Month: July 2015

Dr Michael E.Mann & Dr James Hansen 10ft sea level rise by 2050. #Auspol 

Next, we’re joined by Dr. Michael E. Mann, climate scientist, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology and Director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, creator of the infamous “Hockey Stick” graph, and author of more than 160 peer-reviewed publications, as well as the book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines to discuss last week’s “bombshell” new study from NASA’s former chief scientist Dr. James Hansen, warning that sea level rise of 10 feet or more is likely to happen much sooner than scientists previously expected. It could happen even as early as 2050.
Mann tells me Hansen’s disturbing study suggests that “climate change is proceeding faster, and it’s larger in magnitude than what the IPCC [UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] reported. And that’s been true at every juncture. We have tended to underestimate the rate and magnitude of the changes…What Hansen has shown is that indeed there is reason to at least suspect the possibility of a worst case scenario that is a lot worse than anything the IPCC talks about.”
We also discuss the politics of this entire fine mess and the irony of 2016 GOP Presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, both of Florida, denying the realities of the science — each in their own way — as their own state will be among the first to begin to disappear. That, of course, is only if Hansen is right — as he has been in pretty much every case since he first rang the alarm about global warming in the U.S. Senate back in 1988.
“If we had acted when we already knew that there was a potential problem [back in 1988],” says Mann. “If we had acted then, then the emissions curve would be a bunny slope…a pretty gradual, smooth transition. It wouldn’t be very hard to do, it wouldn’t be very expensive. Instead, what several decades of delay have bought us is that we now face the black double diamond slope. That’s what we’re confronting now.”
Listen to the entire conversation, please. It’s really important and Mann — who actually is a scientist (hint, hint, GOP candidates!) — knows what he’s talking about.

Don’t miss this pod casts Starts 20 mins in : The Brad Blog

Agriculture Might Be Emitting 40 Percent More Greenhouse Gas Than Previously Thought #Auspol

Synthetic fertilizers are used throughout agriculture — and especially in the United States’ Corn Belt — to help plants grow. But the fertilizers also emit a greenhouse gas known as nitrous oxide (N2O) that is almost 300 times more potent, pound for pound, than carbon dioxide.Now, a recent study out of the University of Minnesota suggests that emissions from nitrous oxide have been severely underestimated, by as much as 40 percent in some places.

Nitrous oxide emissions have historically been calculated in two ways: either by adding up the amount of nitrogen used as fertilizer (known as the bottom-up method) or by taking measurements from the air (known as the top-down approach). But these two techniques haven’t always yielded compatible results, and regional measurements taken with a top-down approach showed more nitrous oxide emissions than in the bottom-up models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, leading researchers to speculate that the IPCC was likely underestimating global nitrous oxide emissions.

Researchers at University of Minnesota wondered where the discrepancy in the two models came from — what was the top-down model measuring that the bottom-up models were missing?

The answer, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, came from looking at N2O emissions across Minnesota not just from the soil, but also from streams and rivers, where nitrogen fertilizers can often end up due to drainage and runoff.

The researchers found that when these river and stream systems are taken into account, estimates of nitrous oxide emissions tended to increase. The researchers also noticed a strong relationship between the size of the stream or river and its emissions, finding that small streams close to land had the highest emissions.

“Even very small amounts of N2O can be very harmful from a greenhouse gas balance perspective,” Peter Turner, a PhD candidate in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Soil, Water, and Climate, told BBC News. “We found that there was a nine fold underestimation with streams in the area, which translates to about a a 40 percent underestimation of the agricultural budget.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, about 74 percent of nitrous oxide emissions in the United States come from agricultural soil management. To mitigate emissions, scientists suggest improving a crops’ ability to absorb the nitrogen that is applied to the soil, as nitrogen that remains in the soil increases the potential for nitrous oxide emissions.

But this new study suggests that a better understanding of how nitrous oxide emissions interact with streams and rivers could also help researchers and farmers develop better strategies for nitrous oxide mitigation.

Press link for more: Natasha Geiling | think progress.com

There’s no room for agnostics in the climate change debate #Auspol

On a recent 14.5-hour flight from Los Angeles to Sydney, I had time to read the columnist Charles Krauthammer’s collection of essays, Things that Matter. It made for a disturbing flight.
I have enjoyed Krauthammer’s writing over the years, but there was something in his book that I found deeply troubling: his description of himself as an “agnostic” on climate change. He “believes instinctively that it can’t be very good to pump lots of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere,” and yet he “is equally convinced that those who presume to know exactly where that leads are talking through their hats.”

