Climate Council

All Nations Agree to Restore Ocean Health #StopAdani 

All Nations Agree to Restore Ocean Health
By Suzanne Maxx
NEW YORK, New York, June 12, 2017 (ENS) – The 193 Member States of the United Nations agreed by consensus to a 14 point Call for Action that will begin the reversal of the decline of the ocean’s health at the conclusion of the first-ever United Nations Oceans Conference. The week-long conference, which closed Friday, addressed key topics for our common future with the oceans.
The Call for Action states, “We are particularly alarmed by the adverse impacts of climate change on the ocean, including the rise in ocean temperatures, ocean and coastal acidification, deoxygenation, sea-level rise, the decrease in polar ice coverage, coastal erosion and extreme weather events. 

We acknowledge the need to address the adverse impacts that impair the crucial ability of the ocean to act as climate regulator, source of marine biodiversity, and as key provider of food and nutrition, tourism and ecosystem services, and as an engine for sustainable economic development and growth. 

We recognise, in this regard, the particular importance of the Paris Agreement adopted under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.”
UN


The first-ever UN Oceans Conference in session, June 5, 2017 (Photo © Suzanne Maxx)

The oceans generate employment for over 200 million people, and are the primary source of protein for three billion people. 

The Earth is mostly water, and 97 percent of our planet’s water is in the oceans, which cover the majority of the planet’s surface.
At the opening of the conference President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson of Fiji who co-organized this conference with support from Sweden, began with the unifying words, “We the people of the world…”
“In small island states like Fiji, trash will outweigh fish by 2050,” he told the 6,000 conference participants from governments, small island nations, civil societies, nongovernmental organizations, corporations and scientists.
Fijians set the stage using the native ceremonial kava ritual, and from opening to the closing the barriers that usually divide those in suits from bare chested or Hawaiian shirt-clad participants were broken down.
The barriers between those living island life with the primal intimacy of the ocean and nature, and those living in the concrete sea of urban areas seemed to melt away in a common concern for the health of the oceans.
fish on reef


Schooling fairy basslets on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest reef, now threatened by climate-induced coral bleaching and industrial development. 2007 (Photo by GreensMPs)

The Ocean Conference unpacked the Sustainable Development Goal (SGD) #14, to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine life.”
Goal 14’s targets were explored through concept papers and side events on: marine pollution, coastal ecosystems, ocean acidification, biodiversity, overfishing, marine preserves, illegal, fishing industry subsidies and the World Trade Organization, small scale artisanal fishing and economic benefits to Small Island Developing States, ocean energy, shipping, the Law of Area Boundaries of National Jurisdiction, and the Law of the Sea.
All of these topics play into the equation of ocean stewardship.
Thomson commented, “Human induced problems need human induced solutions.”
Many solutions were presented in a myriad of side events. Solutions ranged from innovative ways to clean up ocean plastics on a large scale, to re-planting coral at reef scale, to tracking whale migration using drones to better understand their needs.
A solutions panel was held every day during the conference in the media zone.
Runit Dome


Aerial view of the Runit Dome located in the crater created by the Cactus nuclear weapons test in 1958. Runit Island, Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands (Photo by U.S. Defense Special Weapons Agency)

One of the most challenging issues, the cutting of fishing subsidies, was left in the hands of the World Trade Organization.
The conference bustled with news of problems, like the Runit Dome in the Marshall Islands that is leaking radioactive nuclear waste into the South Pacific waters, a result of nuclear testing by the United States.
There were many solutions proposed such as the Seychelles no plastic law banning the use of plastic bags, bottles, plates and cutlery, and solutions from island regions who shared their approach to creating and policing Marine Protected Areas.
The Outcome document, and 1,328 Voluntary pledges registered as the conference closed create an arena for the words to take shape in actions.
The hashtag #SavetheOceans allowed the Oceans Conference to have a presence on social media.
Attention to the humanity’s role in the oceans crisis to become aware of the problems and learn about solutions was achieved. Instagram alone showed more than 56,000 ocean posts, a tide that changes the landscape of traditional media. The commitment to the SDG14 is open on-line, and all are encouraged to participate.
“Governments can’t do it alone” was stated throughout the conference by various prime ministers. This “Multi-stakeholder Partnerships” approach to allow governments to team up is a formula devised to make the UN’s efforts more effective.
It was noted in the Plenary that just half of the global military expenditure of governments would be enough to achieve all the Sustainable Development Goals.
Ocean icons like Dr. Sylvia Earle shared a panel with Trammell Crow. They offered their insights into the degradation of the oceans over the years.
Fabien Cousteau described the state of the oceans in which 90 percent of large fish species have disappeared due to overexploitation, 50 percent of corals have died where there is ever increasing acidification.
Necker Island based Sir Richard Branson explained, “While this gathering of the new [solutions] might be a tiny blip in the history of our planet, our task is to make it the world oceans day where we change our destiny.”
Thomson Maxx


UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson with ENS reporter Suzanne Maxx, June 9, 2017 (Photo by Tomas Pico / UN)

In an interview with ENS about the financial mechanisms needed to turn proposals into solutions, such as the Green Climate Fund, green bonds or carbon offsets, Thomson expressed optimism.
“It looks good,” he said. “I was in a meeting this morning with the four largest financial houses in the world actually, “The Economist” brought us together, and we were discussing that green bonds that were nonexistent not so long ago – zero. 

In 2013 there was 11 billion worth of green bonds issued. 

The bond market now is around 20 billion in bonds. The estimate for the bonds this years is 130 billion.”
He explained this exponential growth, saying, “It had to do with humanity carrying on the way they are going, ignoring sustainability, and that has changed.” 

Ocean-related bonds are on the horizon, he said. “If that is good for green bonds, then it has to be good for blue bonds.”
Brought up with no electricity until the age of 26, Thomson said, “If you are off grid, you’ve got so many renewable energy resources. In fact, if you’re off-grid it is preferable to go with all the renewable energy options, especially with the ocean.”
“There is a huge amount of off-the-grid action for rural islands, and the ocean will provide energy as well. In Fiji, we don’t have the technology or financial resources for that, but we are interested in partnerships [to generate energy] with tidal, wave action, and the gradient of ocean temperature differences.”
“I am confident that with the broad support from member states and other stakeholders with concrete actions we can save our oceans,” Thomson said.
Thomson explained, “That is basically our work plan going forward, not just us, but everybody. The next step is for the General Assembly to endorse, at its 71st session, the call for action as adopted by the Conference.”

Press link for more: ens-newswire.com

They may change policy but climate change is still climate science. 

As you know, today the White House announced that the United States would begin the process of leaving the Paris Agreement. 

Removing the United States from the Paris Agreement is a reckless and indefensible action.

 It undermines America’s standing in the world and threatens to damage humanity’s ability to solve the climate crisis in time.  
But disappointment is not despair.
Make no mistake: if President Trump won’t lead, the American people will.
Civic leaders, mayors, governors, CEOs, investors and the majority of the business community will take up this challenge. We are in the middle of a clean energy revolution that no single person or group can stop. 

President Trump’s decision is profoundly in conflict with what the majority of Americans want from our president; but no matter what he does, we will ensure that our inevitable transition to a clean energy economy continues.  


As proof, just look at how communities like Salt Lake City, Utah and Boulder, Colorado are committing to switch to 100 percent renewable electricity. Just last month, California set a new record for clean energy use in the state, and over the past several weeks and months, major corporations and businesses from around the world reaffirmed their commitment to clean energy, the Paris Agreement, and US leadership on climate. The momentum of clean energy and climate action only continues to build, and ignoring that reality is shortsighted and wrong.
Now it’s up to us to pick up where the White House is leaving off. It’s up to us to keep this progress going full steam ahead. If you’re in the US, commit to pushing your local council or mayor to embrace renewable electricity in your community. If you’re outside the US, commit to pressuring your leaders to fulfill your country’s Paris Agreement pledge and keep the process moving.  
My friends, it’s time to fight like our world depends on it. Because it does. And because together we will win.
Sincerely,
Al Gore

Founder and Chairman

The Climate Reality Project

Most Australians agree #ClimateChange is a “Catastrophic Risk” #StopAdani

Three-quarters of Australians say climate warming “a catastrophic risk”, even as government turns a blind eye
 by David Spratt
Published at RenewEconomy on 29 May 2017 

Three in four Australians understand that climate warming poses a “catastrophic risk,” even as the Australian government turns a blind eye. 

That was the clear result from a new survey for the Global Challenges Forum (GCF), and the publication of its 2017 Global Catastrophic Risk report.
84% of 8000 people surveyed in eight countries for the GCF consider climate change a “global catastrophic risk”. The figure for the Australian sample was 75%.


Question were asked about a number of risks, including nuclear war, pandemics, biological weapons, climate change and environmental collapse.

 The climate question asked how much participants agreed or disagreed that “climate change, resulting in environmental damage, such as rising sea levels or melting of icecaps” could be considered as “a global catastrophic risk”? A global catastrophic risk was described as “a future event that has the potential to affect 10% of the global population”.


