Climate clippings 17

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.

The permafrost giant is stirring

We predict that the PCF [permafrost carbon flux] will change the Arctic from a carbon sink to a source after the mid-2020s and is strong enough to cancel 42–88% of the total global land sink. The thaw and decay of permafrost carbon is irreversible…

…once the permafrost carbon thaws and decays, no process on human time scales can put the carbon back into the permafrost.

no climate model currently incorporates the amplifying feedback from methane released by a defrosting tundra.

Read all about it at Climate Progress.

Republicans try to defund NOAA’s satellite program

The GOP’s bill would tear $1.2 billion (21 percent) out of the president’s proposed budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

The Republican leadership has proposed sweeping cuts to key programs across the climate change, clean energy, and environmental spectrum. They have also decided that accurate weather forecasting and hurricane tracking are luxuries America can no longer afford.

Again, the story is at Climate Progress

Extinction and Climate

There’s a neat post on this topic at ClimateSight. Tamino at Open Mind says the author is a 18 or 19 year old called Kate. This sounds nasty:

When the planet warms a lot in a relatively short period of time, a particularly nasty condition can develop in the oceans, known as anoxia. Since the polar regions warm more than the equator, the temperature difference between latitudes decreases. As global ocean circulation is driven by this temperature difference, ocean currents weaken significantly and the water becomes relatively stagnant. Without ocean turnover, oxygen doesn’t get mixed in – and it doesn’t help that warmer water can hold less oxygen to begin with. As a result of this oxygen depletion, bacteria in the ocean begins to produce hydrogen sulfide (H2S) instead.

Which, of course, is rotten egg gas.

A reminder of what ‘business as usual’ means

According to Skeptical Science

18 climate scientists sent a letter to US Congress urging them to “take a fresh look at climate change” and the threats that it poses to the USA and the world.

This inspired a group of “skeptic” scientists to issue a “rebuttal” claiming that because warming so far had been manageable, the prudent path forward is business as usual. Skeptical Science reminds us what BAU means in the context of Northern Hemisphere temperatures over the last 1500 years using IPCC projections:

BAU Northern Hemisphere temperature forecasts

Not prudent at all. Rather risky, in fact. Looks like turning a corner on the path to perdition rather than a famous piece of sporting equipment.

Skeptical Science has a series of posts pointing out ‘prudent path’ errors.

Be prudent in where you invest

Climate change could put trillions of investment dollars at risk over the next 20 years, a global study released on Wednesday said, calling for pension funds and other investors to overhaul how they allocate funds.

That’s according to a story from Reuters.

The Investor Group on Climate Change in Australia, which represents about $600 billion in assets under management, said stronger climate change policies were needed to drive emissions-cutting investments and reduce longer-term risks.

“Weather events like the recent floods in Australia will continue to impact infrastructure, food security and property, contributing to material portfolio risk for institutional investors,” Chief Executive Nathan Fabian told Reuters.

Australia’s extreme weather

…is being used as an example of the effects of climate change around the world according to a post by John Cook at The Guardian.

It’s not appropriate to say global warming causes a particular weather event. But it’s equally false to say global warming has no effect on weather. Yes, we’ve had floods and heavy downpours in the past, well before modern global warming. But now the odds of heavy downpours and floods are increasing.

In fact, our physical understanding of climate tells us global warming will cause the water cycle to grow more intense. This means both more heavy downpours and more intense drought. As temperatures rise, the ground dries out faster, causing droughts to get worse.

In effect the dice is being loaded in favour of extreme events. We are breaking temperature records on the high side twice as often as on the low side.

Rising seas spurred by climate change could threaten 180 US coastal cities by 2100

That’s according to a new report looking at the impact of a sea level rise of about 3 feet (1 metre) by 2100.

Rising coastal waters threaten an average of nine percent of the land in the 180 coastal cities in the study.

Miami, New Orleans, Tampa, Florida, and Virginia Beach, Virginia could lose more than 10 percent of their land area by century’s end, the study found.

Europe’s new energy strategy could lead to a 25 percent cut in greenhouse gases by 2020

And ultimately cut fuel import bills roughly in half, according to a draft strategy paper.

Now that’s positive news for you.

Climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard is expected to present the strategy next month, and is likely to emphasize the EU still stands by its offer of moving to a 30 percent cut, if other big players such as China and the United States follow suit.

