhouse effect caused by anthropogenic emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, more of this heat is trapped and over time, the temperature goes up.

Levitus2012OHC

What becomes obvious when looking at global surface air temperature data is the difference in the highs between El Nino years, La Nina years and neutral years.

201213What this graph shows quite clearly is that in any given period El Nino years are relatively hotter than La Nina and neutral years. 1998, the year that AGW deniers like to cherrypick was an exceptional year as the preceding El Nino was an extremely strong one. An explanation for how the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) works and what constitutes an El Nino, a La Nina and a neutral state is provided by the BOM.

Sustained positive values of the SOI above +8 may indicate a La Niña event, while sustained negative values below −8 may indicate an El Niño event. Values of between about +8 and −8 generally indicate neutral conditions.

The following graph shows the SOI for the period 1994-1997. Take note of the values for the very strong El Nino of 1997-98. The strength of that El Nino was reflected in the average global surface temperature of 1998 as mentioned previously.

soiSo, to this year. Today the BOM released its latest ENSO wrap up. They are predicting a high possibility of an El Nino developing based on the SOI.

While the tropical Pacific Ocean remains El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) neutral, the chance of an El Niño occurring in 2014 has increased. The latest climate model survey by the Bureau shows that the tropical Pacific is likely to warm in the coming months, with most models showing sea surface temperatures reaching El Niño thresholds during the southern hemisphere winter.

Observations indicate that the tropical Pacific Ocean is currently warming. Following two strong westerly wind bursts since the start of the year, waters below the surface of the tropical Pacific have warmed significantly over the past two months. This has led to some warming at the surface, with further warming expected in the coming weeks. The Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) has dropped to –13—the lowest 30-day value since March 2010—but would need to remain firmly negative for several weeks to indicate the atmosphere and ocean are reinforcing each other.

soi30

A month or so ago, researchers, using a different data set predicted an El Nino for this year giving a 76% likelihood of one developing and a big one at that. It is now being reported that US atmospheric scientists are also predicting a very large El Nino.

ABC Rural:

The sub surface temperature of the eastern Pacific Ocean is measuring an ‘astounding’ six degrees warmer than normal for this time of year.

A team of US atmospheric scientists says that points to a major El Nino event forming to rival the record event nearly 20 years ago.

El Nino is associated with dry conditions and reduced monsoons in Australia and Indonesia, but wetter weather in Central America.

Paul E. Roundy, associate professor of atmospheric science at the University at Albany, New York, says there’s been a series of westerly winds that amplify waves, moving warm currents of water thousands of kilometres and moving a surge of warm water from west to east.

That pushes the warm water to considerable depths.

“It’s close to a 70 or 80 per cent chance of a major event,” Associate Professor Roundy said.

“The Climate Prediction Centre would disagree and set the rates lower.

“But I’m thinking in the context of what we observe in the ocean right now, is consistent with that kind of major event developing.

“No guarantee! But it is consistent.

“The only time that (the six-degree warming) has ever happened before, this time of the year, was in that March of 1997 event. So it highlights the risk, even though there’s only one event like that.

Indications are that a huge Kelvin Wave has been developing and a large pool of very warm water is popping up close to South America, both indicators of a major El Nino event.

Accuweather:

This Kelvin Wave is of historic strength, clocking in at roughly +5.64º C above normal as of March 20th. It was at +5.35º C on March 13th, marking a +0.29º C change in just 7 days. Even more concerning is the push to the surface, and how the KW continues to strengthen. As we look to see westerly winds continue from the western Pacific, I have little doubt we’ll see an El Nino be declared in the next 4-10 weeks.

http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/ocean/weeklyenso_clim_81-10/wkd20eq2_anm.gif

http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/ocean/weeklyenso_clim_81-10/wkteq_xz.gif

So, I guess time will really tell but all the indicators are pointing to a large El Nino this year and we are probably due for one anyway. If I was living in southeastern Australia in a bushfire prone area, I’d be thinking about planning for the worst. As for our farmers, I’m not sure what they can do about the likely super-drought conditions that will result from the El Nino overlaid on the already long-term diminishing rainfall conditions experienced across most of southern Australia.

