Sunday, December 30, 2012

McKibben To Wall Street Journal: 'Fossil-Fuel Companies Have Become Outlaws Against The Laws Of Physics'

Bill McKibben has a letter responding to an error-riddled Wall Street Journal 0p-ed - though I guess that's redundant. This one attacks clean energy and the fossil-fuel divestment effort McKibben supports.

McKibben writes:

Robert Bryce's Dec. 17 op-ed ("Harvard Needs Remedial Energy Math") attacking campus efforts to have universities divest themselves of holdings in fossil-fuel companies is interesting for what it omits: even the slightest attempt to rebut the mathematical logic that shows fossil-fuel companies have become outlaws against the laws of physics. Here are the numbers: In order to prevent the two-degree Celsius rise in temperature that even the most conservative governments on earth have committed to avoiding, scientists tell us we can burn enough coal and oil and gas to produce 565 gigatons of CO2. Unfortunately, the planet's fossil-fuel companies, and the countries that operate like fossil-fuel companies (think Venezuela and Kuwait), have five times that much in their reserves. It's what their share prices are based on; they obviously plan to burn it; indeed, they spend hundreds of millions of dollars daily looking for more. If their business plan is carried out, the planet tanks.

Mr. Bryce is entirely correct that it will be hard to move away from fossil fuels, an enormous engineering challenge. But the Germans are demonstrating it can be done, and the most recent studies shows that we could rely on renewables for our power upwards of 99% of the time as early as 2030 if we got to work. Which we won't, if the fossil-fuel industry continues to exert its massive financial muscle to block change. That's why students in 189 campuses have so far risen up to demand divestment-this is the great moral challenge of our time, and maybe, given the stakes, of all time.

Bryce, of course, is one of the most debunked disinformers on the face of the Earth, who famously wrote (in the WSJ of course), "If serious scientists can question Einstein's theory of relativity, then there must be room for debate about the workings and complexities of the Earth's atmosphere" (see "Robert Bryce Makes Mockery of Science, Is Mocked in Return"). Hmm, if Bryce can be dead wrong about Einstein, then he's probably dead wrong about everything else.

Bryce works for the Manhattan Institute, which "has received millions of dollars from donors tied to the fossil fuel industry" and the Kochs to spread pro-fossil-fuel messages. Media Matters' post, "Who Is Robert Bryce?" has more detail. See also

Bryce's nonsense is not worth debunking in detail - one could waste a lifetime doing that. But given that he claims "Harvard Needs Remedial Energy Math," it's worth noting one of his own countless instances of innumeracy, the tired "wind power uses too much land" myth:

Here's where the math becomes college-freshman obvious: In 2011, the world had 240,000 megawatts of wind-generation capacity. That fleet of turbines produced 437 terawatt-hours of electricity. Therefore, just keeping up with the growth in global electricity demand-while not displacing any of the existing need for coal, oil and natural gas-would require the countries of the world to install about as much wind-generation capacity as now exists, and they'd have to do so every year.

Put another way, just to keep pace with demand growth, the wind industry will need to cover a land area of some 48,000 square miles with wind turbines per year, an area about the size of North Carolina. Even if that much land were available, no humans would want to live on the land because of the irritating noise generated by those turbines.

That paragraph would get any student in remedial energy math an 'F'. The actual footprint used up by the wind turbines is quite tiny - so most of the land they occupy can be used for other purposes, notably farming.

Let's go into the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's wind farm area calculator, plug in 0.25 acres per turbine and 240,000 megawatts (240,000,000 kW), and use 2 MW for wind turbines since "most of the commercial-scale turbines installed today are 2 MW in size. "The estimated land area required is: 30000 acres." [For more detail, see Land-Use Requirements of Modern Wind Power Plants in the United States.]

As one can quickly find out on Google, "1 square mile is equal to 640 acres." So these wind turbine would take out of use about 50 square miles of land. And that doesn't even count offshore wind.

Most of the best wind is not where many people live, so his non-issue about noise is, well, a non-issue.

Of course, global warming will devastate North Carolina and indeed all coastal areas and much of the cropland in this country and around the world - so using up a little land to save the rest seems like the smart choice.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Australian Press Council Criticizes Climate Denier Columnists For 'Highly Offensive' Comments

Libertarian columist James Delingpole

by Graham Readfearn, via DeSmogBlog

It's the new must-have accessory for any self-respecting climate science denialist commentator in Australian newspapers - their very own "Australian Press Council" adjudication showing exactly how they stuffed up the facts and misled their readers on their stories.

Whether they like it or not, serial climate science misinformers James Delingpole and Andrew Bolt are the latest News Ltd contributors to have their online articles furnished with freshly-added hyperlinks to APC judgements finding against them.

Earlier this week, the APC found that Mr Delingpole's article "Wind Farm Scam A Huge Cover-Up", published in the Rupert Murdoch-owned The Australian back in May, had misled readers on several points.

Presumably to the shock of the UK-based columnist on The Daily Telegraph, it turns out that it's not OK to write that the wind farm business is "bloody well near a pedophile ring. They're f . . king our families and knowingly doing so," as Delingpole did when quoting an anonymous sheep farmer. As the press council said in its judgement:

... the report of the anonymous remarks concerning paedophilia, a very serious and odious crime, were highly offensive. The Council's principles relate, of course, to whether something is acceptable journalistic practice, not whether it is unlawful. They are breached where, as in this case, the level of offensiveness is so high that it outweighs the very strong public interest in freedom of speech. It was fully justifiable in the public interest to convey the intensity of feeling by some opponents of wind farms but that goal did not require quoting the reference to paedophilia.

Neither was it OK for Delingpole to write that law firm Slater & Gordon had sought to place "rigorous gagging orders" on landholders without offering any actual evidence and when the firm in question denied it.

Second, [the council] has concluded that the claim that a law firm sought gagging orders has been publicly denied by the firm and, in the absence of any supporting evidence, constitutes a breach of the Council's principles concerning misrepresentation. The newspaper's prompt publication of the law firm's denials prevented aggravation of the breach but did not absolve it.

... Besides professional embarrassment and the requirement to publish the press council's adjudication, The Australian is free to carry on regardless, as it has been doing for several years in misrepresenting climate science.

Perhaps predictably then, rather than politely decline any further contributions from a writer adjudged to have been too offensive (a bar which you have to jump very highly to get over) and to have misled readers, The Australian has instead published another offensive rant from the same writer.

Writing again in The Australian, Delingpole says of the press council's judgement: "I stand by every word of the piece - especially the bit about pedophiles. I would concede that the analogy may be somewhat offensive to the pedophile community."

And what of News Ltd blogger and columnist Andrew Bolt? Back in February (yes, the wheels of the APC turn slowly) Bolt wrote in a story headlined "Time That Climate Alarmists Fessed Up" that the UK's Met Office had issued data showing there had been no global warming for 15 years.

Bolt had failed to check back with the Met Office, which had two days earlier issued a statement saying such a conclusion was "entirely misleading". The APC adjudication, delivered earlier this month, said

The Met Office description should have been mentioned in Mr Bolt's print article and blog of 1 February, even if he then rebutted it as unconvincing. It was not sufficient in these circumstances to assert ignorance of the response or to rely on the reader's previous posting to inform other readers about it.

The press council also concluded that statements made by Bolt about sea and ice conditions "were likely to be interpreted by many readers as indicating that the longer-term trends had ceased or were reversing" and that he "should have acknowledged explicitly that all of the three changes in question were comparatively short-term and were statistically compatible with continuance of the long-term trends in the opposite direction".

