1. Antarctic ice melt may have tipped
David Spratt at Climate Code Red has a post surveying recent studies on Antarctic ice sheet melting. I’ll cut to the chase with his update of a recent report from NOAA:
- a revised worst-case sea-level rise scenario of 2.5 metres by 2100, 5.5 metres by 2150 and 9.7 metres by 2200. It says sea level science has “advanced significantly over the last few years, especially (for) land-based ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica under global warming”, and hence the “correspondingly larger range of possible 21st century rise in sea level than previously thought”.
The order of business is the ice in the Amundsen Sea area becomes compromised, leading to the decay of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which could yield 3-5 metres of SLR within two centuries.
Mechanisms similar to those causing deglaciation in West Antarctica are now also found in the giant ice sheet of East Antarctica, which could yield a further 5 metres by 2200.
Then there is Greenland, and that is without increasing our current 400ppm or so of CO2 concentrations. Here’s the map:
Melting in the Antarctic Peninsula and Larsen B are just a pipe-opener.
The questions now are how much, how soon, and how much could be prevented even if we reduce CO2 levels by sucking it out of the air?
- Led by the University of Illinois, a multi-institution team created varieties of sugarcane that have much more oil in their leaves and stem than unmodified varieties. That oil could be used in biodiesel production. It was assumed that this boost in oil production would result in less sugar production, although that turned out not to be the case. That’s a good thing, as that sugar can be used to produce ethanol.
It can be grown on marginal land that wouldn’t be suitable for food crops.
- So far, the team has created sugarcane plants that are 13 percent oil, 8 percent of which is the type that could be made into biodiesel. Even if that figure were just 5 percent, the researchers claim that it would amount to “an extra 123 gallons [466 l] of biodiesel per acre than soybeans and 350 more gallons [1,325 l] of ethanol per acre than corn.”
They are hoping to boost oil to 20 percent, which is the theoretical maximum limit.
3. Clive Hamilton talks about why he resigned from the CCA
Clive Hamilton talked to Graham Readfearn about why he resigned from the Climate Change Authority. In the end he was disgusted with Turnbull’s advocacy for ‘clean coal’.
- “It’s a tragedy to watch a man like Malcolm Turnbull to shrink into the kind of shell of a person that he has become…”
He also said that with the new appointees to the CCA in 2015 came a secret plan to work towards an emissions intensity scheme. That came unstuck when Josh Frydenberg floated the idea and Turnbull immediately killed it off. He says:
- “The Liberal party has undergone a transformation in the last 10 years and it’s now dominated federally by troglodytes from the hard right – the anti-science brigade, some of whom probably cheered when Pauline Hanson attacked vaccinations the other day. These are the anti-science, anti-expertise crowd — the kind of people who now advise Donald Trump.”
Climate deniers have been energised by the election of Trump.
Hamilton is publishing a new book on climate change. He is no longer hopeful:
- “If you look at what the scientists are saying and you’re not despairing then you are not really listening to what they are saying.”
4. Climate action: what we must do by 2020
The Paris agreement does not come into effect by 2020. Christiana Figueres, former UNFCCC Executive Secretary, has launched a plan as to what we must do now to bend the emissions curve downwards by 2020. The report, 2020: the Climate Turning Point, was authored by scientists from a number of bodies, including Carbon Tracker, Climate Analytics and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
It calls for 30% global renewables by 2020, 25% of new vehicle sales to be zero emissions electric vehicles by 2020, and of course no new coal mines. And it says that investment in clean technologies needs to be increased to at least $1 trillion each year by 2020, up from $300 billion now.
This graph shows alternative scenarios:
The coloured lines assume a remaining budget of 600 GtCO2, with the dashed line 800. The green line peaks in 2016.
5. Carbon countdown
Carbon Brief has a useful post Analysis: Just four years left of the 1.5C carbon budget which has a clever diagram:
I don’t like the assumption that a 66% chance is OK, or at least the best we can do under the circumstances. That assumption would be present in the 2020 Turning Point report above also.
Moreover, I think their assumption that current emissions are at 39 Gtpa is also wrong. The Stern report a decade ago had emissions at 42 Gtpa when you count them all, not just the ones from fossil fuels.
They also give the following graph, which show emissions largely tracking business as usual, but falling away slightly from about 2014:
You often read that emissions have flatlined in the past couple of years. The only problem is that at Mauna Loa, where they measure what is actually in the air, the increases are still increasing.
6. Climate change factsheets
Currently the atmosphere can carry 7% more water than previously. I don’t think that means that in all cases rainfall intensity increase will be limited to 7% over past experience, however. Then they say this:
- For Queensland and New South Wales, the two states most badly affected by ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie, extreme rainfall events are likely to worsen. For example, maximum one-day rainfall is expected to increase by up to 17 and 18% for New South Wales and Queensland respectively, by the end of the century for a high emissions scenario, relative to 1986-2005 climate (CSIRO and BoM 2015).
7. Cairns seminars
Geoff Henderson has sent me a note about the weekly seminars hosted by James Cook University’s Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Sciences unit in Cairns each Wednesday at 4pm. He says they last about an hour and you get a beer and nibbles after.
He says the speakers are always good and the seminar is videoed live to Townsville campus. The talks are available at the above link.
I noticed one on April 5 on the expansion of the tropics.