Climate clippings 5

These posts include a brief mention of a number of news items relating to climate change. They don’t preclude treating any of these topics at more length in a separate post.

They can also serve as an open thread so that we can keep each other informed on important climate news.

Cancun’s beaches are washing away

Indeed they are.

Rising sea levels and a series of unusually powerful hurricanes have aggravated the folly of building a tourist destination atop shifting sand dunes on a narrow peninsula.

Two huge dredgers are being used to pump tons of sand from offshore sandbars.

Extreme drought hits the Amazon – again

Extreme drought has again hit the Amazon in 2010:

The 2005 drought was identified as a 1-in-100 year type event, was anomalous as did not occur in a El Nino year, hit South-Western Amazonia hardest (a different pattern to El Nino related droughts), and was associated with high Atlantic sea surface temperatures (not Pacific sea surface temperatures as in El Nino years).

Now in 2010 we have an even more severe drought, with the same anomalous pattern. While two such droughts don’t make a trend, they are consistent with some model projections made well before 2005. And here’s the rub:

We ought to remember that every ecosystem has it limits, a point of where they radically change. The open question is whether such a point is being reached in some parts of the Amazon.

Indonesia eyeing $1bn climate aid to cut down forests

An area in Indonesia nearly five times the size of England – could be converted to palm oil and biofuel production in the next 20 years, according to Greenpeace.

The “degraded” land targeted for “rehabilitation” includes 50% of the country’s orangutan habitat and 80% of its carbon-rich peatland.

The result, says the environmental group in a report released in Jakarta today, would be to massively expand Indonesia’s palm, paper and biofuel industries in the name of “rehabilitating” land, while at the same time allowing its powerful forestry industry to carry on business as usual and to collect international carbon funds.

There’s also trouble in Africa.

The next IPCC report will be dramatically worse

That’s what Ban-Ki Moon and other UN leaders will tell the assembled throng in Cancun.

“As preparations are underway for the next IPCC report, just about everything that you will see in the next report will be more dramatic than the last report, because that is where all the data is pointing.”

Trouble at sea – again

As coral bleaching goes from bad to worse there is new concern about ocean dead zones. We are getting more of them and the ones we’ve got are getting bigger, up to 70,000 square kilometres.

Particular hotspots include the Gulf of Mexico, off Namibia in the South Atlantic, in the Bay of Bengal, in the Baltic, the Black Sea, the tropical South Pacific, off China and south-eastern Australia.

It’s partly fertilizer run-off partly changes in ocean circulation from climate change. The worry is that by 2100 all the dead zones could join up.

Interview here.

Royal Society special issue details ‘hellish vision’ of 4°C world

And we could get there by 2060.

Is baseload power necessary?

Now here’s some good news. Baseload power may not be necessary.

David Mills, solar energy technology developer, has developed a new model for an energy system that does away with the conventional design of massive baseload infrastructure.

Republicans axe US climate change committee

US president Barack Obama’s Republican foes in the House of Representatives say they are disbanding the chamber’s committee on battling global warming, calling it a waste of money.

That’s definitely not good news.

56 thoughts on “Climate clippings 5”

  1. The World Meteorological Organization’s preliminary global climate statement for 2010 has just come out.

    2010 is virtually certain to be in the three warmest years on record – whether it ranks 1, 2 or 3 will depend on what happens in the rest of the year. Perhaps the other most interesting result is that there are four regions (Saharan/Arabian, East Africa, Central Asia and Greenland/Arctic Canada) where the last 10 years have been 0.7 to 0.9 degrees warmer than any previous decade.

    [Blair, I think this is the link – Brian]

  2. Thanks Brian for the continuing posts and admittedly depressing documentation of human follies.

    They remind me that there are people with awareness and functioning brains in what too often feels like a nation of lard arse yobbos and footy chicks.

    Given the circumstances this morning, I can only feel shadenfreude for my fellow ‘Aussies’ who think wasting $45 million dollars to try (pathetic and stereotypical as it may have been) and self-aggrandise on the world stage about kicking a ball around on grass. If some literally drown in their sorrows today, I couldn’t care less.