While judgements such as these are welcome, the APC did stop short of finding against the writers with regard to other elements of the complaints.

For example, the APC decided it was acceptable for Delingpole to claim categorically that wind farms were causing people to fall ill, despite several scientific reviews finding no evidence for such links.

In a curious conclusion to the complaint against Andrew Bolt, the press council said ambiguously that its "adjudication neither endorses nor rejects any particular theories or predictions about global warming".

"[The council] observes that on issues of such major importance the community is best served by frank disclosure and discussion," it said.

One has to ask then, how the council aims to judge the merits of "frank disclosure" if it isn't able to accept that decades of peer-reviewed research on climate change has found the community isn't "best served" by ignoring the causes of climate change?

Graham Readfearn is an independent journalist based in Queensland, Australia, with 15 years experience as a reporter and writer on newspapers, magazines, radio and online. This piece was originally published at DeSmogBlog and was reprinted with permission.

West Antarctica Warming Three Times Faster Than Global Average, Threatening To Destabilize This Unstable Ice Sheet

This is a repost of a National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) news release (plus links and excerpts from other recent studies at the end).

BOULDER-In a finding that raises further concerns about the future contribution of Antarctica to sea level rise, a new study finds that the western part of the continent's ice sheet is experiencing nearly twice as much warming as previously thought.

Researchers have determined that the central region of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is experiencing twice as much warming as previously thought. Their analysis focuses on the temperature record from Byrd Station (indicated by a star), which provides the only long-term temperature observations in the region. Other permanent research stations with long-term temperature records (indicated by black circles) are scattered around the continent. On this map, the color intensity indicates the extent of warming around Antarctica. (Image by Julien Nicolas, courtesy of Ohio State University.)

The temperature record from Byrd Station, a scientific outpost in the center of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), demonstrates a marked increase of 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit (2.4 degrees Celsius) in average annual temperature since 1958. The rate of increase is three times faster than the average temperature rise around the globe for the same period.

The study was published Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience ["Central West Antarctica among most rapidly warming regions on Earth" (subs. req'd)]. It was conducted by scientists at Ohio State University (OSU), the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with funding coming from the National Science Foundation, which is NCAR's sponsor.

"Our results indicate that temperature increases during the past half century have been almost twice what we previously thought, placing West Antarctica among the fastest warming regions on Earth," says NCAR scientist Andrew Monaghan, a co-author. "A growing body of research shows that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is changing at an alarming rate, with pressure coming from both a warming ocean and a warming atmosphere."

This study reveals warming trends during the summer months of the Southern Hemisphere (December through February), notes co-author David Bromwich, professor of geography at Ohio State University and senior research scientist at the Byrd Polar Research Center.

"Our record suggests that continued summer warming in West Antarctica could upset the surface mass balance of the ice sheet, so that the region could make an even bigger contribution to sea level rise than it already does," Bromwich says. "Even without generating significant mass loss directly, surface melting on the WAIS could contribute to sea level indirectly by weakening the West Antarctic ice shelves that restrain the region's natural ice flow into the ocean."

Researchers consider the WAIS especially sensitive to climate change because the base of the ice sheet rests below sea level, making it vulnerable to direct contact with warm ocean water. Its melting currently contributes 0.3 millimeters to sea level rise each year. This is second only to Greenland, whose contribution to sea level rise has been estimated as high as 0.7 mm per year.

Filling in the data gaps

Due to its location some 700 miles from the South Pole and near the center of the WAIS, conditions at Byrd Station are an important indicator of climate change throughout the region.

In the past, researchers haven't been able to make much use of the Byrd Station measurements because of incomplete temperature observations. Since its establishment in 1957, the station has not been occupied continuously. A year-round automated station was installed in 1980, but it has experienced frequent power outages, especially during the long polar night when its solar panels can't recharge.

The new study fills in the data gaps with a powerful computer model of the atmosphere and a numerical analysis method

In addition to offering a more complete picture of warming in West Antarctica, the new study shows for the first time that significant melt is occurring during summer. Monaghan says the summertime warmth is particularly troubling because that is the season in which enhanced surface melting could most affect the WAIS and potentially weaken the ice shelves that buttress it.

"We've already seen enhanced surface melting contribute to the breakup of the Antarctic's Larsen B Ice Shelf, where glaciers at the edge discharged massive sections of ice into the ocean that contributed to sea level rise," he says. "The stakes would be much higher if a similar event occurred to an ice shelf restraining one of the enormous WAIS glaciers."

"West Antarctica is one of the most rapidly changing regions on Earth, but it is also one of the least known," says Bromwich. "Our study underscores the need for a reliable network of meteorological observations throughout West Antarctica, so that we can know what is happening-and why-with more certainty."


Related Posts:

Perhaps the most important, and worrisome, fact about the WAIS is that it is fundamentally far less stable than the Greenland ice sheet because most of it is grounded far below sea level. The WAIS rests on bedrock as deep as two kilometers underwater. One 2004 NASA-led study found that most of the glaciers they were studying "flow into floating ice shelves over bedrock up to hundreds of meters deeper than previous estimates, providing exit routes for ice from further inland if ice-sheet collapse is under way"....

The warmer it gets, the more unstable WAIS outlet glaciers will become. Since so much of the ice sheet is grounded underwater, rising sea levels may have the effect of lifting the sheets, allowing more-and increasingly warmer-water underneath it, leading to further bottom melting, more ice shelf disintegration, accelerated glacial flow, and further sea level rise, and so on and on, another vicious cycle. The combination of global warming and accelerating sea level rise from Greenland could be the trigger for catastrophic collapse in the WAIS (see, for instance, here).

Sunday, December 23, 2012

US101 flooding in Palo Alto hints of future floods from rising sea level

Northern California has been hammered on Saturday and Sunday with several waves of rain storms and drenching rain, and have triggered flash flood alerts in the mountains. The San Francisquito Creek in Palo Alto has overflowed its banks and...

Faith And Science: A Climate Scientist And Religious Organizer On The Urgency Of Climate Change

by Sally Steenland

The Rev. Canon Sally Bingham is president and founder of the Regeneration Project and Interfaith Power and Light, a national interfaith network of affiliates that work with congregations to promote energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. She is also the lead author of Love God Heal Earth, published in 2009. In 2012 Sally was awarded the Audubon Society's Rachel Carson Award for her environmental leadership.

Katharine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist who studies climate change. She is an expert reviewer for the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as well as an associate professor in the Department of Political Science and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. Together with her husband she is the co-author of A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions. She recently appeared in Frontline's "Climate of Doubt," a PBS documentary exposing the individuals and groups behind efforts to attack science by undermining scientists who say they believe there is current climate change caused by human activity.

Sally Steenland: Sally, you're an Episcopal priest who works on environmental issues, and Katharine, you're an expert on climate change who is an evangelical. Lots of times when we read about faith and science, they're often seen as adversarial-especially when you talk about the environment and climate change. But the two of you blend these issues together in your lives. Can you each talk about how you do that-how faith and science play out in your lives? Sally, let's start with you.

Rev. Sally Bingham: I couldn't stand in a pulpit and talk to a community or congregation and tell them that humans are changing the climate if I didn't have people like Katharine Hayhoe behind me to show the science, where I can fall back on the scientific evidence. It wouldn't make sense for me to say, "The climate is changing, it's coming from human-induced activity," if I couldn't back that up with science. I always say that scientists are today's prophets. They are the people giving us the news that we need to pay attention to, and we need to listen to them.