For Australia, the results were: 39% “strongly agree” and 36% “tend to agree” (for total agree of 75%); with “tend to disagree” at 15%, “strongly disagree” at 6% and 4% “don’t know”.
The 2017 Global Catastrophic Risk report summarises the the evidence for catastrophic climate change risk as:

Discussions of climate change usually focus on limiting temperature rises to 1-3˚C above pre-industrial levels.

 A rise of 3ºC would have major impacts, with most of Bangladesh and Florida under water, major coastal cities – Shanghai, Lagos, Mumbai – swamped, and potentially large flows of climate refugees. 

While the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change sought to keep global temperature rises below a threshold of 1.5–2ºC, national pledges have fallen short and set the world on a 3.6°C temperature rise track. 

There is also now scientific consensus that, when warming rises above a certain level, self-reinforcing feedback loops are likely to set in, triggered by the pushing of the Earth’s systems – ocean circulation, permafrost, ice sheets, rainforests and atmospheric circulation – across certain tipping points. 

The latest science shows that tipping points with potential to cause catastrophic climate change could be triggered at 2ºC global warming. 

These include the risk of losing all coral reef systems on Earth and irreversible melting of inland glaciers, Arctic sea ice and potentially the Greenland ice sheet. 


As well as the immediate risk to human societies, the fear is that crossing these tipping points would have major impacts on the pace of global warming itself. 

Although climate change action has now become part of mainstream economic and social strategies, too little emphasis is put on the risk of catastrophic climate change. 

The same survey found 81% of the 1000 Australian participants in the poll agreed with the proposition: “Do you think we should try to prevent climate catastrophes, which might not occur for several decades or centuries, even if it requires making considerable changes that impact on our current living standards?” The figure across the 8000 people polled in eight countries (Australia, China, India, Brazil, South Africa, UK, Germany and USA) was 88%.
This shows a stronger level of support than several other polls for action that may impact on future living standards and have a personal material cost. 

This strong expression may, in part, be due to the framing of climate as a potentially catastrophic risk.
The GCF report found that many people now see climate change as a bigger threat than other issues such as epidemics, population growth, use of weapons of mass destruction and the rise of artificial intelligence threats. GCF vice-president Mats Andersson says “there’s certainly a huge gap between what people expect from politicians and what politicians are doing”. 
The report says that for the first time in human history:

We have reached a level of scientific knowledge that allows us to develop an enlightened relationship to risks of catastrophic magnitude. Not only can we foresee many of the challenges ahead, but we are in a position to identify what needs to be done in order to mitigate or even eliminate some of those risks. Our enlightened status, however, also requires that we consider our own role in creating those risks, and collectively commit to reducing them.

However, “the institutions we rely on to ensure peace, security, development and environmental integrity are woefully inadequate for the scale of the challenges at hand”.
The dissonance between what Australian’s understand and what government is doing is remarkable.

 Australia is failing in its responsibility to safeguard its people and protect their way of life. 

It is also failing as a world citizen, by downplaying the profound global impacts of climate change and shirking its responsibility to act.


Australia’s per capita greenhouse emissions are in the highest rank in the world, and its commitment to reduce emissions are rated as inadequate by Climate Action Tracker, which says that “Australia’s current policies will fall well short of meeting” its Paris Agreement target, that the Emissions Reduction Fund “does not set Australia on a path that would meet its targets” and “without accelerating climate action and additional policies, Australia will miss its 2030 target by a large margin”.
Australia’s biggest corporations are no better. 

The S&P/ASX All Australian 50 has the “highest embedded carbon” of any group in the S&P Global 1200, according to the S&P Dow Jones Carbon Scorecard report, which assesses global companies’ carbon footprint, fossil fuel reserve emissions, coal revenue exposure, energy transition and green-brown revenue strain. At the 2017 Santos annual general meeting, chairman Peter Coates asserted that it is “sensible” and “consistent with good value” to assume for planning purposes a 4°C-warmer world.
Former senior fossil fuel industry executive Ian Dunlop has recently noted that the most dangerous aspect of fossil-fuel investments made today is that their impacts do not manifest themselves for decades to come. If we wait for catastrophe to happen — as we are doing — it will be too late to act. 

Time is the most important commodity; to avoid catastrophic outcomes requires emergency action to force the pace of change. In these circumstances, opening up a major new coal province is nothing less than a crime against humanity.

Press link for more: 

Climate Code Red

Why hasn’t the world become more sustainable? #StopAdani #Auspol 

In 1992, more than 170 countries came together at the Rio Earth Summit and agreed to pursue sustainable development, protect biological diversity, prevent dangerous interference with climate systems, and conserve forests.

 But, 25 years later, the natural systems on which humanity relies continue to be degraded.

