Climate clippings 85

Climate clippings_175These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as a roundtable. Again, I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.

This edition has a pot-pourri of stuff which I’ve posted pretty much in the order it came to hand. I’ve excised an item on the impact of solar on Qld electricity supply which I’ll sort out after I’ve finished the IPCC round-up.

1. Climate Commission site fades to white but lives on

The cretinous clowns we elected to govern us have taken down the Climate Commission site. I’m still getting the front page (probably from cache memory) but when I seek to go further this is what I get:

The Climate Commission ceased operation in September 2013.

There were 27 reports prepared with taxpayer money. Would it harm the national interest for them to be available?

The good news is that the National Library of Australia archived the site on 19 September 2013. The least the Government could do is provide a link!

2. Women organise internationally

Via Desmogblog, The first International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit was held in Suffern, NY from September 20- 23.

Over 100 invitation-only participants came from 35 countries equally divided between the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The summit’s purpose, explained co-founder Osprey Orielle Lake, was to bring women together who are in strategic positions to implement the critical solutions that are needed to address the world’s pressing climate challenges.

The Summit declaration includes the statement that they call on themselves, their communities and their governments to:

Recognize that the transition to renewable energy does not justify or require a massive increase in mega hydro dams, biofuels and major monoculture biomass plantations that cause displacement, food insecurity, human rights abuses and deforestation

3. Climate change vulnerability report

We need to help those vulnerable to climate change to strengthen their defences, right? Well it’s not so simple. Benjamin Preston runs the only blog I know devoted to climate change adaptation. Based in Tennessee he did time here in the CSIRO compiling a report on climate vulnerability. It’s a “top-down, cursory evaluation of vulnerability assessment practice.”

What we find is that there is no settled definition of vulnerability and no standard vulnerability scale. Colloquially vulnerability and risk are often used interchangeably. But risk occurs when there is a hazard, plus exposure to the hazard, to which you may be vulnerable.

Preston gives the whole concept a thorough workout.

Together with Johanna Mustelin and Megan Maloney he has recently published a paper which

urges adaptation researchers and practitioners to think critically about the assumptions or heuristics they use in framing adaptation. Climate Adaptation Heuristics and the Science/Policy Divide defines the concept of an ‘adaptation heuristic’, presents a critical content analysis of the adaptation literature to identify the use of such heuristics, and comments on their potential implications for adaptation research and practice.

4. Ocean acidification may amplify global warming

Joe Romm at Climate Progress reports on a study from August found that the ocean is acidifying 10 times faster than it did during the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum 55 million years ago. Apart from marine extinctions such acidification may cause 0.9F extra warming.

Romm concludes:

So we have up to 0.9°F [0.5°C] warming from acidification this century that isn’t in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report models. You can add that to the carbon feedback from the thawing permafrost — also unmodeled by the new IPCC report — which is projected to add up to 1.5°F [0.83°C] to total global warming by 2100.

That means actual warming this century might well be 2°F [1.1°C] higher than the IPCC projects. In the case where humanity keeps taking little or no action to restrict carbon pollution, that means actual warming by 2100 from preindustrial levels could exceed 10°F [5.5°C]. (C values added)

5. Thawing permafrost in the Arctic

Joe Romm again is not impressed with a NOAA/NISDC study by Schaeffer et al on the prospective effects of the warming land-based permafrost. Seems the permafrost is due to melt within the next 200 years. Amazingly the study assumes that only CO2 will be produced and no methane, and no consideration was given to ocean methane clathrate beds.

As Romm says, “no climate model currently incorporates the amplifying feedback from methane released by a defrosting tundra.” When they get around to it I hope they get a mathematician to include the full warming effect, and don’t use the common conversion of methane as 23 times more potent than CO2. That’s after 100 years. The full effect according to Dessus et al is shown in this graph:


6. Queensland weather

A bit of weather doesn’t make climate, but it’s been a uncommonly hot this September. In fact over all Australia it was a record record:

The mean temperature anomaly, +2.75 °C set a record for Australia’s largest positive monthly mean temperature anomaly, for any month, displacing the previous record of +2.66 °C in April 2005.

A record too for the 12 months up to September at a time when according to Sarah Perkins of UNSW average temperatures should have been favoured:

“These records are being set in a ‘neutral’ period of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation cycle (neither El Niño or La Niña), as well as a Negative Indian-Ocean Dipole pattern, which is normally associated with higher than average rainfall over southern and western Australia during the cooler months.”

This picture tells the story:

Australia 2013_1377242_599335653463672_1218712960_n

7. Amazing water photography

Finally, not about climate as such, but at Grist Sarah Laskow links to amazing photos of water. At the top of that page are links to more Edward Burtynsky photography.

12 thoughts on “Climate clippings 85”

  1. Thoroughly recommend the adaptation framing paper by Ben, Johanna and Megan.

    The vulnerability/risk thing that Ben describes is totally peppered through Working Group I and the SREX report – my second biggest criticism of the climate science community’s framing of risk. (The biggest is gradualism)

  2. Brian and All:
    Not adding the link from the Climate Commission website and not putting up a notice about the Climate Commission becoming “privatized” was a political blunder and lost opportunity …. and I’ll bet I’m not the only one who thought of that.

