Tag Archives: Dangerous climate change

Climate clippings 181

1. Solar delivers cheapest electricity ‘ever, anywhere, by any technology’

Half the price of coal!

    In last week’s energy auction, Chile accepted a bid from Spanish developer Solarpack Corp. Tecnologica for 120 megawatts of solar at the stunning price of $29.10 per megawatt-hour (2.91 cents per kilowatt-hour or kwh). This beats the 2.99 cents/kwh bid Dubai received recently for 800 megawatts. For context, the average residential price for electricity in the United States is 12 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Continue reading Climate clippings 181

Hansen worries that all hell will break loose

Hansen-paper-370x232_250James Hansen worries that “we may be approaching a point of no return, a situation in which our children inherit a climate system undergoing changes that are out of their control, changes that will cause them irreparable harm”. He’s looked at the models, at current observations, and at what happened during the Eemian interglacial 118,000 years ago, and he doesn’t like what he sees.

During the Eemian, when global average temperatures were about 1°C more than now, sea level was about 3-4 metres higher than now for a considerable time. Then about 118,000 years ago, towards the end of the interglacial, it peaked at 6-9 meters, including a rise of 2-3 metres within several decades. A similar sea level rise of several metres now would see the inundation of many of the world’s major cities.

Also there were huge storms at mid-latitudes in the North Atlantic which would make Superstorm Sandy look mild. Hansen thinks that climate change may be entering a phase where similar events could occur this century. Continue reading Hansen worries that all hell will break loose

Saving the planet

At the Paris climate conference a surprise result was for the world to aim to hold “the increase in … temperature to well below 2°C … and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C”.

Fred Pearce in the New Scientist now takes a look at what some are saying needs to be done. Continue reading Saving the planet

Quiggin on climate risk

John Quiggin has a post Climate change and catastrophe wherein he links to his article in The Economist Why the Paris conference may not be enough. I know from the WordPress software that people are slack in following links, so I’ll try to give a sense of what he said. Continue reading Quiggin on climate risk

Climate clippings 153

1. July hottest ever

Not just the hottest July, we’ve just had the hottest single month since records began in 1880. It’s also been the hottest first seven months of any year, so we are heading into new territory. Continue reading Climate clippings 153

Mobilising to effect transformative climate change

There’s a new kid on the block in terms of climate activism – called The Climate Mobilization or TCM for short. Climate Code Red has reprinted a long and wordy post, The transformative power of climate truth. In fact they are dedicated to vigorous and direct action targeted at political candidates and politicians within the US context. Their raison d’etre is best stated on their Pledge to mobilize: Continue reading Mobilising to effect transformative climate change

The folly of two degrees

Back in 2011 David Spratt took a look at where we were in relation to temperature rise and the Holocene. At 2000 we were at 0.7°C above the pre-industrial temperature. This happens to coincide with the Holocene maximum:

Holocene_thin-blue-line 600

Spratt says James Hansen warns that at 0.7°C the ice sheets start to become unstable, so in terms of sea level rise alone we are entering a danger zone. Since then the temperature has risen ~ 0.15°C.

From this point of view the 2°C guardrail looks hazardous in the extreme. Continue reading The folly of two degrees

Climate clippings 110

1. 25 climate change disasters

Business Insider, Australia tells us that 25 disasters may befall us from climate change. The assumptions are conservative – 2°C and half a metre of sea level rise by 2100, though the text sometimes specifies more. Some of the predictions are disturbing: Continue reading Climate clippings 110

Climate clippings 106

1. Abbott adviser warns of threat of ‘global cooling’

Nevertheless with the certainty only possessed by fools, the Abbott government’s chief business adviser, Maurice Newman, has warned that Australia is ill prepared for global cooling owing to widespread “warming propaganda” in his latest critique of mainstream climate science.

The suggestion is that temperature change is due to changes in solar activity, cosmic rays and stuff. The science is heading in the opposite direction.

“The sun doesn’t have as much influence on the climate as we previously thought, the latest estimates are that it explains only 5% of the warming over the last 150 years,” he said.

How can the government be advised by someone who is so ill-informed about arguably the biggest single influence on business conditions over the next century.

2. August hottest ever

We’ve just had the hottest August globally since records began being kept in 1880, according to NASA. The year to date has been the fourth hottest on record. Hot years usually coincide with an El Niño either in the year concerned or the previous year. An El Niño has not yet arrived but does look likely according to the latest information.

NASA_ 2014_Ag_600

It has been especially hot in West Antarctica. Bear that in mind when you see stories of record sea ice around Antarctica:

seaice_2014_Ag_500

This is not incompatible with global warming and could in fact be caused by it. Melting ice produces cold water, and the tightening wind pattern tend to blow the ice further north.

There is no information as yet on ice volume.

3. Australian Climate Action Summit 2014

The Australian Climate Action Summit 2014 is on this weekend. Since my life is governed by work, the weather and medical appointments I am unable to go.

On Sunday there will be a People’s Climate March, organised by an outfit called Avaaz. Marches will be organised all around the world, and indeed, all around Australia, including, for example Mt Isa and the Gold Coast. If you click on Brisbane you get the Summit, but if you click on the Summit you don’t get a march. So if there is a march in Brisbane, I can guess where but I’d also need to guess when.

The march is meant to impress the leaders gathering in New York on Tuesday 23 September. That’s the UN Summit Tony Abbott will not attend although he’ll be in New York on Wednesday.

4. Surviving in hot, acidic oceans

I think this is a good news story.