The word that I found most galling was “agnostic” – not only because Krauthammer is a trained scientist, but also because the word was used repeatedly by former Australian Prime Minister John Howard when he addressed a group of climate-change deniers in London in late 2013. “Part of the problem with this debate,” Howard told the assembled skeptics, “is that to some of the zealots involved their cause has become a substitute religion.”
As Howard and Krauthammer should know, the subject of climate change is not a matter of religion, but of science. According to a 2013 survey of peer-reviewed publications on the subject, some 97% of scientists endorse the position that humans are causing global warming. Anyone familiar with the scientific process is aware that researchers are trained to disagree, to contest one another’s hypotheses and conclusions. A consensus of such magnitude is as close as we ever get to a recognized scientific fact.
Given that even Krauthammer concedes that pumping the atmosphere full of carbon dioxide “can’t be very good,” the next logical step in the debate is to determine the best way to address the problem. As an economist, I favor an auction-based cap-and-trade system to put a price on carbon.

But I also understand the potential usefulness of regulatory measures like targets for renewable energy, bans on incandescent light bulbs, and mandates for the use of biofuels. What I cannot accept is for somebody who offers no solutions to claim that those of us who do are “talking through our hats.”
Fortunately, voices like Krauthammer’s are becoming increasingly rare. To be sure, there are still holdouts, like Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who replaced a carbon tax with a plan to tax the country’s citizens in order to pay polluters to cut emissions. As a policy, this is inequitable, inefficient, and unlikely to lower emissions at a pace that is sufficient to meet the conditions of the global climate-change agreement expected to be reached in Paris in December.
A sure sign of a shift in mentality is the growing recognition by financial institutions that loans and investments may be overexposed to the risks of climate change. These risks include natural disasters, more extreme weather, efforts by governments to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and the knock-on effect of a technological revolution in renewables, energy efficiency, and alternative technologies.
According to the Asset Owners Disclosure Project, which I chair, the top 500 global asset owners are alarmingly exposed to the dangers of climate change. More than half of their investments are in industries exposed to the dangers of climate change; less than 2% are in low-carbon intensive industries.

Press link for more: John Hewson | business insider.com

Climate change means we can’t keep living (and working) in glass houses. #Auspol

How do we go about designing buildings today for tomorrow’s weather? As the world warms and extreme weather becomes more common, sustainable architecture is likely to mean one major casualty: glass.
For decades glass has been everywhere, even in so-called “modern” or “sustainable” architecture such as London’s Gherkin. However in energy terms glass is extremely inefficient – it does little but leak heat on cold winter nights and turn buildings into greenhouses on summer days.
For example, the U-value (a measure of how much heat is lost through a given thickness) of triple glazing is around 1.0. However a simple cavity brick wall with a little bit of insulation in it is 0.35 – that is, three times lower – whereas well-insulated wall will have a U-value of just 0.1. So each metre square of glass, even if it is triple glazed, loses ten times as much heat as a wall.
While the climate is changing, so too is the weather. Climate is expressed in terms of long-term averages, whereas the weather is an expression of short-term events – and the weather is predicted to change by much more than our climate. This creates challenges. A 0.5℃ increase in monthly temperature can made a difference to farmers, or the energy used by an air-conditioning system, but a peak temperature of 38℃ or a vicious cold snap can be far more serious. Buildings are designed to handle extremes, not just averages.
Architects and building engineers around the world are now having to struggle with this issue, especially since buildings last so long. At Bath we have recently been awarded a grant to look at long-term weather forecasting and how building design will have to change. After all, you can’t move buildings to a better climate.
One obvious possibility, for UK designers at least, is that they pick a place where the weather currently is similar to what the Met Office suggests the UK will have in 2100, and simply put up buildings like the ones they have there.
The problem is this ignores the low-carbon agenda. Many hot countries have spent the past 30 years designing buildings similar to those found in more temperate countries, while leaving enough space for monster air-conditioning systems. The air-conditioned skyscrapers in Las Vegas and Dubai, for instance, look just like buildings you might see in London or Boston, despite being built in the middle of a desert.

Press link for more: David Coley : the conversation.com

Don’t look now, but there’s an orgy in your garden

Grist

Which of the following doesn’t belong: nuclear destruction, pollution, severe changes to Earth’s topography, or rampant plant sex?

Trick question — they’re all products of human irresponsibility! In a recent study published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution, University of York biologist Chris Thomas proposes that the current epoch known as the Anthropocene — which scientists broadly define as the time when humans started massively fucking up the planet (my words, not theirs) — has actually brought about a kind of sexual revolution among plants. Flora fornication is so rampant, in fact, that according to Thomas, more new plant species have popped up in Europe over the past three centuries than have gone extinct.

