Even if the 146 nations that have pledged to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions keep their pledges, concentrations of carbon in the atmosphere will continue to rise. And climate change (global warming) isn’t our only serious environmental problem. To deal with these problems effectively, we need to reduce consumption. Why? In part, because our demand for […]
BARCELONA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Without the right policies to keep the poor safe from extreme weather and rising seas, climate change could drive over 100 million more people into poverty by 2030, the World Bank said on Sunday. Continue reading: World Bank warns climate change could add 100 million poor by 2030
A new report from the World Meteorological Organization is full of bad news.
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Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations hit yet another new record in 2014, “continuing a relentless rise which is fueling climate change and will make the planet more dangerous and inhospitable for future generations,” said the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in a report released today.
The WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin found a 36 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions in the last 25 years and a 43 percent increase from pre-industrial levels. The report also highlighted the “enhanced greenhouse effect” that more water vapor in the atmosphere is having. As the Earth’s surface temperature warms because of record CO2 concentrations, it’s creating a “vicious cycle” where “higher temperatures lead to more atmospheric water vapor,” explains the Guardian, “which in turn traps even more heat.”
Levels of two other major greenhouse gases, methane and nitrous oxide, rose “at the fastest rate for a decade,” reports Reuters. In 2014, methane levels reached 1,833 parts per billion (ppb) and nitrous oxide levels reached 327.1 ppb.
“We will soon be living with globally averaged CO2 levels above 400 parts per million as a permanent reality,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.
In the Northern hemisphere, CO2 concentrations reached 400 parts per million (ppm) in the spring of 2014 (when CO2 is most abundant), and the global average reached 397.7 ppm. Then, this past spring the global average “crossed the 400 ppm barrier,” reports the WMO. March marked the first time ever that global carbon levels surpassed 400 ppm for an entire month. To avoid catastrophic climate change, scientists have said global concentrations need to be below 350 ppm.
Greenhouse gas concentrations have hit a new record every year since reliable records began in 1984, according to Reuters. “Every year we report a new record in greenhouse gas concentrations,” Jarraud said. “Every year we say that time is running out. We have to act now to slash greenhouse gas emissions if we are to have a chance to keep the increase in temperatures to manageable levels.”
“Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and in the ocean for even longer,” he added. “Past, present and future emissions will have a cumulative impact on both global warming and ocean acidification. The laws of physics are non-negotiable.”
These findings mean “hotter global temperatures, more extreme weather events like heat waves and floods, melting ice, rising sea levels and increased acidity of the oceans,” said Jarraud. “This is happening now and we are moving into uncharted territory at a frightening speed.”
“Two degrees will be bad enough but it will be better than three degrees,” said Jarraud. “Of course it would have been better to have one degree … But one degree is not possible any longer. It’s just not feasible. Too late.”
The UK’s Met Office reported today that for the first time global mean temperature at the Earth’s surface is set to reach one degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
“This year marks an important first but that doesn’t necessarily mean every year from now on will be a degree or more above pre-industrial levels, as natural variability will still play a role in determining the temperature in any given year,” said Peter Stott, head of Climate Monitoring and Attribution at the Met Office. “As the world continues to warm in the coming decades, however, we will see more and more years passing the one degree marker—eventually it will become the norm.”
The Met Office reports two important findings: two thirds of the two degrees Celsius budget for CO2 emissions have already been used and we’ve already seen one-third of the sea level rise that could be seen by 2100 in a two degrees Celsius world.
The Met Office says:
We know cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide will be key to determining the amount of eventual global warming we’ll see. It is estimated that up to 2,900 gigatonnes of CO2 (GtCO2) can be emitted to have a likely (more than 66 percent) chance of limiting warming to below two degrees Celsius.
As of 2014, about 2,000 GtCO2 had already been emitted, meaning society has used about two thirds of the two degrees Celsius budget. This gives an indication that we are already committed to some level of further warming.
Currently, we have seen about 20 centimeters of global mean sea level rise since pre-industrial times and this is about one third of the level that could be seen by 2100 in a two degrees Celsius world.
Sea levels would continue to rise further into the next century, however, and potentially beyond.