Refs:

http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-24/strong-el-nino/5340708

http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/

http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/soihtm1.shtml

http://forums.accuweather.com/index.php?showtopic=31585&st=20&start=20

http://www.bom.gov.au/watl/about-weather-and-climate/australian-climate-influences.shtml?bookmark=enso

http://skepticalscience.com/levitus-2012-global-warming-heating-oceans.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2036: a year to fear

I have added a few pictures to this story, because I fell they tend to add something to a story that is all words. The original from Scientific American came pictureless. I’m sure they won’t mind.

Earth Will Cross the Climate Danger Threshold by 2036

Michael Mann

The rate of global temperature rise may have hit a plateau, but a climate crisis still looms in the near future.

“Temperatures have been flat for 15 years–nobody can properly explain it,” the Wall Street Journal says. “Global warming ‘pause’ may last for 20 more years, and Arctic sea ice has already started to recover,” the Daily Mail says. Such reassuring claims about climate abound in the popular media, but they are misleading at best. Global warming continues unabated, and it remains an urgent problem.

The misunderstanding stems from data showing that during the past decade there was a slowing in the rate at which the earth’s average surface temperature had been increasing. The event is commonly referred to as “the pause,” but that is a misnomer: temperatures still rose, just not as fast as during the prior decade. The important question is, What does the short-term slowdown portend for how the world may warm in the future?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is charged with answering such questions. In response to the data, the IPCC in its September 2013 report lowered one aspect of its prediction for future warming. Its forecasts, released every five to seven years, drive climate policy worldwide, so even the small change raised debate over how fast the planet is warming and how much time we have to stop it. The IPCC has not yet weighed in on the impacts of the warming or how to mitigate it, which it will do in reports that were due this March and April. Yet I have done some calculations that I think can answer those questions now: If the world keeps burning fossil fuels at the current rate, it will cross a threshold into environmental ruin by 2036. The “faux pause” could buy the planet a few extra years beyond that date to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the crossover–but only a few.

A Sensitive Debate

The dramatic nature of global warming captured world attention in 2001, when the IPCC published a graph that my co-authors and I devised, which became known as the “hockey stick.” The shaft of the stick, horizontal and sloping gently downward from left to right, indicated only modest changes in Northern Hemisphere temperature for almost 1,000 years–as far back as our data went. The upturned blade of the stick, at the right, indicated an abrupt and unprecedented rise since the mid-1800s. The graph became a lightning rod in the climate change debate, and I, as a result, reluctantly became a public figure. In its September 2013 report, the IPCC extended the stick back in time, concluding that the recent warming was likely unprecedented for at least 1,400 years.

Although the earth has experienced exceptional warming over the past century, to estimate how much more will occur we need to know how temperature will respond to the ongoing human-caused rise in atmospheric greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide. Scientists call this responsiveness “equilibrium climate sensitivity” (ECS). ECS is a common measure of the heating effect of greenhouse gases. It represents the warming at the earth’s surface that is expected after the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere doubles and the climate subsequently stabilizes (reaches equilibrium).

The preindustrial level of CO2 was about 280 parts per million (ppm), so double is roughly 560 ppm. Scientists expect this doubling to occur later this century if nations continue to burn fossil fuels as they do now–the “business as usual” scenario–instead of curtailing fossil-fuel use. The more sensitive the atmosphere is to a rise in CO2, the higher the ECS, and the faster the temperature will rise. ECS is shorthand for the amount of warming expected, given a particular fossil-fuel emissions scenario.

It is difficult to determine an exact value of ECS because warming is affected by feedback mechanisms, including clouds, ice and other factors. Different modeling groups come to different conclusions on what the precise effects of these feedbacks may be. Clouds could be the most significant. They can have both a cooling effect, by blocking out incoming sunlight, and a warming effect, by absorbing some of the heat energy that the earth sends out toward space. Which of these effects dominates depends on the type, distribution and altitude of the clouds–difficult for climate models to predict. Other feedback factors relate to how much water vapor there will be in a warmer atmosphere and how fast sea ice and continental ice sheets will melt.