    Yet who for the most part it appears couldn’t be stuffed spending anything, thinking about or doing too much to protect the very biological systems that all life depends upon. Lest they have to get off their oh so comfortable butts and live within the physical and biological limits of planet earth.

    What a bunch of tiresome and pathetic suckers we seem to be collectively. Cultivated to a large extent by those whose (supposed) security and status is in simply continuing business as usual. As if they/we are somehow exempt from the physical and biological constraints that everyone, and everything else, is subject too.

  3. Well at least the Government has at last woken up to the self serving bleats of the greens who want PV on their rooftops so that they can feel good about themselves.
    This year the installation of PV reached 340 MW at a cost of about 1 billion dollars.
    When you factor in the annual capacity factor, this 340 MW is the equivalent to 50 MW of coal fired generation. Now there is about 40 GW of generation on the East coast.
    This 340 MW of PV is thus 0.125% of the generation capacity. It is not in any way at all statistically significant. And guess who has stumped up most of the $1billion?. The widows and orphans who cannot afford the capital, that’s who. Because their electricity bills have gone up to pay for it.
    Is this the best that we can do?

  4. Thanks Brian. One child is currently at a camp in preparation for anti-coal action this weekend. Looks like a losing fight but what do you say to them except that it is better to go down swinging than to concede without a fight.

  5. Of course the next IPCC report will be “more dramatic than the last report” – they allways are. Never mind that “all the data points” to the fact that there has been no upward trend in temps at all for a decade.

    And I’ve got some much worse news for you too – Japan have said they will not extend their Kyoto commitments beyong 2012, “under any circumstances”. Loooks like it’s “game over” for Kyoto, with only Europe, OZ and the Kiwis left.

    Better move on to our next envirodoom fantasy.

  6. Blair @ 1, thanks for that. The link doesn’t work. I’ll try to find it tonight.

    Huggy @ 4, I wanted to include a note on the change in PV support from the govt, but couldn’t find a link. So thanks.

    Bill @ 6:

    Never mind that “all the data points” to the fact that there has been no upward trend in temps at all for a decade.

    Seriously, can you take that sh*te somewhere else, please?

    You don’t get climate trends inside a decade. Have a look at this NOAA graph. 2010 looks as though it’s going to be up there with 1998 and 2005 in spite of minimal solar activity and a La Nina in the second half. Draw a channel as you would in charting share prices. What would you put your money on happening in the next decade?

  7. Why arent you at the “coal camp” too AKN? Or does anything involving children these days require weeks of police checks?

  8. Brian you say that a decade is too short for climate trends, but apparently a single year is long enough? You entirely failed to mention that 2010 also contains a strong El Nino, (something like the third strongest on record).

    Cant you be a little more honest? Not everyone on this site has about half a “Studies” degree.

  9. Bill @ 10, I didn’t say anything about 2010 being significant in relation to trends. I mentioned where it was going to be approximately so that you could see that it is well within the channel. So it’s not an outlier of any sort. OTOH people who say there has been no trend in the last decade or so usually start with 1998, which is was a bit of an outlier and just outside the channel.

    The overall pattern is pretty hard to miss.

    I have no idea what that last sentence is supposed to mean.

  10. It’s been a great old year down in Adelaide, sort of remiscint of the old days.
    I understand it’s a La Nina pattern that’s operative; that they can work it out by reviewing a suite of long-collected weather readings for example.
    Am greatful for this one year in ten that seems to shape as some thing a bit more liveable, weather wise.

  11. In fact, yes Bill, Police ‘working with children checks’ are exhaustive these days and a good thing too. Indeed, I am at work in an associated area. My child, a young adult, has always participated in democratic public life as a citizen with my encouragement and support; I’d say that child o’ mine has already established a better track record of informed and responsible participation than you.

  12. Since commenting earlier I have decided to test all of my future product designs for their usefullness in a non electronic, or substantially diminished electronic, world. The 4 degree C by 2060 prospect is altogether too scary. It is tempting to say that there is too much theraml mass in our environment to allow that to happen. But it gets far too cold and far too hot far too quickly in peak season for me to convince myself the “she’ll be right mate”. The connection to the Andean observer talking of the Amazon being affected by increasing Atlantic ocean current temperatures is a pointer to what might happen in the Arctic Ocean if that moving mass of water becomes even warmer.