SS: How about you, Katharine? How do faith and science play out in your life?

Katharine Hayhoe: As Christians, we believe that God reveals himself to us in two ways. The first and most obvious way is through the written word, the Bible. But the second way is through creation. And so when we look at the world around us, when we look at the planet, when we look at creation, whatever it's telling us is an expression of what God has defined it to be. So instead of studying science, I feel like I'm studying what God was thinking when he set up our planet.

SS: Katharine, you said that in 2009 you "came out the closet" as a Christian. Can you talk about what that's like, combining your work as a climate scientist and a Christian, and what happened when you did that?

KH: There are many issues in which faith and science find themselves on opposite sides. Not because of any inherent incompatibilities between faith and science at all, but because of our interpretations of one or the other. Because of that, in the scientific community, there tends to be a fair amount of distrust of the faith community, because I and my colleagues have been hammered so hard by many of them and attacked even, and there's often unfortunately little respect for science in the faith community and for what I view as the expression of God's creation.

So from that perspective, I was definitely nervous as a research scientist at a public university telling my peers and colleagues that I was a Christian because I'd heard so many disparaging remarks about Christians and their lack of intelligence, their lack of ability to understand science. I was definitely nervous, in writing the book with my husband, who is a pastor and linguist.

But I have to say that the result has been overwhelming. So many of my colleagues have been supportive, have been encouraging, and have even revealed themselves to also be "closet Christians."

And this is actually backed up by a sociologist at Rice, Elaine Ecklund. She actually studies the spirituality of scientists-we're under her microscope, we're her lab rats. And what she found is that the vast majority of scientists are deeply spiritual. They just don't tend to always express their spirituality in traditional ways, often because, I think, of the perceived cultural divides between faith and science.

SS: So, in other words, when people like you speak out and acknowledge your spirituality, you move the needle a little closer to the reality of who scientists are.

KH: Yes, I think it's actually very representative of who we are.

SS: Sally, you started from the pulpit and clearly relied on scientists like Katharine, but you had to learn the science, too. You can't be a dummy about these things. How did you learn the science?

SB: I am on the board of one of our nation's best environmental organizations with a big science component-the Environmental Defense Fund. Michael Oppenheimer was talking about climate change in the late '70s and early '80s. I was alarmed when he told us, in the early '80s, addressing our board of directors, about the seriousness of climate change.

I actually was not ordained at the time, but I was realizing that having been an Episcopalian all my life and going to church on a somewhat regular basis, I had never heard a clergy person talk about saving creation in any aspect from the pulpit. So I started inquiring of the religious people I knew, "Have you ever heard a clergy person talk about stewardship of creation from the pulpit?" And no one had.

This was one of the things that pushed me. First I had to go to college, then to seminary, then I had a 10-year process of getting through the ordination process. And now when I get in the pulpit to talk about saving creation, I'm coming from a little different area in the faith community than Katharine.

Most of my colleagues in the Episcopal Church, Protestants, and even a great many Catholics have come to realize that we are the stewards of creation, and that the climate problem is real. And they are much more receptive than maybe your evangelicals in Texas are. So I didn't find a lot of opposition to the issue, and I was invited to go all over the country and stand in the pulpit and talk about how Christians are called to be the stewards of creation.

SS: Let's look at recent headlines. Hurricane Sandy walloped the East Coast and was another example of extreme weather. It seems the public may be starting to connect the dots: "Hmm. Extreme weather, climate change-do these things have anything to do with each other?" I think sometimes people are intimidated by science. It feels complicated, they're not sure they trust the facts, and yet the facts are pretty indisputable.

How do you see the importance of facts in educating people and changing hearts and minds? What more do we need-moral persuasion, a creative approach, a human approach-in order to change how people think about these things?

KH: Well, you actually just gave the title of a talk I'm giving next week in D.C. called "The Facts Are Not Enough." As a scientist, it absolutely goes against everything I hold dear to say that facts are not enough. Scientists believe that facts are enough, and for years and years, we scientists have talked about the facts of climate change.

And have they been enough? Clearly not. Because over the last 10 years, our certainty about the facts, that the climate is changing, humans are causing it, and the impact is already happening now-these facts have increased in certainty over the last 10 years. Over the same time, public opinion as to the reality and severity of climate change has gone down. So no, facts are not enough.

So then you might ask, well, what is enough? And that's really the question we're wondering. I think personal experience is very important-witnessing things with our own five senses. It doesn't have to be an extreme event. Spring is arriving two weeks earlier now than it was when our parents were children. We're seeing all kinds of birds and species of bugs that didn't used to be there 10 or 20 years ago.

So personal experience is important, and it's important to connect this to our values. Like Sally said, it's about what we already believe. We already believe God created the earth; he entrusted it to us for humans to care for; and I would add, too, we are also told to love our neighbors as ourselves. And today it's our neighbors, especially the poor and the disadvantaged, who are being disproportionately affected by climate change.

SB: And that's one statement that does move the religious community. When we talk about our neighbors and the next generation and poor people on the other side of the world as being part of this hospitality of neighborhood, people will say, "Gosh, you know, I never really thought about it before." Sometimes it's just moral responsibility, and even if people don't have the facts but their community is responding to being good stewards of creation, a well-respected religious leader can move a congregation better than a politician or a scientist.

When they talk about moral responsibility and an opportunity to show your love of God when you take care of God's creation, [they can say that] creation is a manifestation of God, and created by God. God loved it, therefore if you are a person of faith, you need to treat creation with love. And you don't have to have all the facts to get someone to say, "Oh gosh, that's right, maybe I don't need such a great big car, maybe I don't need to have my computer on day and night, and maybe I don't need to leave my lights on. And what about those squirrely lights, do they work?"

So there certainly are other ways that are just as important as the facts.

I want to add to one more thing that Katharine touched on: a person's life experience. We each respond to these issues in very different ways. Some people do want just the facts. Others want to do it just because their community is doing it. Somebody else might be moved by a psalm-you know, some of the most beautiful psalms have to do with the trees clapping.

I think we need it all. We need the facts, we need hearts and minds moved, we need moral responsibility, and of course the big one we need is political leadership.

SS: Let's talk about that. In some communities there is a sense of importance and urgency and moral responsibility on climate issues. And there's certainly urgency within the scientific community. We've seen climate change go up and down in terms of public perception of urgency, and among policymakers. It was shamefully absent from this most recent campaign. What does it take to move the needle?

KH: Well, I think we all have a wishlist for what we want-

SS: Oh, give us your wishlist!

KH: Some of it might require a magic wand. Honestly, the fact that we're not taking any action on climate change is actually symptomatic of a much larger problem we have today. Business is king. Anything that might possibly limit short-term gain for big business-not for a person-is forbidden.

We have a society where polarization is rampant-people say "X" just because another person they don't like says "Y." So because one side says climate change is real, the other side says it's not. Because one side says it makes sense to do something about cap and trade, the other side says no, we'd never endorse that, it has to be a carbon tax. I believe that we can start with a conversation based on values. What do we have in common? We all live on this planet, we all get our resources from this planet, the air we breathe, the water we drink, everything we have is made out of something from this planet, including our energy.

We all want a better life for our children. We all want a healthy economy. We want to live in thriving communities. So if we could start with the things we all have in common, we could make real progress, because there are many things we can do to contribute to national security, the economy, a better life for our children-and incidentally, would also help climate change.