So why hasn’t the world become much more environmentally sustainable despite decades of international agreements, national policies, state laws and local plans? 

This is the question that a team of researchers and I have tried to answer in a recent article.
We reviewed 94 studies of how sustainability policies had failed across every continent.

 These included case studies from both developed and developing countries, and ranged in scope from international to local initiatives.


Consider the following key environmental indicators. Since 1970:
Humanity’s ecological footprint has exceeded the Earth’s capacity and has risen to the point where 1.6 planets would be needed to provide resources sustainably.
The biodiversity index has fallen by more than 50% as the populations of other species continue to decline.
Greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change have almost doubled while the impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent.
The world has lost more than 48% of tropical and sub-tropical forests.
The rate at which these indicators deteriorated was largely unchanged over the two decades either side of the Rio summit. Furthermore, humanity is fast approaching several environmental tipping points. If crossed, these could lead to irreversible changes.
If we allow average global temperatures to rise 2℃ above pre-industrial levels, for example, feedback mechanisms will kick in that lead to runaway climate change. 

We’re already halfway to this limit and could pass it in the next few decades.

What’s going wrong?
So what’s going wrong with sustainability initiatives? 

We found that three types of failure kept recurring: economic, political and communication.
The economic failures stem from the basic problem that environmentally damaging activities are financially rewarded.

 A forest is usually worth more money after it’s cut down – which is a particular problem for countries transitioning to a market-based economy.
Political failures happen when governments can’t or won’t implement effective policies. 

This is often because large extractive industries, like mining, are dominant players in an economy and see themselves as having the most to lose. 

This occurs in developed and developing countries, but the latter can face extra difficulties enforcing policies once they’re put in place.


Communication failures centre on poor consultation or community involvement in the policy process. Opposition then flourishes, sometimes based on a misunderstanding of the severity of the issue. It can also be fed by mistrust when communities see their concerns being overlooked.
Again, this happens around the world. A good example would be community resistance to changing water allocation systems in rural areas of Australia. 

In this situation, farmers were so opposed to the government buying back some of their water permits that copies of the policy were burned in the street.
These types of failure are mutually reinforcing. 

Poor communication of the benefits of sustainable development creates the belief that it always costs jobs and money. 

Businesses and communities then pressure politicians to avoid or water down environmentally friendly legislation.
Ultimately, this represents a failure to convince people that sustainable development can supply “win-win” scenarios. As a result, decision-makers are stuck in the jobs-versus-environment mindset.
What can we do?
The point of our paper was to discover why policies that promote sustainability have failed in order to improve future efforts. 

The challenge is immense and there’s a great deal at stake.

 Based on my previous research into the way economic, social and environmental goals can co-exist, I would go beyond our most recent paper to make the following proposals.
First, governments need to provide financial incentives to switch to eco-efficient production. 

Politicians need to have the courage to go well beyond current standards.

 Well-targeted interventions can create both carrot and stick, rewarding eco-friendly behaviour and imposing a cost on unsustainable activities.
Second, governments need to provide a viable transition pathway for industries that are doing the most damage.

 New environmental tax breaks and grants, for example, could allow businesses to remain profitable while changing their business model.


Finally, leaders from all sectors need to be convinced of both the seriousness of the declining state of the environment and that sustainable development is possible. 

Promoting positive case studies of successful green businesses would be a start.
There will of course be resistance to these changes. 

The policy battles will be hard fought, particularly in the current international political climate.

 We live in a world where the US president is rolling back climate policies while the Australian prime minister attacks renewable energy.

Press link for more: WEFORUM

2C Warming is Bad for Australia #Auspol #StopAdani 

Australia is a land of extremes. 

We’ve experienced all manner of climate extremes over the past few years, from heatwaves (both on land and over the Great Barrier Reef), to droughts and flooding rains.
We can already link some of these recent extreme events to climate change.

 But for others, the link is less clear.

So far we have had about 1℃ of global warming above the average pre-industrial climate.

 So how will extreme weather events change with more warming in the future? 

Will they become more frequent?

 Will they become more severe?
We have investigated these questions in our new research, published today in Nature Climate Change.
Climate targets
The Paris Agreement, brokered in 2015, committed the world’s governments to:
Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2℃ above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.

It is vital that we understand how climate extremes in Australia might change if we limit global warming to either 1.5℃ or 2℃, and what the implications might be of pursuing the more lenient target rather than the more ambitious one.
In our study we used state-of-the-art climate model simulations to examine the changing likelihood of different climate extremes under four different scenarios: a natural world without any human-caused climate change; the world of today; a 1.5℃ warmer world; and a 2℃ warmer one.
Heat extremes are here to stay


First, we looked at hot Australian summers, like the record-breaking “angry summer” of 2012-13.
We already knew that human influences on the climate had increased the likelihood of hot summers.