Because the nature of these feedback factors is uncertain, the IPCC provides a range for ECS, rather than a single number. In the September report–the IPCC’s fifth major assessment–the panel settled on a range of 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius (roughly three to eight degrees Fahrenheit). The IPCC had lowered the bottom end of the range, down from the two degrees C it had set in its Fourth Assessment Report, issued in 2007. The IPCC based the lowered bound on one narrow line of evidence: the slowing of surface warming during the past decade–yes, the faux pause.

Many climate scientists–myself included–think that a single decade is too brief to accurately measure global warming and that the IPCC was unduly influenced by this one, short-term number. Furthermore, other explanations for the speed bump do not contradict the preponderance of evidence that suggests that temperatures will continue to rise. For example, the accumulated effect of volcanic eruptions during the past decade, including the Icelandic volcano with the impossible name, Eyjafjallajökull, may have had a greater cooling effect on the earth’s surface than has been accounted for in most climate model simulations. There was also a slight but measurable decrease in the sun’s output that was not taken into account in the IPCC’s simulations.

Natural variability in the amount of heat the oceans absorb may have played a role. In the latter half of the decade, La Niña conditions persisted in the eastern and central tropical Pacific, keeping global surface temperatures about 0.1 degree C colder than average–a small effect compared with long-term global warming but a substantial one over a decade. Finally, one recent study suggests that incomplete sampling of Arctic temperatures led to underestimation of how much the globe actually warmed.

New data from Cowtan & Way taking into account Arctic temperatures reveal the pause isn’t really a pause.

None of these plausible explanations would imply that climate is less sensitive to greenhouse gases. Other measurements also do not support the IPCC’s revised lower bound of 1.5 degrees C. When all the forms of evidence are combined, they point to a most likely value for ECS that is close to three degrees C. And as it turns out, the climate models the IPCC actually used in its Fifth Assessment Report imply an even higher value of 3.2 degrees C. The IPCC’s lower bound for ECS, in other words, probably does not have much significance for future world climate–and neither does the faux pause.

For argument’s sake, however, let us take the pause at face value. What would it mean if the actual ECS were half a degree lower than previously thought? Would it change the risks presented by business-as-usual fossil-fuel burning? How quickly would the earth cross the critical threshold?

A Date with Destiny: 2036

Most scientists concur that two degrees C of warming above the temperature during preindustrial time would harm all sectors of civilization–food, water, health, land, national security, energy and economic prosperity. ECS is a guide to when that will happen if we continue emitting CO2 at our business-as-usual pace.

I recently calculated hypothetical future temperatures by plugging different ECS values into a so-called energy balance model, which scientists use to investigate possible climate scenarios. The computer model determines how the average surface temperature responds to changing natural factors, such as volcanoes and the sun, and human factors–greenhouse gases, aerosol pollutants, and so on. (Although climate models have critics, they reflect our best ability to describe how the climate system works, based on physics, chemistry and biology. And they have a proved track record: for example, the actual warming in recent years was accurately predicted by the models decades ago.)

I then instructed the model to project forward under the assumption of business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions. I ran the model again and again, for ECS values ranging from the IPCC’s lower bound (1.5 degrees C) to its upper bound (4.5 degrees C). The curves for an ECS of 2.5 degrees and three degrees C fit the instrument readings most closely. The curves for a substantially lower (1.5 degrees C) and higher (4.5 degrees C) ECS did not fit the recent instrumental record at all, reinforcing the notion that they are not realistic.

To my wonder, I found that for an ECS of three degrees C, our planet would cross the dangerous warming threshold of two degrees C in 2036, only 22 years from now. When I considered the lower ECS value of 2.5 degrees C, the world would cross the threshold in 2046, just 10 years later [see graph on pages 78 and 79].

So even if we accept a lower ECS value, it hardly signals the end of global warming or even a pause. Instead it simply buys us a little bit of time–potentially valuable time–to prevent our planet from crossing the threshold.