SS: Climate change wasn't always so partisan, right?

KH: If you look at the Gallup polls 10 years ago, this issue was hardly polarized at all, so that's what I mean when I say I think it's a casualty of a greater problem.

SB: You asked in the beginning: What are we going to do about this political problem? I think one of the advantages of the religious community being involved in this dialogue is that nearly every elected politician has some sort of religious affiliation. And if we can take one of our rabbis, who is part of our constituency, to talk to an elected Jewish official, or if the official happens to be Roman Catholic and can talk to a priest-we are coming not from a partisan perspective but from a position of moral responsibility.

We do actually have a lobby in Washington every year where we go in and talk to our elected officials. We say, we are not coming from the environmental community. We are coming from the foundation of religious people that are deeply rooted in the theology that we are the stewards of creation. And we try to link up the religious leader with the appropriate elected official.

We often get feedback from them, saying we've had the doctors visit us, we've had the labor people in here, but we've never heard from anybody in the religious community. I think we need to do more of that. If we could get beyond the partisanship and have it be a moral and spiritual issue that we're all involved in, and we all need to participate in the solution, then I think we can move the needle in the right direction.

SS: We're talking about moral leadership and how we all live on this planet. Do either of you ever get tempted to scare the pants off people in terms of what's going to happen if we do nothing?

KH: I'm not tempted to be alarmist, to over-exaggerate anything, because I don't think it's possible to solve this if fear is to paralyze us. That's part of the reason we're in this state today, because fear paralyzes, and there has been very successful fear cultivated as to the results of taking action to solve climate change. People are very afraid of how that would affect the economy, how that would affect their welfare, so fear paralyzes. We don't want paralysis, we want action.

I do not believe that fear is going to spur us into long-term successful action-it is a knee-jerk reaction. Adrenaline kicks in and we do something short term. We have to act out of hope for a better future, out of love for our children, and their children, and for people around the world who are already feeling the impact of climate change.

From a scientific perspective, though, I have to tell you that we scientists are scared to death of being called alarmists, so we as a community have actually underweighted the highest risks from climate change. We are being deliberately understated in what we say are the effects from climate change. If we have any shadow of a doubt as to how much methane is coming out of the permafrost or how fast Greenland is melting-if we have a shadow of a doubt about that, we assume it's zero. We know the answer isn't zero. So at the same time that we have to stay motivated, we have to acknowledge that the scientific community is understating the risk on a very consistent basis.

SS: One last question for both of you. We've talked about challenges and we've talked about barriers. Tell us one thing that's exciting to you in the field.

SB: Can I first tell you one of the biggest challenges? One of the hardest things for me is to try to motivate people by giving them some of the facts and letting them know the urgency of this problem without freezing them into no action at all. People have to know what the problem is, but to get to the urgency and not frighten folks away from wanting to do anything is a very fine line.

And that's probably right now my challenge-to help people understand this is a serious problem that requires an urgent response and still give them a hope and know that we can make a difference. I am a strong believer in the power of the human spirit. I believe others are that way, too. We have done great things in this country and all over the world. With the knowledge that we can make a difference, we will turn this thing around.

KH: I love it whenever I see something happening not because of any desire to affect climate change, but it turns out that's what's happening anyway. I was in West Texas, for example, and there's a wind farm up, and you see a rancher who could not care less about climate change. He's doing it because it makes economic sense. There are small towns that are just eroding as their children leave for the big cities. Along comes a wind farm, and you've got 1,500 jobs and the tax base increases by a factor of 10 just because of all the new energy coming out of that place. Isn't it wonderful to see communities revitalized, jobs being generated, the local economy growing, and we're actually helping the planet, all at the same time?

SB: The Interfaith Power & Light program you mentioned earlier has a program in 40 states around the country. Every time we add another program, it gives me another incentive to keep doing what we're doing. We must be doing something right if people are joining these programs. We have 15,000 congregations around the country who have done something to cut their carbon footprint, or give sermons on climate, or put in energy efficiency appliances, and I find that work exceedingly exciting and hopeful.

People are not turning their backs on this. They're saying, "Yes, we can do this, we want to help." And we have seen measurable differences in the people that have joined over the last three to five years. That is a wonderful sign of success.

SS: Well, from wind farms to human energy and creativity, these are exciting things for us, too. It's exciting to talk to you today and we are grateful for the good work that both of you do. Thank you both so much for talking with us today.

This interview was edited for clarity and length.

Sally Steenland is Director of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress. For more on this initiative, please see its project page.

California ARB issues official notification for Feb GHG allowance auction

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has issued its official Auction Notice for the California Cap-and-Trade Program Greenhouse Gas Allowance Auction on 19 February 2013-the second official auction. (Earlier post.) The February 2013 allowance auction will offer 12,924,822 2013 current vintage allowances and 9,560,000 year 2016 future vintage allowances for sale.

The number of allowances listed for the Current Auction is the final number of allowances offered for sale and includes State-owned allowances and allowances consigned by the electricity distribution utilities.

The February 2013 auction will be conducted using an electronic, internet-based Auction Platform that bidders use to submit their bid in a single-round, sealed-bid auction format. Bid quantities can only be submitted in multiples of 1,000 California GHG allowances.

The first auction in November resulted in the sale of 23,126,110 allowances (2013 Vintage) with a settlement price of $10.09 (auction reserve price was $10.00).

Earlier in December, ARB announced that the American Carbon Registry and the Climate Action Reserve had been formally approved as offset project registries to help evaluate compliance-grade carbon offsets under California's cap-and-trade program. The Air Resources Board has also accredited specially trained third-party offset verifiers.

[The] announcement marks an important milestone in the progress of California's climate program. By authorizing real, permanent offsets from farms, forests, and businesses that are not covered by cap-and-trade, we can reduce the costs of compliance with the program and encourage investments in sustainable practices throughout the California economy.

-Air Resources Board Chairman Mary D. Nichols

The Cap-and-Trade Regulation sets an overall limit (cap) on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from specified industrial sectors. Maintaining emissions below the cap is achieved through a combination of reduced emissions and retirement of emission permits, comprising allowances and verified offsets. Unused allowances can be traded and offsets can be purchased on ARB-endorsed registries. Offset projects can be designed to enhance removals of GHG on agricultural lands and forestlands or reduce GHG emissions through capture of methane from livestock operations and through destruction of ozone depleting substances.

Carbon offsets reduce greenhouse gas emissions in sectors such as agriculture and forestry that are not included directly under the cap-and-trade regulation. For example, forests can be managed to ensure that they increase the total amount of carbon stored in the trees, thus removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Each offset credit equals one metric ton of carbon dioxide and, if issued by the Air Resources Board, can be used by companies and facilities to comply with the cap-and-trade regulation for up to eight percent (8%) of each covered entity's compliance obligation. In this sense, they are the equivalent of a California carbon allowance and, like those compliance instruments, can also be freely sold or traded.

To meet the requirements of the cap-and-trade regulation every carbon offset credit must be additional-i.e., over and above any reductions already required by law or regulation. They must also be real, verifiable, quantifiable, enforceable and permanent. The Air Resources Board currently has approved protocols (methods of accounting to measure the number of tons of reductions achieved) for four types of offset projects:

  • Forestry
  • Urban forestry
  • Dairy manure digesters
  • Destruction of Ozone Depleting Substances

Approved offset project registries are authorized to provide their services under the Air Resources Board compliance protocols. Those services include listing and reviewing projects and issuing registry offset credits which may later be submitted to the Air Resources Board for final evaluation and issuance of Air Resources Board compliance offset credits.

