Climate clippings 107

1. No more pauses in global warming

Temperatures are likely to rise dynamically for the rest of the century, according to two separate studies.

Masahiro Watanabe of the University of Tokyo colleagues found that over the past three decades natural influences are diminishing.

In the 1980s, natural variability accounted for almost half of the temperature changes seen. That fell to 38 per cent in the 1990s and just 27 per cent in the 2000s.

The implication is that temperature rises will respond more directly to emissions with fewer pauses.

Matthew England and associates used 31 climate models to chart future temperatures. He found that if emissions keep rising the chances of a pause of 10 years or more fall to practically zero. If emissions peak by 2040 we might get a pause by the end of the century.

If we wait until 2040 for peak emissions we’ll be cooked.

2. Rockefeller family moves from fossil fuels to clean energy

The Rockefeller family is turning its back on the industry that made it its vast fortune.

As more than 120 heads of state gather in New York for a UN summit on climate change, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund is pledging to move $50 billion worth of investment in fossil fuels into clean energy.

3. War and Peace revisited

At Fair Green Planet Val has reproduced her talk at the Australian Climate Action Summit 2014. It’s about organisational form in relation to climate change action and sustainability. Val suggests we need to change from forms based on competition, hierarchy and exploitation to forms based on co-operation, egalitarianism and sustainability:

From both my research and my lived experience, it seems clear to me that the approach we need to address climate change will not be produced by the hierarchical, top down, unequal organisations that are dominant in society today – but rather by an approach like this:

team earth

These “Team Earth” posters were of course produced in response to Tony Abbott’s “Team Australia”. The posters express to me the values we really need to address climate change: a recognition that we’re all in it together, and an inclusive approach.

We need:

to go beyond climate change and live in sustainable communities – communities that are flatter, networked, egalitarian and inclusive, and recognise themselves as part of an ecosystem.

In other words, we need to change ourselves.

4. Arctic sea ice report

Arctic sea ice melting has now reached its maximum extent. This year was almost exactly the same as 2013, and the sixth lowest on record.

Sea ice Sept_cropped_600

The black line is the 1981-2010 average, the dotted line the 2012 record and the blue line the former 2007 record. Shading represents plus or minus 2 standard deviations.

Volume was also up a bit but still in trend decline.

What this masks is a continued decline in the proportion of older, thicker ice. An increasing proportion is first year ice. At Carbon Brief:

During the 1980s or 1990s, in an average year, around 54 to 58 per cent of ice in the Arctic would be first-year ice. Last year it was 77 per cent.

5. New York UN meeting

Last week some 125 leaders met with the UN Secretary General and each other in New York to indicate what their post 2020 emissions reduction targets might be. I reported on the outcomes here, but it seems that readers of this blog are put off by titles like the one I used.

Problem is, the bad news is getting worse and is not being addressed sufficiently by world leaders. Emissions increased by 2.5% in 2013. Every year the emissions increase the harder the problem becomes. It’s not a case that action is just delayed; we are using up a carbon budget that by some estimates is already in the red.

Of the major emitters only the EU was specific, nominating 40% by 2030, subject to confirmation. Not enough. There were indications that China will give concrete numbers when formal proposals are submitted next March. However, their current rate of increase is quite dramatic, as this graph shows:


My expectation is that at best, when the bids are in, our path will match the RCP4.5 scenario (the scenarios are numbered according to the climate forcing pertaining to CO2 levels with the forcing expressed in watts per square metre).


A new report puts the situation this way:

Nevertheless, the report said there is still a “gigatonne gap” between governments’ current carbon-reduction pledges and what will be needed to limit overall warming to 2C.

Delivering on current policies would only succeed in reining warming back from 4C to 3C, it predicted. The United Nations’ New York 2014 and Paris 2015 climate summits will be crucial in securing an improved deal, the report said. (Emphasis added)

Indeed. In New York on our behalf Ms J Bishop said the Government would consider what post-2020 emissions might be, but consistent with the need for economic growth. I think in her mind this means banking on cheap coal as our dominant power source.

For another view, see Christine Milne at the National Press Club:

I believe that Australia should put on the table for the 2015 negotiations a trajectory of 40 to 60 per cent below 2000 levels by 2030 and net carbon zero by 2050.