Cautious Optimism

These findings have implications for what we all must do to prevent disaster. An ECS of three degrees C means that if we are to limit global warming to below two degrees C forever, we need to keep CO2 concentrations far below twice preindustrial levels, closer to 450 ppm. Ironically, if the world burns significantly less coal, that would lessen CO2 emissions but also reduce aerosols in the atmosphere that block the sun (such as sulfate particulates), so we would have to limit CO2 to below roughly 405 ppm.

We are well on our way to surpassing these limits. In 2013 atmospheric CO2 briefly reached 400 ppm for the first time in recorded history–and perhaps for the first time in millions of years, according to geologic evidence. To avoid breaching the 405-ppm threshold, fossil-fuel burning would essentially have to cease immediately. To avoid the 450-ppm threshold, global carbon emissions could rise only for a few more years and then would have to ramp down by several percent a year. That is a tall task. If the ECS is indeed 2.5 degrees C, it will make that goal a bit easier.

Even so, there is considerable reason for concern. The conclusion that limiting CO2 below 450 ppm will prevent warming beyond two degrees C is based on a conservative definition of climate sensitivity that considers only the so-called fast feedbacks in the climate system, such as changes in clouds, water vapor and melting sea ice. Some climate scientists, including James E. Hansen, former head of the nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies, say we must also consider slower feedbacks such as changes in the continental ice sheets. When these are taken into account, Hansen and others maintain, we need to get back down to the lower level of CO2 that existed during the mid-20th century–about 350 ppm. That would require widespread deployment of expensive “air capture” technology that actively removes CO2 from the atmosphere.

Furthermore, the notion that two degrees C of warming is a “safe” limit is subjective. It is based on when most of the globe will be exposed to potentially irreversible climate changes. Yet destructive change has already arrived in some regions. In the Arctic, loss of sea ice and thawing permafrost are wreaking havoc on indigenous peoples and ecosystems. In low-lying island nations, land and freshwater are disappearing because of rising sea levels and erosion. For these regions, current warming, and the further warming (at least 0.5 degree C) guaranteed by CO2 already emitted, constitutes damaging climate change today.

Let us hope that a lower climate sensitivity of 2.5 degrees C turns out to be correct. If so, it offers cautious optimism. It provides encouragement that we can avert irreparable harm to our planet. That is, if–and only if–we accept the urgency of making a transition away from our reliance on fossil fuels for energy.

Original article here

 

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A remarkably accurate global warming prediction, made in 1972

I don’t know about my readers, but I am sick to the back teeth with uneducated idiots sitting at their computers typing bullshit feelpinions about their (I’m being generous) perception of climate science, using the argument that because the science is imprecise, nothing should be done to reduce carbon emissions.  Like other concern trolls, they try to give the impression of reasonableness, but are they? Is it reasonable to reject a consensus of 97% of experts that are 95% certain there is a serious problem, while insuring their houses and vehicles against accidents that only have a 1% or less chance of occurring, according to experts? It’s a bizarre position to take especially when the consequences of taking no action against climate change are far more serious. It’s idiotic.

But to the notion that climate systems are poorly understood and the predictions inaccurate. Dana Nuccitelli writing for the Guardian discusses a 1972 Nature paper from John Stanley Sawyer which has proven remarkably accurate.

 

John Stanley (J.S.) Sawyer was a British meteorologist born in 1916. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1962, and was also a Fellow of the Meteorological Society and the organization’s president from 1963 to 1965.

A paper authored by Sawyer and published in the journal Nature in 1972 reveals how much climate scientists knew about the fundamental workings of the global climate over 40 years ago. For example, Sawyer predicted how much average global surface temperatures would warm by the year 2000.

The increase of 25% CO2 expected by the end of the century therefore corresponds to an increase of 0.6°C in the world temperature – an amount somewhat greater than the climatic variation of recent centuries.

Remarkably, between the years 1850 and 2000, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels did increase by very close to 25 percent, and global average surface temperatures also increased by just about 0.6°C during that time.