An example of a verifier is SCS Global Services (SCS), which recently was accredited by ARB to provide verification services for carbon offset projects under the Cap-and-Trade Program. SCS has already contracted to conduct several "compliance grade" forest offset project verifications in 2013 and is now ready to commence the verification process on these projects. SCS and its cadre of staff and contract auditors have completed the necessary training and passed the required examinations to conduct verification audits under the California Cap-and-Trade Regulation.

SCS Global Services and its cadre of auditors is now fully accredited to verify offset projects against ARB's US Forest, Urban Forest, Livestock, and Ozone Depleting Substances Projects Compliance Offset Protocols.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Climate Story Of The Year: Extreme Weather from Superstorms to Drought Emerges as Political, Scientific Gamechanger

This year brought staggering weather extremes, record loss of Arctic ice and a growing body of scientific analysis linking the two. Those extremes, plus Superstorm Sandy, raised public concern about the immediate threat posed by climate change, providing a palpable debunking of the (mistaken) belief that climate change will impact only future generations or people in faraway lands.

European Commission Holds Firm, Rejects Daimler's Push to Block New Climate-Friendly Refrigerant

Good news today from Brussels, as the European Community holds firm and rejects last-minute pressure from by Daimler, maker of Mercedes-Benz, to block the introduction of a climate-friendly refrigerant in car air conditioners. As I've written here and here, the world auto industry is on the verge of a transition from HFC-134a, a powerful heat-trapping gas with 1,430 times the climate-changing power of carbon dioxide, to HFO-1234yf, a chemical with just 1/360th the punch.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Energy Department funds new projects for money-saving windows, heating, cooling

The Energy Department (DOE) announced on Friday a $9 million investment meant to help homeowners and businesses save money while using less energy, and therefore have a smaller environmental impact. The investment is into "building envelope...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

DOE's Carbon Utilization and Storage Atlas Estimates at Least 2,400 Billion Metric Tons of U.S. CO2 Storage Resource

The 2012 edition of DOE's Carbon Utilization and Storage Atlas estimates that the U.S. has at least 2,400 billion metric tons of possible carbon dioxide storage resource.

Error-Riddled Matt Ridley Piece Lowballs Climate Change, Discredits Wall Street Journal. World Faces 10°F.

Leading Scientists Debunk Ridley Piece, Even Climatologist Cited by WSJ Says Ridley "Is Just Plain Wrong About Future Warming"

Memo to media, deniers: "Climate sensitivity" is NOT the same as projected future warming!

Projected warming even with (an unlikely) low climate sensitivity of between 1.5°C and 2.0°C from Michael Ring et al 2012. A WSJ op-ed that cites this work absurdly concludes "Evidence points to a further rise of just 1°C by 2100." Not. Not even close.

Every major projection of future warming makes clear that if we keep listening to the falsehoods of the anti-science crowd and keep taking no serious action to reduce carbon pollution we face catastrophic 9°F to 11°F [5°C to 6°C] warming over most of the United States and World (see literature review here).

The Wall Street Journal, however, has published a piece, "Cooling Down the Fears of Climate Change," that (falsely) asserts observations suggest global warming will be so low as to "be benificial." This risible piece by Matt Ridley is so riddled with basic math and science errors it raises the question of how the Journal can possibly maintain its reputation as a credible source of news and financial analysis.

Ridley and the Journal apparently don't know the difference between water vapor and clouds. They don't understand the basic concept of climate sensitivity. And they can't do simple math. Naturally, the climate deniers have embraced this nonsense and spread it across the internet.

I wasn't going to waste time with the umpteenth debunking of the Wall Street Journal's nonsense - especially one written by someone whose "family leases land for coal mining"! But one of Ridley many basic mistakes is one I have seen often in the media - the confusion of the "climate sensitivity" (to a doubling of CO2 levels to 560 parts per million) with projected warming (from actual greenhouse gas levels projected for this century). That confusion needs clearing up (again).

Fist, though, let me start by quoting some of the country's leading climate experts on an excellent debunking piece by Media Matters, "WSJ's Climate 'Dynamite' Is A Dud":

[A]s John Abraham, an IPCC reviewer and the director of the Climate Science Rapid Response Team, put it to Media Matters: the column "has such elementary errors in it that [it] casts doubt on the author's understanding of any aspects of climate change."

... Boston University's Robert Kaufmann, lead author of a 2011 sulfur emissions study, agreed:

I know of no evidence that would suggest that the temperature effect of sulfur emissions are small. This conclusion is totally at odds with my peer reviewed publication in the area, which indicate that sulfur emissions have a significant effect on temperature.

With regard to the feedback effect of water vapor: Kevin Trenberth, a scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, told Media Matters in an email: "water vapor effects are well established as an amplifier (strong positive feedback)." Abraham further noted that Ridley has apparently confused water vapor with clouds, whose effects are not as well understood. He said, "it is very clear water vapor ... is an amplifying effect. It is a very strong warmer for the climate" and challenged Ridley to name the anonymous scientist who gave him his information.

With regard to the rate of ocean heat absorption: Trenberth wrote: "On the contrary there is now very good evidence that a LOT of heat is going into the deep ocean in unprecedented ways, which completely undermines this sort of argument. OHC [Ocean Heat Content] keeps increasing at a fairly steady rate, just as sea level keeps going up."

A good discussion of the latest science on ocean heat content can be found here.

To expand on what Abraham said, it is head-exploding and self-discrediting for Ridley and the Wall Street Journal to print this for millions to read:

And then, as one Nobel Prize-winning physicist with a senior role in combating climate change admitted to me the other day: "We don't even know the sign" of water vapor's effect-in other words, whether it speeds up or slows down a warming of the atmosphere.

Climate models are known to poorly simulate clouds, and given clouds' very strong effect on the climate system-some types cooling the Earth either by shading it or by transporting heat up and cold down in thunderstorms, and others warming the Earth by blocking outgoing radiation-it remains highly plausible that there is no net positive feedback from water vapor.

An unnamed physicist? Seriously, WSJ? What's next. "A guy I met in an underground parking lot"?

If Ridley did in fact talk to a Nobel prize-winning physicist then that person almost certainly did not make the mistake Ridley did and confuse "water vapor's effect" - where we most certainly know the sign (it speeds up warming) with cloud's effect (where there is a tad more uncertainty). Yet even in that case, the new IPCC draft report, upon which Ridley makes all his claims finds:

Various feedbacks associated with water vapour can now be quantified, and together they are assessed to be very likely positive and therefore to amplify climate changes. The net radiative feedback due to all cloud types is likely positive.

Ridley and the WSJ cite on their behalf recent work by Ring and Schlesinger to help make the case that we face a warming of only another 1°C this century for a total cumulative warning of under 2°C:

An impressive study published this year by Magne Aldrin of the Norwegian Computing Center and colleagues gives a most-likely estimate of 1.6°C. Michael Ring and Michael Schlesinger of the University of Illinois, using the most trustworthy temperature record, also estimate 1.6°C.

The problem is that Ridley apparently doesn't have the first clue what the climate sensitivity means, which is a key reason why Dr. Schlesinger has written a letter to the WSJ (below) explaining

"In his article, Mr. Ridley is just plain wrong about future global warming."