    Most people will not realise just how frail our ultrahigh tech world is. Because of the long trail sequential, and parralel, dependencies involved in the production of the things that we take for granted to support our standard of living (as well as our ability to live to that standard), there is a massive vulnerability. This vulnerability is usually minimised with global multi sourcing, but once large chunks of the componentry manufacturing industry become unworkable through climate, mobile population, transport failures (peak oil), economic collapse, system failures, etc, the house of cards will collapse in a manner that is very difficult to restart.

    Not that such a collapse is imminent, it is not. But the vulnerability is very real for city based populations.

  13. Bill@6: the kiwis are already out – they’re decided to use taxpayer money to buy offsets instead of taking any local action at all. Well, except the glorious new motorway building program and a new coal mine or two. Make that “or one” after the little problem at Pike River.

  14. Thanks moz, I didnt realise NZ had exited. I think Harper pulled the pin for Canada as well a few months ago?? With hardly 25% of CO2 emissions actually still in Kyoto, its clearly history.

    But no way will that be admitted, as tens of thousands of civil servants, diplomats and hangers on need Kyoto for their jobs (or at least junkets).

  15. But AKN if your child as a young adult, still needs your “support and encouragement” to participate in democratic public life, I think he/she may lack get up and go?

    Attending a demo just means running through a repertoire of about three mind numbing chants for hours on end.

    “Participation” – yes. “Informed” – usually not.

  16. Bill, rocking up on a website to insult other commenters children and their parenting styles is generally considered quite impolite. Why don’t you fuck off?

  17. As Brian is temporarily off-line, I’m stepping in as relief moderator to say to Bill that you’re one ill-considered comment away from going into the mod filter.

  18. What sg said. We’ve all met Bill’s sort out there in the ‘real world’ Vacant, mindless ‘bots parroting the latest talking points and understanding nothing.

  19. *wearing moderator hat*

    Bill’s just been told to be more considered in his remarks. If others can make the effort not to give into the temptation to indulge in their own ill-considered remarks, then this needn’t get more ugly than it already is.

    Everybody take a few metaphorical steps back, please.

  20. Anyway. The Republicans mystify me they really do. I’m pretty sure we all live on the same planet but we do not live in the same reality. I know that God isn’t going to come and wave a magic wand, but I’m not convinced that some of them do. Or their attitude is that they’ll be dead by then and rich before then so they just don’t care. The science is there they just refuse to accept it. It’s only the human race at stake after all.

  21. Okay. All comments dealing with the stoush after my last comment are about to be deleted. You were all asked to step back and you didn’t, or at least not nearly far enough.

    7 comments from 5 commentors deleted. Pay a bit more attention to moderator requests in future, please.

  22. [Comment content deleted: Colmac appears to be working very hard to get some I Ignore The Moderators Award which LP doesn’t even have ~ Moderator]

  23. [Comment content deleted: claims to be someone who has posted on this thread, but this comment is submitted under a previously unseen moniker, using a previously unseen email addy and from a previously unseen IP number. Please read the comments policy on sock-puppeting and morphing ~ Moderator]

  24. Tonight I’ve been speaking to my kids. One is in tears and learning about how to seek and find solace and support while in distress. The other says “I’m incredibly angry about this but not sure who to be angry at”. An education session coming up.

    My other conversation this evening was with a solid person who reminded me that crisis brings uneven change and unpredictable political developments. She’s right. It seems to me that the environment movement has been building for forty years or a bit more since ‘Silent Spring’ and the Club of Rome report. While it appears that we are powerless we are nevertheless well positioned and the educated middle classes, on whom the ruling classes rely to run their show, are really beginning to grasp that their masters have no room in the lifeboat for them. There is no lifeboat adequate to the task. Just one planet is all we have. With respect, in solidarity and thanks for the discussion.