The agency says that it’s still possible to limit warming to two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. “However, the later that global CO2 emissions peak—the faster subsequent emissions cuts would need to be in order to keep global temperature rise below the limit,” says the Met Office.
And while these numbers seem esoteric, there is concrete evidence that this rapid rise in greenhouse gas concentrations, which has in turn driven a rapid rise in surface temperatures, is taking its toll on the planet’s inhabitants. The World Bank warned yesterday that “rapid, climate-informed development” are needed to keep climate change from “pushing more than 100 million people into poverty by 2030.”
These findings come just as climate experts predict this year will surpass 2014 as the hottest year on record and just three weeks before global leaders are set to meet at COP21, the Paris climate talks. More than 150 countries have created plans to limit emissions, but “the plans revealed so far will not curb emissions enough to meet a target agreed in 2010 to limit global warming to within 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) of pre-industrial levels,” says Reuters.
Find out how climate change could push more than 100 million people into poverty in just 15 years:
Press link for more: Cole Mellino | ecowatch.com
Prof John Schellnhuber says that if countries implement their pledges made for Paris climate summit it will give huge boost to wind, tidal and solar power.
Catastrophic global warming can be avoided with a deal at a crunch UN climate change summit in Paris this December because “ultimately nothing can compete with renewables”, according to one of the world’s most influential climate scientists.
Most countries have already made voluntary pledges to roll out clean energy and cut carbon emissions, and Prof John Schellnhuber said the best hope of making nations keep their promises was moral pressure.
Schellnhuber is a key member of the German delegation attending the Paris summit and has advised Angela Merkel and Pope Francis on climate change.
He said there was reason for optimism about the Paris talks, where at least 80 heads of state are expected. “That is a very telling thing – a sign of hope – because people at the top level do not want to be tainted by failure,” he said.
If a critical mass of big countries implement their pledges, he said in an interview with the Guardian, the move towards a global low-carbon economy would gain unstoppable momentum.
“If some countries really honour their pledges, including China, Brazil, South Africa, US and Europe, I think we will get a dynamic that will transform the development of the century. This is not sheer optimism – it is based on analysis of how incumbent systems implode.”
In July, Schellnhuber told a science conference in Paris that the world needed “an induced implosion of the carbon economy over the next 20-30 years. Otherwise we have no chance of avoiding dangerous, perhaps disastrous, climate change.”
The avalanche will start because ultimately nothing can compete with renewables,” he told the Guardian. “If you invest at [large] scale, inevitably we will end up with much cheaper, much more reliable, much safer technologies in the energy system: wind, solar, biomass, tidal, hydropower. It is really a no-brainer, if you take away all the ideological debris and lobbying.”
India, for example, aims to deliver 350GW of renewable energy in the next 10 years, the equivalent to 300 nuclear power stations, he said. “That is mind boggling and would be the final nail in the coffin of coal-fired power stations,” Schellnhuber said. “If India delivers on that pledge, it will be a tipping point for that country.”
He said the approach taken for the Paris talks, asking each nation to put forward a pledge, had resulted in half the emissions cuts needed to avoid more than 2C in warming, the level widely considered as dangerous. “These are pledges only, but nevertheless this bottom-up approach is driving change, and that is amazing as it is the weakest approach,” Schellnhuber said.
The key, he said, was that these pledges are honoured and future reviews deliver the rest of the cuts needed. But he warned there will be no international force to check and enforce carbon cuts, as nations would not allow such a challenge to their sovereignty.
“The verification will not be delivered by an international scheme,” he said. “You will not send in emissions inspectors like people wanted to send to Iran [for nuclear technology inspections].” Instead, he said: “It is prestige, it is image, it is a moral issue, it is how you appear to the world. If the Chinese, for example, make a pledge, they want to keep it. They do not want to lose face.”
Public pressure is “really holding the key to this”, said Schellnhuber, who has attended most of the 20 previous UN climate summits. “The last, best hope we have is moral argument.” He said that Germany’s aim to cut carbon emissions by 40% by 2020 was a tall order, because dealing with its lignite coal-fired power stations will be “very expensive and difficult”. But he said: “Merkel will do everything to achieve this or it will be seen as a national failure.”