    Here in the wilds of Central Queensland, we have been enjoying lovely January weather with no sign of Wet Season rain – and all the local climate change sceptics have gone silent.

    Wonder if ocean acidification might also have some effects on currents as well?

  3. Amazing how quickly and desperately the Abbott Government assigned the Climate Change Commission to oblivion – they thought.
    Now, though, more people probably know about the Climate Change Commission than they did during the Gillard Government. Worse, for Abbott and his cronies, they’re actively committed to it by committing money to keep the Commission going. And it is likely more people will listen to them – if the Commission can get coverage in the MSM.
    Sounds like Abbott kicked an own-goal here. Or got offside or whatever the sporting metaphor is.

  4. Thanks Brian, could not agree more with Roger re bugbears of risk perceptions and gradualism.

    The primary focus on the reality of AGW affords the ignoring of the various and well known heuristic biases in assessing the potential risk. For example, because we have no immediate experience of climatic changes on that scale, as well as there are no conventional ‘insurance covers’ for such events, we commonly tend to debase the risk. My argument is, if the primary focus would be on the extent of the risk in AGW rather than probability of AGW itself, then we would employ a much more rigorous ‘insurance policy’. House and vehicle insurances are good examples of such behaviour. Because most people focus on the worst case scenario rather than its relative low probability, they tend to ‘over insure’. Inversely with the focus on probability rather worst case scenario, these heuristic biases can easily influence scientists and their work as well. Since the Kahneman and Tversky studies, on how people evaluate probabilities in gambling, these heuristic biases have been widely studied and are reasonably well understood, as well as various theories have been developed from psychological, anthropological and sociological approaches.

    Regarding gradualism, if the latest study by Morgan Schaller and James Wright re the onset of PETM holds up, then it should put the kibosh to that.

    In a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Morgan Schaller and James Wright contend that following a doubling in carbon dioxide levels, the surface of the ocean turned acidic over a period of weeks or months and global temperatures rose by 5 degrees centigrade – all in the space of about 13 years.

  5. Thanks for that and the link, Ootz. There’s more here, and here.

    The way I see it, if you focus on risk the sceptic position dissolves as an argument against action. The denialist position ditto because if they are wrong the risks are unacceptable. They need to be better than 99.9% sure they are right. Science could never do that for them.

    Even the notion of working on a 66% chance of avoiding 2C is completely nuts. It’s like playing Russian roulette with two bullets in the six chambers.

  6. Thanks Brian for these posts – most interesting

    Very interesting paper in this week’s Nature journal. Probably too late for April’s AR5 WG2.

    Titled “The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability” they’ve defined depature as when the mean climate is hotter than any maximum during 1860-2005.

    Paywalled, the abstract and tables visible at
    The research pages + press release at

    Summaries from press at

    Surprised the researchers that this could occur so soon.

  7. Dave, thanks for that.

    I can’t get past the paywall, but I did find an interactive map on Dr Mora’s site.

    I know the Brisbane temperatures fairly well. Our year varies between July when it’s 10-20C and January when it’s 21-29C. Obviously the mean for the whole year is going to be around 20-21C and if you click on the map that’s what you get. It also shows that the inter-annual variability is about plus or minus 1C. “Climate departure” happens when the mean for the coldest years becomes warmer than the mean for the warmest years historically (1860-2005).

    If you click on, say, England you’ll find that the inter-annual variability is greater. Although global warming is greater as you approach the poles this doesn’t quite make up for the greater inter-annual variability, so “climate departure” as defined is reached sooner near the tropics.

    I think all that makes sense!

  8. Yes, it does make sense. That’s what I got too.

    I also don’t have a nature subscription so could only get the diagrams and abstract and had to rely on the ScienceDaily and original researchers website. (It almost certainly would’ve zoomed over my head anyway)

    I had originally guessed that, as higer lats warm more than lower, that higher lats would cop it more. This research shows to me that lower warming is reqd to shift the tropics into a climate they’re not used to. So much so that they will get ‘climate departure’ earlier.

  9. While denialists attempt to explain climate change as being a manifestation of a perpetual yoyo climate system, I wondered if our atmosphere had a stable pressure on a geological time scale and this is what I found

    All science speculation of course, but it fits my impression that our planet is on a one way journey. More importantly it highlights the very precious nature of the coal and oil that we are gleefully squandering as if it will somehow continue to be regenerated to meet our ever expanding needs. These are not new notions for those who frequent this site, but it is another perspective that to my memory has not been explored as being a factor in the development of the biosphere.

    The notion that pterosaurs benefited from a denser atmosphere to make flight possible and by extension that the size of dinosaurs may have required the denser atmosphere for oxygeneation is kind of fascinating. Also possible is that the meteor that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs may very well have caused a measurable chunk of the Earth’s atmosphere to be ejected into space causing a significant drop in atmospheric pressure in that one event setting up the climate patterns of the future.

    Separately. State of the art in solar PV

    The system installed in Madagascar comprises two trackers capable of generating a combined 2.28 kWp (peak power under full solar radiation) for a total of up to 12 kWh per day. Each tracker is made up of 12 CPV modules with a total surface area of 4.2 sq m (13.8 sq ft) and an integrated battery system allows the electricity produced during the day to be stored for later use.

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