  25. Ocean acidification, 40% decline in ocean pytoplankton, ocean dead zones could cut tuna numbers. It all suggests that we should all take more notice re what is happening in the ocean and the extent to which this is being driven by human action?
    Pytoplankton are the photosynthesizes of the ocean so a 40% decline is a truly frightening prospect, particularity given the threats to the Amazon and the other lungs of the world.
    Brian, have you any data on the percent of the ocean affected by dead zones?

  26. This article from climate Progress compares the Chinese and US attitudes to climate action. The US sees it as a threat, the Chinese see it as a major business opportunity and are acting on this perception. For example:

    In 2006, Chinese leaders redoubled their commitment to new energy technology; they boosted funding for research and set targets for installing wind turbines, solar panels, hydroelectric dams, and other renewable sources of energy that were higher than goals in the United States. China doubled its wind-power capacity that year, then doubled it again the next year, and the year after. The country had virtually no solar industry in 2003; five years later, it was manufacturing more solar cells than any other country, winning customers from foreign companies that had invented the technology in the first place. As President Hu Jintao, a political heir of Deng Xiaoping, put it in October of this year, China must “seize preëmptive opportunities in the new round of the global energy revolution.”

    The Chinese have also introduced a new law that “requires power grid operators to buy all the electricity produced by renewable energy generators, in a move that will increase the proportion of energy that comes from renewable sources in coal-dependent China”. It would be nice to see our government following suit and combining it with the setting up of contracts for the supply of clean electricity.
    Climate Progress laments that:

    China is going to eat our (US) lunch and take our jobs on clean energy — an industry that we largely invented — and they are going to do it with a managed economy we don’t have and don’t want.

    Australian governments who continue to have a stop/go approach to climate action are also missing the potential for creating the well paying green jobs that can flow by a steady flow of green construction and manufacturing.

  27. China’s going to make money wherever it can John D.

    Another way to look at their attitude to climate change would be to keep an eye on their emissions.

    Or simpler still, accounting. For every yuan spent on renewables, how many do you think are spent on coal-fired power stations?

  28. Mark – as I understand it, and notwithstanding snows and rain in countries white people like, 2010 is seriously in the running to be the warmest year ever globally. Almost certainly top 3.

  29. FDB Said:

    Or simpler still, accounting. For every yuan spent on renewables, how many do you think are spent on coal-fired power stations?

    And although I am neither an apologist for China nor a defender of coal combustion, one might add that much of the new coal capacity is retiring old coal fired capacity in smaller or less thermally efficient plants.

  30. Thanks Paul N and especially tigtog for restoring the thread to civility.

    John D @ 31, I googled your phrase and FWIW came up with this national Geographic piece which in January last year put the dead zones at something less than 2% by volume.

    I think the ocean is an average of 3.6km deep, isn’t it, so that sounds like plenty to me.

  31. FDB @ 35, this from the WMO tells the interim story and was probably what Blair @ 1 was looking at:

    The year 2010 is almost certain to rank in the top 3 warmest years since the beginning of instrumental climate records in 1850, according to data sources compiled by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). … At present, 2010’s nominal value is the highest on record, just ahead of 1998.

  32. Yep, thanks Brian.

    I still can’t remember where I read that today, but it wasn’t at the top of this thread. I should really read down before commenting sometimes!

  33. FDB, I think it’s been everywhere. Here’s the BBC’s take:

    CRU’s Professor Phil Jones – one of the scientists at the centre of the “ClimateGate” issue earlier in the year – cautioned that annual temperatures were not a good indicator of the progression of global warming as driven by greenhouse gas emissions.

    “Year-to-year variability is dominated by features such as the NAO and El Nino,” he told BBC News.

    “But if you want to look at the underlying trend, you need to look at the decadal timescale, and that’s when you detect the anthropogenic influence.

    “In terms of looking at recent years, 1998 was the most anomalous – the remaining top 10 warmest years in the series have all occurred since 2000.”

    Good to see Prof Jones is on the job again.

    I’m sweating on what NASA GISS comes up with. They include an estimate of the Arctic, which has warmed more than most places. So far 2010 beats 2005, which is their highest, although I think statistically the same as 1998.