“The human-assisted movement of plants, animals, and microbes around the world has increased hugely over recent centuries, breaking down geographic barriers between species that exhibit incomplete genetic barriers to reproduction and, hence, setting the scene for a massive increase in levels of hybridization,” Thomas writes.

Unfortunately, many of…

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Poll: Californians are more worried about climate change because drought

Grist

A new poll shows Californians are increasingly freaked out about climate change. The poll also showed that Californians think the state’s historic drought is related to climate change. Pollsters didn’t ask specifically if the drought is spurring climate change concerns, but the implication seems obvious.

As a Californian I can say the drought at least makes me feel, on a gut level, that something big is shifting. When I am not darting from shadow to shrinking shadow, or squeezing a few drops of moisture from a root I just dug up, I sometimes wonder about how shifts in the weather might shift public perception.

When pollsters from the Public Policy Institute of California asked: “How serious of a threat is global warming to the economy and quality of life for California’s future?” A lot of people said, “Very serious.” The number of people giving that answer has been trending upward…

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Terrifying map shows depths of hell that is western U.S.

Grist

Even if you live in the dampest corner of the United States, you may have noticed that wildfires are becoming both more numerous and intense (thanks, climate change!). An interactive map from Climate Central shows you just how many wildfires are currently burning in the continental U.S. and Alaska.

Zoom in to see whether your backyard is currently engulfed in flames:

Better grab your face mask, West Coast: You’re on fire. Don’t worry about Florida, however — that’s just what happens when you mix hairspray and Pall Malls.

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Portland activists force Shell to turn around

Grist

Score one for Portland in the great Pacific Northwest rivalry that no one in the rest of the world cares about.

Thirteen activists hanging from Portland’s St. Johns Bridge managed to block Shell’s icebreaking vessel the MSV Fennica from leaving the city early Thursday morning on its way to destroy the Arctic. Seattle staged a sHellNo protest of its own earlier this year against the drilling rig known as the Polar Pioneer, but while Seattle’s protest was largely a symbolic and family-friendly affair that didn’t actually stop the drilling rig from moving north, Portland’s protest seems to be getting some shit done. And we do mean shit. According to Greenpeace spokesperson Cassady Sharp, the baker’s dozen activists dangling from the St. Johns Bridge for the past 30 hours have been relieving themselves into adult diapers. Not feeling so tough now, are you Seattle?

Despite the discomfort, the activists seem in…

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Digging into the past to see the future of climate change. 

When did Australia’s climate become so dry? When did tropical reefs around Australia develop? And what will happen to Australia’s climate and reefs in the future?
The answer to these questions can be found by digging into the distant past. That means digging deep into the Earth’s crust, and you don’t always need to be on dry land to do that.
The US scientific ship JOIDES Resolution is capable of drilling deep under the ocean’s floor. It will depart Fremantle, in Western Australia, next month on a two month expedition to help shed light on some of the mysteries about Australia’s past. On board will be an international team of 30 scientists co-led by myself.

The JOIDES Resolution is named in honour of HMS Resolution that was commanded by Captain James Cook more than 200 years ago when he explored the Pacific Ocean. It is the flagship of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), the world’s largest Earth science program whose country members include Australia and New Zealand.
The plan is to travel from Fremantle to Darwin and drill a series of cores of up to a kilometre deep into the seabed. This will give us a five million year history of climate and environmental change off the west coast of Australia.
Ocean drilling is the best method to directly sample the layers beneath the sea bed and it tells us how the Earth has worked in the past, how it is working now and how it might work in the future.
The origin of Australia’s western tropical reefs
The history of Australia’s climate is linked to oceanic conditions off its coastline.
Tropical reefs such as the Houtman-Abrolhos reefs off western Australia are controlled by the warm southward flowing offshore Leeuwin Current. This current is related to the global circulation system of ocean currents that travels through the Indonesian archipelago, called the Indonesian Throughflow.

Global ocean circulation controls the Earth’s climate. It transports water heat from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean and then to the poles.
Previous research has shown that ocean circulation in the Indian Ocean slowed down or nearly stopped near the Indonesian archipelago many times in the past. Every time this happened, the global climate changed, leading to cooling of the Indian Ocean and drier climates.
Our expedition hopes to study fossils and sediments in the layers from below the seabed to chart the history of these ocean features over millions of years. We seek to understand how global ocean circulation has changed and its climatic consequences.
The aim is to establish when tropical conditions suitable for reef growth first occurred and whether these conditions have changed over millions of years.
Looking into the past history of these reefs and ocean currents will improve our understanding of how modern reefs and currents off west Australia might behave with future climate change.

Press link for more: Stephen Gallagher | the conversation.com