The biggest danger for the Paris summit, he said, was the $100bn a year from 2020 promised by rich nations help poorer countries cope with climate change, which has yet to be delivered. He said the sum was “peanuts” in the context of global investment flows, but that a failure to deliver would “make countries in the global south very angry”.
“We can afford $100bn across the world, but it seems the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries are still very reluctant,” Schellnhuber said. “It will divert attention from the serious work – making sure the pledges are honoured.”
Press link for more: Damian Carrington | theguardian.com
After 40 years of fronting ABC Radio National’s Science Show, Robyn Williams says climate science deniers have said nothing different ‘for bloody years’
To say that Robyn Williams is a bit of a legend of science broadcasting on the radio is a bit like saying David Attenborough is a dab hand at nature documentaries on the telly.
The “legend” epithet just feels a bit superfluous but is, in any case, annoyingly necessary to introduce a broadcaster to those not familiar.
Williams has presented more than 2000 episodes of The Science Show on ABC Radio National since it was first broadcast in August 1975.
Perhaps the only thing as synonymous with The Science Show as Williams is the microphone he uses – a curious but faithful lump of black plastic that he has used since first joining the ABC in 1972 (I got to talk down it myself once).
Last week Williams was in Brisbane for a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the show put on by the University of Queensland.
Williams, 71, was in conversation with ABC personality John Doyle to an invited audience of a couple of hundred. I was there too. Williams looks well after undergoing treatment for cancer earlier this year.
Joining Williams onstage was outgoing chief scientist Ian Chubb. On a big screen, there were video dedications from the likes of actress Cate Blanchett, theoretical physicist Professor Paul Davies, Nature editor-in-chief Philip Campbell and former UK chief science advisor Lord May.
Oh, and David Attenborough.
But Williams reserved one section of the event to talk about what he called “the war on science” and, in particular, the war on climate science.
So a few days later I spoke to Williams about the event and, in particular, that war on science he’d told people about.
Something happened around 2006 or seven which meant that the usual politeness where you argue over ideas became, instead, a kind of assault – a propaganda assault – which most of us were not expecting.
We had not seen anything quite like that before, except when, as Naomi Oreskes has written, cigarette companies were defending their pitch.
Then it becomes obvious that you have a number of interested parties hiring experts in publicity and penetration and propaganda even to get a message across to sow doubt about science.
Not simply one aspect – like tobacco – but many aspects, as if science was a matter of opinion.
I called it the war on science because before me Sir Paul Nurse from the Royal Society had done so in his documentary for the BBC and in March the National Geographic magazine had done so on its cover story as well.
As I’ve written many times here and elsewhere, much of the doubt about the science linking human emissions of greenhouse gases to dangerous climate change is manufactured.
Vested interests, either ideological or economical, have worked hard to convince the public that sufficient doubt exists about the causes or the impacts of climate change to warrant doing little or nothing about it.
Investigations published earlier this year by Inside Climate News and later the LA Times into one of those vested interests, oil giant Exxon, found that the company’s own scientists were warning about the consequences of their company’s CO2 emissions as early as the 1970s.
Exxon, later to become ExxonMobil, has long been criticised for its funding of groups who push climate science denial.
Now ExxonMobil along with coal giant Peabody Energy are under investigation by the New York attorney general for allegedly misleading the public and shareholders over the risks of climate change.
Campaigns like this are why surveys such as the recent CSIRO report of Australian views on climate change find that less than half the population thinks humans cause climate change.
A study earlier this year suggested that there were more climate science “sceptics” in Australia than any other advanced economy, including the US. That’s quite a feat.
Williams has interviewed probably thousands of scientists over the years. Do they ever confide in him about the attacks they have faced?
Very much so … and it’s not necessarily on the quiet. I did a piece in the United States with a fellow Michael Halperin from the Union of Concerned Scientists and he was talking about the virtual harassment of institutions, of universities and broadcasters exploiting the law so that you can bring them to a kind of, paralysed stop.
That is carefully organised and systematic and it is most unfortunate and many scientists have told me that. Not least of course organisations to do with climate change science itself.