  34. I’m in Cancun at the moment, and trying to blog more regularly. There has been some progress towards a legally binding climate treaty (but still some time in the future).

    Negotiations seem to be moving forward slowly on a “balanced package” of decisions, especially on the Kyoto side of the negotiations. But Japan has finally made clear what many of us have known for quite a while, that it won’t inscribe its target into a second commitment period.

  35. Dear Readers
    I thought I would take the opportunity to counter some of the information presented above:-

    From Dr Roy Spencers site
    “The tropical tropospheric temperature anomaly for November continued its cooling trend, finally falling below the 1979-1998 average…but the global anomaly is still falling slowly:+0.38 deg. C for November, 2010.
    2010 is now in a dead heat with 1998 for warmest year.
    [Note: These satellite measurements are not calibrated to surface thermometer data in any way, but instead use on-board redundant precision platinum resistance thermometers (PRTs) carried on the satellite radiometers. The PRT’s are individually calibrated in a laboratory before being installed in the instruments.]”


    “Having just returned from another New Orleans meeting – this time, a NASA A-Train satellite constellation symposium — I thought I would check the latest sea surface temperatures from our AMSR-E instrument

    The data updated through yesterday (October 27). Needless to say, there is no end in sight to the cooling.”


    from Josh Willis of NASA March 2008 in relation to Argo float data from 2003:-

    “”There has been a very slight cooling, but not anything really significant,” Willis says. So the buildup of heat on Earth may be on a brief hiatus. “Global warming doesn’t mean every year will be warmer than the last. And it may be that we are in a period of less rapid warming.” (or cooling as the floats indicate)

    and from Andy Lacis:-

    “Of the 33 °C terrestrial greenhouse effect, water vapor is responsible for about 50% of the effect, 25% is due to clouds, 20% is due to CO2, and the remaining 5% is contributed by CH4, N2O, O3, CFCs, and other lesser constituents.”

    For every article relating dramatic sensationalized events and statements to climate change, there are other facts that seem to just be irrelevant on this site. I’m beginning to think this site might be biased.

    How many people believe controlling carbon based emissions will control the climate??

  36. Well John Michelmore,

    This is what the Argo people say about their project

    “Why do we need Argo?

    We are increasingly concerned about global change and its regional impacts. Sea level is rising at an accelerating rate of 3 mm/year, Arctic sea ice cover is shrinking and high latitude areas are warming rapidly. Extreme weather events cause loss of life and enormous burdens on the insurance industry. Globally, 8 of the 10 warmest years since 1860, when instrumental records began, were in the past decade”

    I’d say that encapsultes the issue.

    But there is more…

  37. John, I recommend the Naomi Oreskes video linked to above.
    And maybe it’s time for some self-reflection, what is your bias?

  38. John Michelmore, I think I know where you got that quote from Andy Lacis, and it would be really instructive for you if you pursued the dialogue it’s attached to in a little detail. Say, for example, by looking at the next paragraph in Andy Lacis’s explanation, rather than lifting his quote from the snarky response and pretending you understand it…

  39. Joe @ 44,
    The reference to bias was a joke, anyone reading this site over the last few years will already know I believe that the climate is changing.
    My concern (and bias if you like) is that I don’t take the short term localised effects reported as indicative of anything much at all. Most of these are the result of variable weather, not anthropogenic climate change.
    It is a shame that since Argo floats were commissioned, they indicate sea temperatures have been falling. It is a shame they over the short period they have been in use that they don’t indicate that sea temperatures are increasing. Maybe the figures need some adjustment!! still we have few more years to go before we get to a longer term trend of 10 years for the Argo floats.
    In addition if carbon dioxide contributes 20% to the terrestrial greenhouse effect, then what a waste of time a carbon tax will be in Australia, especially if the “others” don’t follow suit.
    It is fiction to believe we will set an example and the others will follow, Australia already tried that with free trade and level playing fields; as a result our manufacturing industries are a basket case and agriculture is following close behind.
    We are fortunate that we are able to dig up all that coal and iron ore and have someone else generate the carbon dioxide from their power plants and steel mills. The truth is we stop digging and the coutry goes broke, because thats just about all there is keeping us from the GFC and GFC2.