It bears repeating that the amount of warming we are going to subject our children and countless future generations to depends primarily on three factors:

  1. The so-called "equilibrium climate sensitivity" - the sensitivity of the climate to fast feedbacks like sea ice and water vapor - or how much warming you get if we only double CO2 emissions to 560 ppm and there are no major "slow" feedbacks. We know the fast feedbacks, like water vapor, are strong by themselves (see Study: Water-vapor feedback is "strong and positive," so we face "warming of several degrees Celsius" and Skeptical Science piece here).
  2. The real-world slower (decade-scale) feedbacks, such as tundra melt (see "Carbon Feedback From Thawing Permafrost Will Likely Add 0.4°F - 1.5°F To Total Global Warming By 2100".
  3. The actual CO2 concentration level we are likely to hit, which is far beyond 550 ppm (see U.S. media largely ignores latest warning from climate scientists: "Recent observations confirm ... the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories are being realised" - 1000 ppm).

Given that the anti-science, pro-pollution forces seem to be succeeding in their fight to keep us on our current emissions path, it's no surprise that multiple recent analyses conclude that we face a temperature rise that is far, far beyond dangerous (see links below).

Schlesinger's full letter to the WSJ is:

In "Cooling Down the Fears of Climate Change" (WJS, 19 December 2012), Matt Ridley mentions the findings of my Climate Research Group's paper "Causes of the Warming Observed Since the 19th Century"

In his article, Mr. Ridley is just plain wrong about future global warming. In our paper "A Fair Plan to Safeguard Earth's Climate" (, we show that by the middle of this century the warming will exceed the 2°C (3.6°F) maximum allowed by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to "prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system".

In that paper and its sequel, "A Revised Fair Plan to Safeguard Earth's Climate" (, we phase out the emission of greenhouse gases this century such that the cumulative greenhouse-gas emissions by the Developing and Developed Countries are equal. Both Plans keep global warming below the UNFCCC allowable maximum of 2°C.

Schlesinger sent an email around to some journalists and scientists that included a figure from his work, which I posted at the top.

It is worth noting that there is a healthy debate about Schlesinger's low estimate (see here). Kevin Trenberth, for one, says the analysis is not correct.

Indeed, Trenberth coauthored a major new study of actual observations of relative humidity finds "that warming is likely to be on the high side of current projections ... projecting a global temperature rise for doubled carbon dioxide of more than 7 degrees F" - see "Science Stunner: Observations Support Predictions Of Extreme Warming And Worse Droughts This Century."

And Schlesinger himself says it would be unwise to plan on a low sensitivity given the very real risks that it is not so low. I queried Schlesinger about whether his analysis included the feedback from the permafrost. He wrote me back:

What will most likely happen is ... permanent outgassing of carbon dioxide from permafrost and methane from clathrates/hydrates. As you know, methane is a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent, molecule for molecule, than carbon dioxide. If we hedge not against this outgassing, it's game over.

My Climate Research Group is now writing a paper about sea-level rise throughout this century.

You and the world want not to know about this.

In the scheme of things, we human beings are not a very intelligent species.

All species have a finite lifetime.

Most species do not self exterminate.

While this is a bit hyperbolic, it may not be far from the truth.

So I think it is quite safe to say that it is irresponsible and indefensible to quote Schlesinger's work in an article that concludes the "net effect [of global warming] on the planet may actually be beneficial."

Related Posts:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

DOE Approves Field Test for Promising Carbon Capture Technology

A promising post combustion membrane technology that can separate and capture 90 percent of the CO2 from a pulverized coal plant has been successfully demonstrated.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Deep-Sea Mining Is Closer Than You Think

Deep-sea mining is poised to become a major growth industry over the next decade -- though the full range of undersea diversity has yet to be discovered. Until the legal framework of mining in international waters catches up to the ready-to-dig reality, cooperative participation from scientists may be the best way to preserve the most fragile, irreplaceable aspects of deep-sea ecosystems.

Changing the IPCC to Better Meet The Needs Of International Climate Policy

One seemingly minor and unreported component of the recent UN climate talks in Doha highlights the drawbacks of old-school scientific assessments and the need to modernize the IPCC process.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Dithering In Doha: We Need To Re-Frame The Politics Of Climate

by Steve Herz

Last week, a full day after it was scheduled to end, this year's United Nations climate negotiations finally ground to an anticlimactic and dispiriting conclusion.

Despite the near round-the-clock endgame and down-to-the-wire drama, negotiators from more than 194 member countries ultimately had precious little to show for their efforts. Yes, they managed to ensure that the Kyoto Protocol would continue for another term. And they tied up some loose ends from previous meetings and made some incremental progress on emerging issues. But on the core issue affecting the fate of the planet - the need to rapidly reduce emissions to have any hope of keeping climate change to manageable levels - progress was nowhere to be found. They moved the process forward, but the problem rages on.

In one sense, this exceedingly modest outcome was no surprise. From the outset, we were warned that this was just an "implementation" or "transitional" meeting; the big issues were not to be discussed. This is because at last year's meeting in Durban, the Parties decided on a three year schedule to negotiate an overarching agreement, and nothing in the climate negotiations happens until the last possible moment. The Durban timetable all but assured that incrementalism and procrastination would rule the day in Doha.

But in another sense, this summer vacation approach to the negotiations was utterly incomprehensible. The urgent need for action was there for all to see. Many delegates came with vivid, heart-rendering accounts of how climate change was already impacting their countries in ways their governments could not address. Not least, President Obama's negotiating team could point to this summer's searing, unprecedented drought in the Midwest, forest infernos in the Rockies, and of course, the over $70 billion worth of devastation inflicted by Superstorm Sandy.

If these calamities weren't a clear enough call to action, informed delegates arrived in Doha with three new hair-on-fire reports in their briefcases that put these impacts in larger context. In November, the global consultancy PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the International Energy Agency both issued papers showing that nothing short of heroic efforts will be necessary to reduce emissions enough to keep global temperature rise below the 3.6°F that most climate scientists believe is the outer bound of "safe" warming. Without such efforts, we'll likely see 7.2°F - 10.8°F of warming by the end of this century. The World Bank followed these assessments with its blockbuster Turn Down the Heat report, which described in appalling detail what a 7.2°F warmer world would actually be like. It's truly scary stuff.

Just as disappointing as the outcome in Doha was the role of the United States in bringing it about. When President Obama first took office, there were great expectations that he would bring about a new era American climate leadership. Instead, the US negotiating posture too often has been characterized by a reluctance to expend real political capital, a hypersensitivity to Congressional extremism, and an unwillingness to lead by example.

Still, there were good reasons to hope that Doha might be the place where the President would begin to fashion a more creative and ambitious negotiating strategy. After all, hadn't President Obama just handily won reelection over an (opportunistically) denialist opponent, and in the flush of victory, affirmed his intent to address the climate crisis in his Second Administration? Didn't superstorm Sandy just drive home the intolerable human costs of a significantly warmer planet in the starkest terms possible? With the election safely behind him and the devastation of Sandy laid out before him, was there ever a fiercer urgency than now?

It was not to be. On every critical issue, the Obama team did just enough to avoid being called out for blocking progress, far less than what was needed, and nowhere near what real leadership required. For example, the US negotiators refused to discuss how the US could ramp up its actions at home, despite the fact that the actions countries have agreed to take before 2020 are not nearly enough to limit warming to 3.6°F, and the US has committed to do much less than other developed countries. The US also made sure that developed countries would not provide any clarity on how they would ramp up climate assistance to developing countries to meet their collective pledge to provide $100 billion a year by 2020.