More than 90% of the extra heat in global warming ends up in the oceans, as does 25% of the CO2 we create, which makes the oceans more acidic. Shell-making organisms such as plankton are expected to be in trouble. The good news is that it seems one species of plankton, the Emiliania huxleyi, can survive the changes underway.

5. Climate Council report on sea level

The Climate Council has taken another look at climate change and coastal flooding. The focus is on 1.1 metres sea level rise by 2100, all too possible if West Antarctica is in play, as it seems to be.

We are told that the frequency of flooding events can treble for every 10 cm of sea level rise. The risk multiplier depends where you are. In Sydney, Bundaberg and Hobart, for example a current 1 in 100 year event now could be happening every day by 2100. In Adelaide, the least at risk city, it would be only once every year.

At risk we have $87 billion worth of commercial and light industrial buildings, $72 billion worth of homes and $67 billion worth of roads and rail infrastructure.

6. Capitalism v The Climate

Joe Romm tells us about Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate. Klein, he says, makes three essential points:

1. Because we have ignored the increasingly urgent warnings and pleas for action from climate scientists for a quarter century (!) now, the incremental or evolutionary paths to avert catastrophic global warming that we might have been able to take in the past are closed to us.

2. Humanity faces a stark choice as a result: The end of civilization as we know it or the end of capitalism as we know it.

3. Choosing “unregulated capitalism” over human civilization would be a “morally monstrous” choice — and so the winning message for the climate movement is a moral one.

The time for ‘evolutionary’ strategies is long past. Now only ‘revolutionary’ strategies will get us there. Unregulated capitalism is a Ponzi scheme, which must collapse. The real choice facing us is a moral one.

Unchecked capitalism is immoral and will destroy civilisation as we know it. Just what Klein says we should do will be covered by Romm in a subsequent post.

Real clothes for the emperor

“When I look at this [CO2] data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius, which would have devastating consequences for the planet.” Fatih Birol, IEA chief economist

That’s one of the favourite quotes by Professor Kevin Anderson of Manchester University and the Tyndall Centre (personal website here) who, like James Hansen in the US and John Schellnhuber in Germany, is a leading climate scientist who speaks plainly about the dangers of global warming and the situation we’re in. Much of his important work seems to have been done with Alice Bows, now Bows-Larkin. In this piece I’ll refer to “he” or “they” depending on my perception of the source.

Real clothes for the emperor was the title of a talk Anderson gave to unionists in June 2013 (slides here).

Their basic point is that no real progress has been made since the Rio Summit in 1992 from which international action flowed through the agency of the UNFCCC and the IPCC. Policy makers in nations with ostensible targets seriously fudge the game so that economic growth is not inconvenienced.

Another favourite quote of theirs is:

“… dangerous climate change can only be avoided if economic growth is exchanged, at least temporarily [until low carbon energy supply is widespread], for a period of planned austerity within Annex 1 nations…” – Anderson and Bows, 2011

I’ll proceed by stating their main summary points in turn followed by a brief explanation. Continue reading Real clothes for the emperor

Assessing dangerous climate change

Seventeen high-profile academics with expertise across the climate research spectrum, from atmospheric science, earth science and environmental science, to economics, global change and public health led by James Hansen, now at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, have published a paper Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature which demands attention.

The bottom line is that “aiming for the 2°C pathway would be foolhardy” because it “would have consequences that can be described as disastrous”. The authors believe that humanity and nature, the modern world as we know it, is adapted to the Holocene climate that has existed more than 10,000 years. Departing from this climate by more than 1°C would have intrinsically harmful effects. At 2°C these effects become unacceptably severe. Moreover we enter a zone where further feedbacks, such as ice sheet response, methane release and vegetation change, are likely to push the climate towards further warming, of probably at least 3°C.

James Hansen and Pushker Kharecha have done a summary with discussion here, then there’s Joe Romm at Climate Progress, Tim Radford at Climate Code Red, Damian Pattinson, Editorial Director, PLOS ONE, at Huff Post and John Rennie with links to further material at PLOS Blogs. My partial summary is below. Continue reading Assessing dangerous climate change

Climate change: reconnecting politics with reality

After the rally on Sunday 17 November Ben Eltham took a look at climate activism in the digital age and nominated climate policy as “the central battleground of 21st century politics.” Sooner or later, somehow or other, climate activism has to be turned into real politics. As one of the ten themes in the Centre for Policy Development’s Pushing our Luck: ideas for Australian progress Professor John Wiseman, Deputy Director of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute at the University of Melbourne looked at the shape of climate policy for the future.

You can find his whole piece at page 142 on the pdf counter, but I’ll attempt to give a brief outline here.

First he surveys the science, our prospects and the risks. The risk of a 4C future is unacceptably high. He quotes the World Bank’s report Turn Down the Heat:

    ‘Even with the current mitigation commitments and pledges fully implemented there is roughly a 20 per cent likelihood of exceeding 4°C by 2100. If they are not met warming of 4°C could occur as early as the 2060s.’

What does 4°C mean?

    Professor John Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, provides a stark assessment of the difference between a rise of two and four degrees. ‘The difference,’ he says, ‘is human civilisation. A 4°C temperature increase probably means a global [population] carrying capacity below 1 billion people’.

He then looks at the climate budget approach and posts a version of this now familiar graph:

Copenhagen diagnosis Fig 22 n

He concludes that we need more ambition and urgency, both at the national and international levels. The achievement of emission reductions at the necessary scale and speed will require transformational rather than incremental change. Continue reading Climate change: reconnecting politics with reality