Investing in greener economy could spur growth

In more positive news, the UN says

Channeling 2 percent, or $1.3 trillion, of global gross domestic product into greening sectors such as construction, energy and fishing could start a move toward a low-carbon world.

The investment would expand the global economy at the same rate, if not higher, as under present economic policies, said the report by the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP).

41 thoughts on “Climate clippings 17”

  1. I just want to register my appreciation once more for your effort in compiling these items, Brian. I subscribe to a few email lists relevant to climate change, and yours is generally the most succinctly useful one.

    As for the content, well we’re still swamped by the bad news, aren’t we? Support for action in Australia hasn’t gone anywhere it seems.

  2. Thanks, wilful. I’ve been really time-pressed in the last few weeks, so it was panic stations last night. Sometimes the candidates for inclusion just jump out at you and sometimes it’s a bit of a slog. Last night I ran into a vein of good news at the end. Might put a few more up next week.

  3. I went fishing at Jurien Bay (250 kms North of Perth) in late January.

    Went fishing about 6pm til different times, 3 or 4 times.

    The water was warm…. very warm!

    I wanted to go for a swim and I actually thought it was too warm, LIKE SOME POOLS YA KNOW!


  4. What wilful@1 said.

    Australia is ill served by its media on this. I watched the ABC news’s discussion of the Gillard carbon price announcement. Plenty of stuff about various peoples’ opinions about the economic impact of the proposal. Nothing whatever about the economic impact of climate change proceeding under BAU. So many misleading statements that don’t stand up to a moment’s scrutiny proceed unchallenged and become received wisdom. Stuff that has been refuted over and over again gets trotted out and reported over and over again. Meanwhile the world as we have known it since the foundation of civilisation is set to disappear, in human terms for ever.

    Enough of ranting. Brian, the dreadful earthquake in Christchurch got me thinking about the effects on plate tectonics of large land ice masses melting. I’d have thought that removal of kilometre-thick ice layers would lead to significant movement of the underlying crust. Has there been any work on this you’ve seen?

  5. Thanks, folks, and thanks for the link on black carbon, Mystified.

    Hal9000, the crust does rebound when the weight of the ice is lifted. It’s called isostatic post-glacial rebound and is still going on after the last ice age.

    See especially post-glacial rebound.

    Here’s what’s happening to Britain.

    That’s for vertical movement. I suspect lateral movement isn’t affected to any great degree.

  6. “Australia is ill served by its media on this. I watched the ABC news’s discussion of the Gillard carbon price announcement. Plenty of stuff about various peoples’ opinions about the economic impact of the proposal. Nothing whatever about the economic impact of climate change proceeding under BAU. ”

    Hal9000 – you r hard to please. Greg Hunt told us all we need to know. Julia is a liar. What else matters? I’ll sacrifice my children’s future if we can save Julia’s soul by forcing her to atone.

  7. Thanks Brian. I really ought to have done that reading myself first. I note that post-glacial rebound does have significant impacts on crustal movements withing plates, and indeed that continuing rebound from the last glaciation is speculated to be responsible for large intra-plate earthquakes, such as a magnitude 8 quake in the eastern US in 1811. The article also concludes with the line
    One of the possible impacts of global warming-triggered rebound may be more volcanic activity in previously ice-capped areas such as Iceland.
    And, I suppose, the South Island of NZ albeit to a lesser degree.

    hannah’s dad – the attempts by senators McDonald and Boswell to prevent the chief meteorologist getting actual science on the record say everything you need to know about their position. Ayers must be a good poker player – his self control is impressive.

  8. Thanks, Hal9000, I didn’t have time to read the material in detail.

    John D, at least Christine Milne is inside the tent with both guns blazing against the rent-seekers.

  9. Hal9000, remember that eustatic rebound rates are dependent on the viscosity of the upper mantle so are generally fairly slow (although I think people have just managed to measure it via satellite). It is an important factor to take into account when trying to determine rates of sea level rise around the world though, and a lot of the Deep Sea Drilling Program is around trying to establish a shoreline-independent proxy record of sea level based on the nature of sediments on the sea floor.