It has become fashionable to blame the UN process itself for the collective failure to craft an adequate international response to climate change. But the US performance in Doha cannot be attributed to a failure of international politics; it was plainly a failure of politics right here at home. Most of the blame, of course, lies with a Republican opposition that is contemptuous of science, heedless of risk, and beholden to the most regressive fossil fuel interests. But President bears much responsibility as well. Rather than using the power of the Presidency, his high public approval ratings and his peerless rhetorical gifts to change the political dynamics around climate change, he has simply taken the political space as he has found it.

President Obama has two critical opportunities to re-frame America's climate diplomacy in the coming months.

First, he must select a new Secretary of State with a clear sense of the overriding strategic importance of climate change to America's core interests, and the creativity and vision to lead the world towards more ambitious collective action.

Second and more importantly, he must use his State of the Union Address to discuss the stakes and impacts, and explain why an appropriate response is essential for our long-term prosperity and security. He should commit in no uncertain terms that climate change will be a signature priority in his Second Administration. And he should propose a suite of policy initiatives that can swiftly reduce our emissions, and give other nations confidence that we will not shirk our responsibilities.

Together, these actions would go a long way towards ensuring that our climate diplomacy is much more successful in the second Obama Administration than it was in the first.

Steve Herz is a Senior International Climate Attorney with the Sierra Club.

Leaked IPCC Draft Report: Recent Warming Is Manmade, Cloud Feedback Is Positive, Inaction Is Suicidal

Ultra-conservative report still concludes sea level rise could reach 6 inches a decade by century's end! Deniers duped by leaker's blunder.

Figure SPM.6.a. Warming in two IPCC scenarios reveals humanity's choice. With aggressive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (RCP 2.6 with 443 ppm of CO2 in 2100), warming is modest and adaptation is plausible. With continued inaction (RCP 8.5 with 936 ppm in 2100), warming is a catastrophic and unmanageable 10°F over much of Earth's habited and arable land - and more than 15°F over the Arctic. This projection ignores many key amplifying feedbacks, such as the release of permafrost carbon, which would likely lead to far greater warming.

The draft 2013 Fifth Assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change leaked this week makes clear inaction on climate change would be devastating to modern civilization. The report finds that the human fingerprint on climate has grown more obvious, concluding "it is virtually certain" the energy imbalance that causes global warming "is caused by human activities, primarily by the increase in CO2 concentrations. There is very high confidence that natural forcing contributes only a small fraction to this imbalance."

Yes, I know, the easily-duped deniers and their media stooges have reported the opposite is true, that solar forcing has been a significant driver of recent warming, but the deniers are as likely to be right as the flat earthers. The only question is why anyone still listens to them. I'll repost a debunking of their nonsense below.

The draft Summary for Policymakers (the only thing 99% of people will ever read) finds:

It is extremely likely [">95% probability"] that human activities have caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature since the 1950s. There is high confidence ["About 8 out of 10 chance"] that this has caused large-scale changes in the ocean, in the cryosphere, and in sea level in the second half of the 20th century. Some extreme events have changed as a result of anthropogenic influence.

That multiply-hedged morass is pretty much the mildest statement that could possibly be made. A December 2011 study found it's "Extremely Likely That at Least 74% of Observed Warming Since 1950″ was manmade; it's highly likely all of it was (see Figure 1 below).

For me, the leaked draft, which has not yet been peer reviewed - and thus still has time to be watered down yet more - underscores how pointless the IPCC has become. Like the 4th assessment before it, this ultra-conservative and instantly obsolete report ignores the latest science - see "Fifth Assessment Report Will Ignore Crucial Permafrost Carbon Feedback!" Note that including the permafrost feedback would probably make the RCP8.5 scenario in the top figure as much as 1.5°F warmer!

And like the AR4, the AR5 scenarios low-ball future impacts - "Arctic sea ice area is projected to decrease by 28% for September" for the 2016-2035 period vs. 1986-2005. Seriously IPCC, a 28% drop is the scenario your touting? In fact, as we have reported, many experts warn of "Near Ice-Free Arctic In Summer" in a decade if recent ice volume trends continue.

Even so, the uber-conservative AR5 draft makes clear to anyone who reads between the lines that inaction would be suicidal for humanity, with devastating warming and sea level rise that could hit a half a foot a decade by 2100. How precisely does one adapt to that?

Indeed, the report guts the one remaining myth of those who downplay future impacts, that clouds would act as a negative (or weakening) feedback. It finds:

The net radiative feedback due to all cloud types is likely positive.

But the report fails to clearly spell out what the recent science says about inaction - for that you might try "An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts" or the recentWorld Bank report, which warned "A 4°C [7°F] World Can, And Must, Be Avoided" To Avert "Devastating" Impacts.

So I can't see why AR5 would motivate anyone to act more than AR4 and thus I see little real-world value in the entire effort - see my November 2007 post, "Absolute MUST Read IPCC Report: Debate over, further delay fatal, action not costly"! Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Once again, the authors twist themselves in pretzels to over-hedge every statement with their precise (but inaccurate!) terminology. And so we learn in the draft Summary for Policymakers (SPM):

It is very likely that the Arctic sea ice cover will continue to shrink and thin in the course of the 21st century as global temperature rises.

No, really, it is "very likely" - "> 90% probability" - which I guess means, what, that the IPCC seriously thinks there is an up to 10% chance Arctic sea ice cover will stop shrinking and thinning???

Observations and analysis of drought make clear it is already intensifying in many key regions thanks to global warming - see "NOAA Bombshell: Human-Caused Climate Change Already a Major Factor in More Frequent Mediterranean Droughts" and "Study: Global warming is driving increased frequency of extreme wet or dry summer weather in southeast, so droughts and deluges are likely to get worse." But all AR5 can muster up for the probability of future "increases in frequency and/or intensity of drought" is "Likely [> 66% probability] in some regions" - which I guess means the IPCC thinks there is 1 in 3 chance it won't happen anywhere! How could that be with the kind of warming we will see in the RCP8.5 scenario, which, it must be added is really just business as usual emissions and far from the worst-case?

This failure to warn the public and policymakers echoes the great failing of their 2011 extreme weather report (see "Blockbuster IPCC Chart Hints at Dust-Bowlification, But Report Is Mostly Silent on Warming's Gravest Threat to Humanity").

In it most extreme scenario, RCP8.5 - about 936 ppm of CO2 in 2100 (not a worst-case in the real world because of permafrost and other feedbacks) - sea level rise in 2100 is only about 2 feet. That assumes you can figure out what this means: "The contributions from ice sheet dynamical change and anthropogenic land water storage are treated as independent of scenario, since scenario dependence cannot be evaluated on the basis of existing literature, and as having uniform probability distributions, uncorrelated with the magnitude of global climate change." Clarity ain't the IPCC's strong suit.

In any case, most climate scientists expect considerably higher sea level rise, especially if we don't act. That's what the recent literature says - see "Sea levels may rise 3 times faster than IPCC estimated, could hit 6 feet by 2100" and "JPL bombshell: Polar ice sheet mass loss is speeding up, on pace for 1 foot sea level rise by 2050."

Finally, if you read the denier blogs or columnists - and if so, you have no one to blame but yourself - you've probably heard something about how the IPCC finds cosmic rays are a major climate driver. In fact, the SPM finds:

Cosmic rays enhance aerosol nucleation and cloud condensation nuclei production in the free troposphere, but there is high confidence that the effect is too weak to have any significant climatic influence during a solar cycle or over the last century.

