Category Archives: Climate Change & Sustainability

Posts on aspects of climate science, climate action and climate policy & planning.

Climate clippings 9

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 disconnect between climate policy and scientific reality

There is a dangerous disconnect between climate policy and scientific reality, according to Ian Dunlop of the Policy Development Centre.

Climate change is not just another policy item on the normal agenda, it is a transformative issue which has life-and-death consequences. This is not a time to follow Bismarck’s advice that“politics is the art of the possible”, as Combet suggested. Quite the reverse; we need leaders who can see that what was politically impossible will shortly become politically inevitable.

The continual emphasis on the economy as the main game, with climate change grudgingly considered as an optional extra, ignores the fact that unless we address climate change fast, the economy will be in tatters err long.

The government and the opposition are both missing the boat, according to Dunlop, and the NGOs are no better, settling into going with the flow in order to get something started. Continue reading Climate clippings 9

Will the severe winters in Europe continue?

Quite possibly, not every year but with increased frequency according to an article in The Independent.

A study completed in 2009 by the Potsdam Institute predicted this pattern:

Their models found that, as the ice cap over the ocean disappeared, this allowed the heat of the relatively warm seawater to escape into the much colder atmosphere above, creating an area of high pressure surrounded by clockwise-moving winds that sweep down from the polar region over Europe and the British Isles.

Clever them, because it happened in the following two years. They reckon that cold, snowy winters will be about three times more frequent in the coming years. Two cold winters doesn’t prove it, but the pattern’s looking good. Continue reading Will the severe winters in Europe continue?

Climate clippings 8

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.

California approves first broad US climate plan

California has approved “the most sweeping US plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.

It includes a cap-and-trade plan:

Initially, California will technically not restrict emissions but instead freely allocate “allowances” to businesses covering their carbon output. The state will gradually reduce allowances, forcing firms to go green.

Companies can also earn credit by supporting environmental projects in forests or farms, including through preservation of woods in Mexico’s Chiapas state and Brazil’s Acre state.

Not everyone is happy, as the scheme could involve clear-felling to plant trees.

There’s more at Climate Progress. Continue reading Climate clippings 8

Climate clippings 7

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.

November turns out to be the hottest on record

I thought that with a La Nina, November temperatures would turn out to be cooler than 2005 on the NASA GISS record. Turns out they were the hottest on record. Here are some images from the post:

The graph for 2010:

Temperature anomaly graph 2010

Continue reading Climate clippings 7

Quantifying the negative feedback of vegetation

On another thread, John Michelmore has been telling us about an article by Lahouari Bounoua et al (behind the paywall) which finds that the enhanced effect of CO2 on plant growth provides a cooling feedback, so that doubling current CO2 to 780ppm would only cause a temperature increase of 1.64C. Hence we can all relax in relation to global warming mitigation. There’s no need to panic.

Here’s the Science Daily summary.

Continue reading Quantifying the negative feedback of vegetation

Climate clippings 6

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.

Clouds and climate sensitivity

Climate sensitivity is the temperature increase caused by a doubling of the trace gas CO2 in the atmosphere. The IPCC AR4 gave this as between 2 and 4.5 °C for short term “Charney” feedbacks, which is a large uncertainty range for such an important number. Clouds are largely to blame.

Recent research indicates less cloud cover as the sea surface warms. Thus uncertainty is taken away from the low side. Continue reading Climate clippings 6

Climate change scepticism becomes mainstream

Essential research has just found that believers in AGW has fallen to 45% in Australia. That’s still well ahead of the 36% who believe that we are just witnessing a normal fluctuation in the earth’s climate. The “don’t know” category is quite large, at 19%.

Still 61% either see it as very or quite important to “tackle” climate change.

Peter Lewis, director of Essential Media Communications, speculates in the linked article on how we have come to be where we are.

Multiple agendas at Cancún, not all benign

Saudi Arabia has complained that Cancún was lousy with NGO representatives and hence they had to waste time talking to them. The Saudis, of course, aim to see that Cancún does not result in any diminution of the use of oil.

The place is also lousy with representatives of fossil fuel and forestry industries, who aim to make a buck out of the whole thing.

Giles Parkinson’s latest report tells of wholesale rorting at Cancún in how emissions and carbon credits are counted.

The UN Environment Program issued a detailed report last week that said accounting rorts from “hot air” from eastern Europe and land use rules could add up to more than two billion tonnes by 2020. The EU has complained they could undermine the entirety of their emission reductions since 1990.

A study by Simon Terry, the executive director of the New Zealand Sustainability Council, goes further. Terry says that by adding in aviation and shipping – which are not accounted for under the Copenhagen Accord – the pledges may turn out to produce an increase in global emissions of 3 per cent from 1990 levels, rather than an advertised fall of up to 18 per cent.

The UN has been concerned that the Copenhagen Accord commitments will yield an “emissions gap” against what is needed to remain within a 2C temperature rise. This gaps means we could be headed for 3-4C instead of 2C. Factor in the latest games being played and we are heading for 6-7C. That is ‘end of civilisation as we know it’ territory. Continue reading Multiple agendas at Cancún, not all benign

Cancún half way

Cancún

That image is courtesy Climate Progress where Joe Romm points out that the beaches are washing away. One can also easily imagine why there may have been traffic problems. (See also here.)

While there is plenty of material around on the web, I have found Giles Parkinson at Climate Spectator particularly helpful. A pity, therefore, that he was sufficiently distracted on Friday not to do a post after the conference session. Nevertheless Thursday’s post provides a good summary of what is at play. He summarises progress on the so-called six-pack of issues thus:

Four of the so-called six-pack of agreements appear within reach – financing, adaptation, forests, and technology – although there are still hurdles to overcome, such as whether a green fund should be managed by the UN or an outside body. The two most difficult – mitigation (effectively locking in the pledges made since Copenhagen) and transparency – remain a challenge. The head of one of the key working groups told NGOs today that there remained “a big gap” on mitigation.

Continue reading Cancún half way

Climate kills

According to Oxfam 21,000 people died due to weather-related disasters in the first nine months of 2010 – more than twice the number (10,000) for the whole of 2009. Their information comes from reinsurance company Munich Re.

The number of extreme weather events was 725 to September, as against 850 for 2009. The number of extreme events is likely to exceed the ten-year average of 770, but not by a large margin. This year included some particularly serious ones, such as the floods in Pakistan and the heatwave in Russia.

The Pakistan floods affected more than 20 million people, submerging about a fifth of the country, claiming 2,000 lives and causing $9.7 billion in damage. Summer temperatures in Russia exceeded the long-term average by 7.8°C, doubling the daily death rate in Moscow to 700 and causing fires that destroyed 26 per cent of the country’s wheat crop. Russia banned grain exports as a result and soon after world grain prices increased, affecting poor people particularly.

Statistics relating to extreme weather events are tricky. The number of deaths obviously relates to the severity of the individual events and how many people were living in areas where the events occurred and hence vulnerable. Continue reading Climate kills

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. Continue reading Climate clippings 5