    Re your point about the South Island, the tectonic forcings in NZ are so large that any rebound effects are relatively small in comparison though. The reason that we see the biggest effects in Europe and the east coast of North America is because these are tectonically quiescent regions where there are few other processes which lead to elevation or depression of the crust. In contrast, New Zealand is a young country, geologically speaking, and the Southern Alps are only 5 to 8 million years old. They are currently rising at about 10 mm a year, and Christchurch is moving towards the West coast at about 45 mm per year from memory.

    It’s not likely that there will be any (more) volcanism in the South Island of NZ. It occurs in the North Island (in the Taupo-Rotorua area) because the crust is being pulled apart up there. In contrast, the South Island is being squeezed together by the plate motion, and this squeezing thickens the crust and prevents the partial melting of the crust required for volcanism.

    Interestingly though (but unrelated to ice sheets), we already have evidence that erosion affects tectonics (sorry, can’t find refs at the moment but might post something later if I get a chance). There are a number of papers which can relate uplift rates in large mountain range provinces (e.g. the Southern Alps and the Himalaya). Basically increased rainfall increases erosion which increases uplift which increases rainfall through orthographic effects in a sort of feedback cycle which increases erosion in turn…

    I would be interested to know whether changing rainfall patterns might lead to a change in mountain growth rates.

  10. Just also wanted to mention a small farmers’ magazine (hardly a bastion of Green woo woo) article I read yesterday which said that a lot of small-holdings grape farmers are finding that their cabernet grapes are ripening about two-weeks earlier than in previous decades, and at unpredictable rates — making it frustrating and difficult to schedule harvesting workers with much precision (too early and you’re paying them to pick nothing much, too late and you’ve lost your berries) — and with increasing rates of bunches that have mixed-ripening; ie lots of ripe and unripe berries on the same bunches — such bunches are useless for, well, anything, really.

    Damaging productivity in terms of both food production, and the labour for harvesting.

    Why do the “skeptics” still think that “do-nothing” is a cost-free scenario in terms of economic output?

  11. Thanks, Jess. I now feel informed on a subject I knew little about. As a matter of interest, I understand that much of the Antarctic crust is below sea level because of the weight of ice. if there were to be rapid melting (in geological terms at least) of the main ice sheet, would seawater perhaps cover much of what is now the land mass?

  12. “a lot of small-holdings grape farmers are finding that their cabernet grapes are ripening about two-weeks earlier than in previous decades”

    Great news, Mercurius! Earlier to market. More bucks in the bank. I’m thinking, more and more these days, that C02 and global warming are win-win for Australia.

  13. if there were to be rapid melting (in geological terms at least) of the main ice sheet, would seawater perhaps cover much of what is now the land mass?

    Hal9000, the short answer is, yes.

    This image gives some idea of how far under sea level much of the land mass is.

  14. And to add some additional quote by Dr.Roy Spencer after the US House vote to defund the IPCC:-

    “I’m talking about those who deny NATURAL climate change. Like Al Gore, John Holdren, and everyone else who thinks climate change was only invented since they were born.

    Politicians formed the IPCC over 20 years ago with an endgame in mind: to regulate CO2 emissions. I know, because I witnessed some of the behind-the-scenes planning. It is not a scientific organization. It was organized to use the government-funded scientific research establishment to achieve policy goals.

    Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But when they are portrayed as representing unbiased science, that IS a bad thing. If anthropogenic global warming – and ocean ‘acidification’ (now there’s a biased and totally incorrect term) — ends up being largely a false alarm, those who have run the IPCC are out of a job. More on that later.

    I don’t want to be misunderstood on this. IF we are destroying the planet with our fossil fuel burning, then something SHOULD be done about it.

    But the climate science community has allowed itself to be used on this issue, and as a result, politicians, activists, and the media have successfully portrayed the biased science as settled.”

    It’s a shame many of you out there actually believe a carbon tax or ETS, will control the climate.

    If we are to have carbon tax as the minority want, lets spend the tax on nuclear power plants!!

  15. Great news, Mercurius! Earlier to market. More bucks in the bank. I’m thinking, more and more these days, that C02 and global warming are win-win for Australia.

    *rolls eyes*

    wbb, you didn’t event read to the end of the f****** sentence, did you?

    Why do so many “skeptics” swim in the shallow end? Doesn’t your attention span even extend to finishing the $@^$#^$@ sentence before you shout ‘Global warming rocks! W00t! W00t!!’