Now, you don’t have to turn your radio dial all that far in Australia to find several high-profile broadcasters (looking at you Alan Jones et al) who will openly accuse climate scientists of fraud and claim the entire field of climate science is a hoax.
You can even get views like that getting a free and unchallenged ride on Radio National now and then, such as the interview back in May where host Tom Switzer gave climate science denialist Lord Nigel Lawson half an hour to dismiss climate science and attempts to cut emissions.
when he hears denialists doing their thing? I’ll leave you with his thoughts.
How do I feel about some person like that doing the usual encyclical? It’s what put me off broadcasting them as I used to.
Now all of the people who are deniers have been on the programs that my colleagues and I put out. We did so because most of us frankly like and enjoy contrarian views. We like a variety of opinion.
But then you find – as I did – that the people you are inviting in to give their contrarian views are always saying the same bloody thing. You can actually mouth the paragraphs. Here it comes again … just as if they were politicians rather than people considering science.
The people I put on the radio [now] have just written papers, they have published considered books. In other words, you are doing what you hope is serving the public by getting fresh ideas out to them to consider. But the people you are describing – those deniers – I have not noted saying anything new in bloody years.
Here it comes again. Favourite phrases are … CO2 is a colourless harmless gas … it’s good for growing plants … and on and on it goes. It’s shameless.
If on the other hand we had really solid science that made you think twice about the standard climate concerns then on [to the radio] it goes, as it does.
But it just so happens that a lot of the science, like evolutionary theory, coheres from a zillion points of view because it’s good science that’s describing what is really there. So you will not get stuff that’s off with the pixies or where green turns into red.
When I see them going on again I think, how can people take it seriously?
Press link for more: Graham ReadFearn | theguardian.com
Large parts of New York, Shanghai, Mumbai and other cities will slip under the waves even if an upcoming climate summit limits global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, scientists say.
A 2C spike in Earth’s temperature would submerge land currently occupied by 280 million people, according to a study published by US-based research group Climate Central.
An increase of 4C — humanity’s current trajectory — would cover areas lived on by more than 600 million people, the study said.
The study’s lead author, Ben Strauss, said the 2C temperature rise will pose a “long-term, existential danger to many great coastal cities and regions”.
Sea level rises corresponding to these 2C or 4C scenarios could unfold in two hundred years, but would more likely happen over many centuries, perhaps as long as 2,000 years, the study said.
Capping the rise in Earth’s temperatures to 2C above pre-industrial levels is the core goal of the 195-nation UN climate summit in Paris from November 30 to December 11.
The most effective way to slow global warming is to slash the output of the greenhouse gases which drive it.
But even if emissions reduction pledges submitted by 150 nations ahead of the Paris summit are fulfilled, it would still put us on a pathway for a 3C world, the United Nations has warned.
Achieving the two-degree goal remains a serious challenge.
Mr Strauss and colleagues apply on a global scale the same methodology they used for a recent study that focused on temperature-linked sea level rise in the United States, published in the US Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
That study concluded that both Miami and New Orleans are doomed to crippling impacts.
Chinese cities among most vulnerable
In the new report, the country hit hardest by sea level rise under a 4C scenario is China.
Some 145 million people live in Chinese cities and coastal areas that would eventually become ocean were temperatures to climb that high.
Four of the 10 most devastated megacities would be Chinese: land occupied today by 44 million people in Shanghai, Tianjin, Hong Kong and Taizhou would be underwater.
India, Vietnam and Bangladesh do not fare much better. Asia is home to 75 per cent of the populations that today reside in zones that would no longer be classified as land in a climate-altered future.
Thirty-four million people in Japan, 25 million the United States, 20 million in the Philippines, 19 million Egypt and 16 million in Brazil are also in future 4C seascapes.
While the 2C scenario is also grim, limiting warming to that extent would spare China and other nations much misery, Mr Strauss said.
“There is a world of difference between 2C and 4C, which threatens more than double the damage,” he said.
The sea level rise corresponding to 2C would eventually be 4.7 metres, and for 4C almost double that, the study found.
The projections are based on climate models taking into account the expansion of ocean water as it warms, the melting of glaciers, and the decay of both the Greenland and West Antarctic icesheets.
Press link for more: abc.net.au