For debunkings of the latest denier spin, see here and here and especially here, which has an interview with the lead author of the key draft chapter.

Below I'm reposting a Skeptical Science piece on the subject.

IPCC Draft Report Leaked, Shows Global Warming is NOT Due to the Sun

Posted on 14 December 2012 by dana1981

Alec Rawls, an occasional guest poster on the climate contrarian blog WattsUpWithThat who signed up to review the upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (as anyone can), has "leaked" a draft version of the report and declared that it "contains game-changing admission of enhanced solar forcing." This assertion was then repeated by James Delingpole at The Telegraph (with some added colorful language), and probably on many other climate contrarian blogs.

If the IPCC was to report that the sun is a significant player in the current rapid global warming, that would indeed be major news, because the body of peer-reviewed scientific literature and data clearly show that the sun has made little if any contribution to the observed global warming over the past 50+ years (Figure 1).

contributors 50

Figure 1: Percent contributions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), sulfur dioxide (SO2), the sun, volcanoes, and El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) to the observed global surface warming over the past 50-65 years according to Tett et al. 2000 (T00, dark blue), Meehl et al. 2004 (M04, red), Stone et al. 2007 (S07, green), Lean and Rind 2008 (LR08, purple), Huber and Knutti 2011 (HK11, light blue), Gillett et al. 2012 (G12, orange), and Wigley and Santer 2012 (WS12, dark green).

So why would the latest IPCC report contradict these studies when its purpose is to summarize the latest and greatest scientific research? The answer is simple - it doesn't. Rawls has completely misrepresented the IPCC report.

Cosmic Source of Confusion

The supposedly "game-changing admission" from the IPCC report is this:

"Many empirical relationships have been reported between GCR [galactic cosmic rays] or cosmogenic isotope archives and some aspects of the climate system...The forcing from changes in total solar irradiance alone does not seem to account for these observations, implying the existence of an amplifying mechanism such as the hypothesized GCR-cloud link."

This statement refers to a hypothesis of Henrik Svensmark from the Danish National Space Institute, who has proposed that galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) could exert significant influence over global temperatures. The GCR hypothesis suggests that when they reach Earth, GCRs (high-energy charged particles originating from somewhere in our galaxy) are capable of "seeding" clouds; thus at times when a lot of GCRs are reaching the Earth's surface, more clouds will form. Clouds generally have a cooling effect on the Earth's temperature, because they reflect sunlight.

So the hypothesis goes like this: high solar activity means a strong solar magnetic field, which deflects more GCRs away from Earth, which means less cloud formation, which means less sunlight is reflected away from Earth, which means more warming. This GCR-caused warming would amplify the warming already being caused by increased solar activity. Conversely, cooling from decreased solar activity would hypothetically be amplified by more GCRs on Earth, more clouds, more reflected sunlight, and thus more cooling.

It's important to note that so far virtually all scientific research on GCRs has shown that they are not effective at seeding clouds and thus have very little influence over the Earth's temperature. In fact, as Zeke Hausfather has noted, the leaked IPCC report specifically states this:

"...there is medium evidence and high agreement that the cosmic ray-ionization mechanism is too weak to influence global concentrations of [cloud condensation nuclei] or their change over the last century or during a solar cycle in any climatically significant way."

But more importantly in this context, even if GCRs did influence global temperature, they would currently be having a cooling effect.

Solar Activity is Down, Greenhouse Gases are Up

Rawls also provides the following quote from the IPCC report (emphasis added):

"There is very high confidence that natural forcing is a small fraction of the anthropogenic forcing. In particular, over the past three decades (since 1980), robust evidence from satellite observations of the TSI [total solar irradiance] and volcanic aerosols demonstrate a near-zero (-0.04 W m-2) change in the natural forcing compared to the anthropogenic AF increase of ~1.0 ± 0.3 W m-2."

The term "radiative forcing" refers to a global energy imbalance on Earth, which may be caused by various effects like changes in the greenhouse effect or solar activity. A positive forcing will result in warming temperatures, while a negative forcing will result in cooling.

Here the IPCC is saying that since 1980, the sun and volcanoes have combined to cause a slightly negative global energy imbalance, which means they have had a slight cooling influence on global temperatures over the past three decades. Indeed, solar activity has decreased a bit over that timeframe (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Global temperature (red, NASA GISS) and Total solar irradiance (blue, 1880 to 1978 from Solanki, 1979 to 2009 from PMOD), with 11-year running averages.

As we would expect, lower solar activity including a weaker solar magnetic field has translated into a slight increase in GCR flux on Earth (Figure 3). Note that on the left-hand axis of Figure 3, GCR counts decrease going up the axis in order to show the relationship with temperature, since fewer GCRs hypothetically means fewer clouds, less reflected sunlight, and higher temperatures.

cosmic rays vs temps

Figure 3: Global average surface temperature (red, NASA GISS) vs. GCR flux on Earth (blue, Krivova & Solanki 2003), with 11-year running averages.

So, if GCRs really do amplify the solar influence on global temperatures, since 1980 they are amplifying a cooling effect. In fact, GCRs reaching Earth recently hit record high levels (Figure 4), yet temperatures are still way up.

Figure 4: Record cosmic ray flux observed in 2009 by the Advanced Composition Explorer (NASA)

Physical Reality Intrudes on Rawls

Rawls has argued to the contrary by claiming that the climate is still responding to the increase in solar activity from the early 20th century, and that GCRs are amplifying that solar warming from over 60 years ago. This argument is simply physically wrong. As Figure 2 illustrates, when solar activity rises, temperatures follow suit very soon thereafter. In fact, during the mid-20th century, solar activity and global surface temperatures both flattened out. Are we to believe that the planet suddenly began responding to the pre-1950 solar activity increase in 1975-2012, after not warming 1940-1975? The argument makes no physical sense.

On top of that, the hypothetical GCR process is a relatively rapid one. Cloud formation from GCR seeding should occur within days, and clouds have very short lifetimes. For GCRs to have a warming effect, solar activity must be increasing right now. It is not, in fact solar activity has been essentially flat and slightly declining in recent decades. Changes in solar activity from 60+ years ago have no bearing whatsoever on GCRs today.

IPCC Shows Global Warming is NOT Solar

To sum up,

  • The leaked IPCC report states that there may be some connection between GCRs and some aspects of the climate system.
  • However, the report is also consistent with the body of scientific literature in stating that research indicates GCRs are not effective at seeding clouds and have very little influence on global temperatures.
  • Solar activity has been nearly flat and slightly decreasing in recent decades, meaning that if GCRs do amplify solar influences on climate, they are amplifying a cooling effect.

The body of peer-reviewed scientific literature is very clear: human greenhouse gas emissions, not solar activity or galactic cosmic rays, are causing global warming. The leaked IPCC report is entirely consistent with this conclusion. In fact, in attempting to argue to the contrary, Rawls has scored an own goal by showing that if anything, GCRs are currently amplifying a solar cooling effect.

Obama To Name Climate Hawk John Kerry Secretary Of State

In the first serious indication Obama will focus on climate change in his second term, media outlets report the President will nominate Senator John Kerry (D-MA) to be Secretary of State.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

bhutanese glaciers to shrink despite steady temperature | Panos ...

The research findings indicate that even if climate remained the same Bhutan would lose almost 10% of its glaciers within a few years. In what could be a shocking revelation, a research conducted in the mountains of Bhutan ...