    Go back to the shallow end, wbb. You’re out of your depth here.

  16. Hal9000, yep a lot of the Antarctic ice sheet is under sea level. The really worrying thing is that ice melts faster when in contact with sea water, so the East Antarctic Ice sheet is very unstable. There’s been a lot of research into the fluid dynamics associated with melting ice, and researchers are starting to examine some of the ways that the EAIC might break up when sea water gets under the ice sheet.

    I had a chat with Tim Naish (who runs the Antarctic Research Centre at Vic Uni in Wellington) about this over a beer at the Wig and Pen last year. His line was that it’s too late for the EAIC. Pretty scary really.

  17. Jess, are you sure you are not mixing the EAIS and the WAIS?

    The West Antarctic ice sheet has collapsed and regrown over 60 times in the past few million years. East Antarctica by contrast is relatively stable.

    Mercurius @ 21, I think wbb was being ironic and trying to crack a funny. He definitely doesn’t have form as a denialist.

    John M @ 19, it’s a shame you spread droppings from Roy Spencer and Lindzen liberally around our threads.

  18. Well bugger it. You’re right Brian – I’m sorry. Please swap the Es for Ws in my last post.

    Goes to show that you shouldn’t trust a scientist outside of their chosen field (fluid physics/volcanology in my case)! 🙂

    BillB @ 24 I’m not entirely sure but I remember something of the order 5 m of sea level rise?

  19. Jess @ 27, it’s 5m for WAIS, but if that goes you would have little left of Greenland either, which is 6-7m. And if they both go there will be a part melt of the EAIS, which is 59m.

    Plus all the rest of the glaciers and ice caps (only 0.5m, I think) and thermal expansion of the ocean.

  20. John Michelmore, quoting intelligent design” proponent Roy Spencer“:

    “I’m talking about those who deny NATURAL climate change. Like Al Gore, John Holdren, and everyone else who thinks climate change was only invented since they were born.

    Please point out where Al Gore denied natural fluctuations in climate.

    Did God tell Roy Spencer that Gore claimed such a thing?

  21. Katz,

    I was thinking that the existence of clowns like Roy Spencer provides evidence against the theory of intelligent design. Why would an intelligent designer come up with Roy?

    But, on reflection, I realised that he provides evidence against the theory of evolution too.

    Maybe he is just an aberration.

  22. And here is the winning Elexctric Vehicle formula.

    The VW Bulli

    key features

    “The new ‘Bulli’ concept offers a flexible layout, seating for six, a 40 kWh lithium-ion battery, an 85 kW electric motor with 260 Nm torque,140 km/h (87 mph) top speed and a range of 300 km (186 miles).”

    Perfectly serviceable for family runaround and medium range commutes (up to 200klm round trip).

    This really what the carbon price is all about. The Global Warming ship has sailed, we are getting that no matter what now. The real issue is that oil is running out, fast. not all of the oil, the easy to get to affordable oil is running out. We have probably on 20 years before fuel rationing becomes a regular feature of life. Well that will be just inconvenient…it is the fossil oil energy to drive industry that is the issue. When that becomes scarce it will be increasingly difficult to build the alternative energy infrastructure. There

  23. Cool link OOtz.

    8.67% of Australia’s electricity was generated by renewable sources such as solar and wind in the last year, a total of 21,751 gigawatt hours. This was the equivalent of over three million Australian households.

    Anyone know what % of that is hydro?

  24. Oh, and another great post Brian, which Ive just now read in detail.

    Be it known that I regard you, and several others here, as brethren and sistren of the “no surrender” school on climate change awareness.

    There will no silence, there will be no victory for denialists – and if it all goes pear-shaped, it wont be because we said and did nuthin.


  25. According to Clean Energy Council

    “Australia currently has over 100 operating hydro power stations totalling 8390 MW of capacity which produced an estimated 13,800 GWh of electricity in the past year. This represents around 5.5 per cent of the nation’s total electricity output and is enough to power approximately 1,942,000 homes. This is a 15 per cent rise in hydroelectricity generation from previous years, mostly due to increased rainfall in key hydro catchments across the country.”

    Yeah Leftee, these climate clippings should be put into a time capsule as prove that not everyone had their head in the sand or their own or some unsustainable growth ar$e in some decades to come.

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