  40. John Michelmore (I wonder if he’s related to the hardware store family in Mackay?) quoted thus:

    “Having just returned from another New Orleans meeting – this time, a NASA, A-Train satellite constellation symposium — “

    Impossible. As anyone who is vaguely familar with mid-20th century jazz music will tell you, the A-Train — being “the quickest way there is to get to Harlem” — goes nowhere near New Orleans.

    To go to New Orleans, you need to catch the Crescent, the Sunset Limited, or the City of New Orleans.

    Now, back to the scheduled programme…

  41. BilB @ 43,
    A quote from David Archibald in relation to sea levels:-

    “Satellite data from the University of Colorado from late 1992. A change of trend is evident in 2004. Prior to that, sea level was rising at 4.2 mm/annum, and after 2004 at 1.5 mm/annum. 2003 was the recent peak in solar activity in terms of flares, F10.7 flux and proton flux. It is likely that the lower rate of rise post 2004 is due to lower subsequent solar activity.”

    “The CSIRO compiled tide gauge data from 1870.”

    “The modern retreat of glaciers began in 1860. Initially sea level rose at 1.0 mm/annum. After 1930, it almost doubled to 1.9 mm/annum. This is a well-defined uptrend, now 80 years long.

    Our prediction of a 2° C decline in temperature for the mid-latitudes over Solar Cycles 24 and 25 suggests that sea level will stop rising, and should start falling at some point prior to 2032.”

  42. terangeree, I’ve fixed the tags, I think.

    John M @ 42, I really have no desire to engage on the science because I’m not a scientist. Nevertheless you comment seems to have three parts.

    The first is a comment on the latest month’s global temperature reading. I’m happy to wait for NASA GISS. I think the November reading was expected to dip down because of the La Nina, but one month’s data has no significance in the larger scheme of things.

    The second was relating to Argo and I think sea surface temperature. The more significant trend is heat content. I haven’t been monitoring it as such but this post from May indicates two things. first some difficulty with the data. second, the best estimate is for strong increase in decadal terms.

    The third part about water vapour, CO2 contribution to the greenhouse effect doesn’t actually say anything. The basic thing to understand is that CO2 is a forcing, while water vapour is a feedback. Or so it was said here.

  43. John M I wouldn’t check Roy Spencer’s site for anything.

    I’m not going to chase every rabbit down every hole, so good luck with the sea level rise, or fall as the case may be..

  44. Brian, John Michelmore has taken the quote from a website that claims to be engaging in a “dialogue” with Andy Lacis, who has written three very detailed blog posts about it. Michelmore has lifted from the website (spiked climate or some such) without going to Andy Lacis’s blog, so didn’t read the very next paragraph after the one he quoted, which clearly makes the point you make about forcing vs. feedback.

    It’s just another case of mindlessly repeating talking points, pre-corrupted by rightwing idiots on the web. Not worth engaging with.

  45. Thanks for the detective work, sg. Trouble is that people who have been around the blog for a while know what’s going on. But those who don’t may think that silence means agreement.

    Jon Michelmore, you’ll have to do better than that or we’ll need to put you in the moderation filter.

  46. John M,

    I scanned Andy Lacis’s very large pdf publication and he seems to be drawing the opposite conclusion to you. He also talks of the present being a minimum solar activity period for sun spot activity.

    As for the notion that we are soon to swing into a reglaciation period and that sea levels will begin to fall based on solar cycles I think is a fantasy. For starters the rise in atmospheric energy has been continuing regardless of solar cycle activity

    If 2006 2007 is a solar activity minimum and 2007 was an Arctic sea ice melt record

    then clearly there is no strong correlation between solar activity fluctuations and effects from the accumulating energy in earth’s atmosphere. So to then talk about a weak solar sunspot period in 2023 causing a reglaciation, which is what would be required to reverse sea level rise, is total nonsense, John Michelmore.

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