Sawyer also discussed several other important aspects of the Earth’s climate in his paper. For example, he addressed the myth and misunderstanding that as a trace gas in the atmosphere, it may seem natural to assume that rising levels of carbon dioxide don’t have much impact on the climate. Sawyer wrote,

Nevertheless, there are certain minor constituents of the atmosphere which have a particularly significant effect in determining the world climate. They do this by their influence on the transmission of heat through the atmosphere by radiation. Carbon dioxide, water vapour and ozone all play such a role, and the quantities of these substances are not so much greater than the products of human endeavour that the possibilities of man-made influences may be dismissed out of hand.

Sawyer referenced work by Guy Callendar in the late 1930s and early 1940s, in which Callendar estimated that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had increased by about 10 percent over the prior 100 years (an impressively accurate measurement, as current estimates put the increase during that time at about 9 percent). Sawyer also referenced the Keeling Curve, which included continuous reliable measurements of the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere beginning in 1958.

Compared to measurements of human carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, Sawyer noted that only about half of those human emissions were remaining in the atmosphere. The other half, climate scientists had concluded, were being absorbed by the oceans and the biosphere. Sawyer wrote,

Industrial development has recently been proceeding at an increasing rate so that the output of man-made carbon dioxide has been increasing more or less exponentially. So long as the carbon dioxide output continues to increase exponentially, it is reasonable to assume that about the same proportion as at present (about half) will remain in the atmosphere and about the same amount will go into the other reservoirs.

Indeed, over the past four decades, human carbon dioxide emissions have continued to increase more or less exponentially, and about half has continued to remain in the atmosphere with the other half accumulating in natural reservoirs. The carbon dioxide being absorbed by the oceans has contributed to the problem of ocean acidification, sometimes referred to as “global warming’s evil twin.”

Climate scientists also had a good idea how quickly carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would continue to rise as a result of human activities.

Bolin has estimated that the concentration of carbon dioxide will be about 400 ppm by the year 2000. A recent conference put the figure somewhat lower (375 ppm).”

The latter prediction at the referenced 1971 conference on “the Study of Man’s Impact on Climate” turned out to be quite accurate. In 2000, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were measured at about 370 ppm.

In his paper Sawyer discussed the predicted impacts resulting from a continued rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide. He noted that directly “it might make some vegetation grow a little faster,” which is generally true, although the situation is complicated. Sawyer noted that rising carbon dioxide levels would cause an increased greenhouse effect, and the associated warming would lead to more evaporation and more water vapor in the atmosphere. As a greenhouse gas itself, that rise in water vapor would act to further amplify human-caused global warming.

…if world temperatures rise due to an increase in carbon dioxide, it is almost certain that there will be more evaporation of water–the water vapour content of the atmosphere will also increase and will have its own effect on the radiation balance.

Sawyer referenced a 1967 paper by Manabe and Wetherald, who had calculated that a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide would by itself cause approximately 1.3°C global surface warming, but that warming would be amplified by a further 1.1°C due to rising water vapor concentrations if the relative humidity were to remain constant. Observations have indeed unequivocally shown that water vapor strongly amplifies human-caused global warming, for example as found in a 2009 study by Andrew Dessler and Sun Wong from Texas A&M University.

Sawyer also discussed that melting ice and snow in a warming world would act to amplify global warming, but suggested that increasing cloud cover might dampen global warming and act to regulate the global climate. However, recent research has shown that clouds may actually weakly amplify global warming as well. Sawyer also understood that significant global warming would cause changes in weather and wind patterns around the world.

All in all, Sawyer’s 1972 paper demonstrated a solid understanding of the fundamental workings of the global climate, and included a remarkably accurate prediction of global warming over the next 30 years. Sawyer’s paper was followed by similarly accurate global warming predictions by Wallace Broecker in 1975 and James Hansen in 1981.

This research illustrates that climate scientists have understood the main climate control knobs for over four decades. Perhaps it’s about time that we start listening to them.

Here’s to that. Original article here.

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Four climate change facts to keep the US Senate up all night

This was written inlight of the US Senate sitting to discuss climate action but these fourclimate facts certainly keep me awake.

Four climate change facts to keep the US Senate up all night.

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