 Our results show that this trend would continue with future warming.

 In fact, in a world of 2℃ global warming, even an average summer would outstrip those historically hot ones like 2012-13.
Australian summer temperatures are strongly related to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, with hot summers more likely to occur during El Niño events, and cooler ones during La Niña episodes.
In the past, a summer as hot as 2012-13 would have been very unlikely during a La Niña. But our modelling predicts that with either 1.5℃ or 2℃ of global warming, we could expect similarly angry summers to occur during both El Niño and La Niña periods.
We already know that the sea surface temperatures associated with mass bleaching of much of the Great Barrier Reef in early 2016 would have been virtually impossible without climate change. If the world continues to warm to either the 1.5℃ or 2℃ levels, very warm seas like we saw early last year would become the norm.

High sea temperatures linked to coral bleaching in Great Barrier Reef will become more likely in a warmer world. Author provided

In fact, our research suggests that with 2℃ of global warming, the future average sea temperatures around the Great Barrier Reef would be even hotter than the extremes observed around the time of the 2016 bleaching.

Less change for heavy rains and droughts
In December 2010 Queensland was devastated by severe flooding following very heavy rainfall.

 Our analysis suggests that this kind of event is highly unusual, and may well continue to be so. There isn’t a clear signal for an increase or decrease in those events with ongoing climate warming.
Natural climate variability seems to play a greater role than human-driven climate change (at least below the 2℃ threshold) when it comes to influencing Australian heavy rainfall events.
The Millennium Drought across southeast Australia led to water shortages and crop failures. Drought is primarily driven by a lack of rainfall, but warmer temperatures can exacerbate drought impacts by increasing evaporation.
Our results showed that climate change is increasing the likelihood of hot and dry years like we saw in 2006 across southeast Australia. At 1.5℃ and 2℃ of global warming these events would probably be more frequent than they are in today’s world.

Heat extremes are much more common at 2℃ than 1.5℃ Author provided

Not a lost cause
It is clear that Australia is going to suffer from more frequent and more intense climate extremes as the world warms towards (and very likely beyond) the levels described in the Paris Agreement.
If we miss these targets, the warming will continue and the extremes we experience in Australia are going to be even worse.
With either 1.5℃ or 2℃ global warming, we will see more extremely hot summers across Australia, more frequent marine heatwaves of the kind that can cause bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, and probably more frequent drought conditions too.
The more warming we experience, the worse the impacts will be. 

The solution is clear. 

To limit global warming, the world’s nations need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions – fast.

Press link for more: The Conversation

Humans are changing the climate #auspol 

Detailed look at the global warming ‘hiatus’ again confirms that humans are changing the climateGlobal warming ‘hiatus’ explained

A new analysis in the journal Nature shows that the global warming “hiatus” may not have been quite what it seemed.

By Amina Khan

 Contact Reporter Environmental Science Climate Change Scientific Research

For years, the global warming ‘hiatus’ from 1998 to 2012 puzzled scientists and fueled skeptics looking to cast doubt on the very idea that Earth’s temperature has been on the rise, largely because of human-produced greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide — and that significant policy changes would need to be made to keep that rise in check.
Recent papers have begun to chip away at the idea of the slowdown. 

Now, a new analysis in the journal Nature brings together many of those arguments to show that the hiatus may not have been quite what it seemed.
“A combination of changes in forcing, uptake of heat by the oceans, natural variability and incomplete observational coverage reconciles models and data,” the researchers from the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Switzerland wrote. “Combined with stronger recent warming trends in newer datasets, we are now more confident than ever that human influence is dominant in long-term warming.”


Below, we sort through a few of the issues with the hiatus — and the lessons scientists learned from it.
What was the hiatus, anyway?
That’s a good question. 

Part of the problem is that there doesn’t seem to be an agreed-upon definition. 

The hiatus has been defined in three main ways in the scientific literature:
A period in which there is no significant positive trend in global mean surface temperatures (when it’s essentially flat)

A shorter-term slowdown in rising temperatures compared to the preceding long-term warming trend

The rate of increase in temperatures is lower than scientific models predicted

So whether you call it the ‘hiatus’ or the ‘pause,’ both are arguably misnomers, depending on which meaning is used. 

After all, in the latter two definitions, temperatures are generally still rising — just not as much as expected. 

And depending on which definition you use, different models will be more accurate than others.
“All three of those are very different arguments …. so it often makes it fairly confusing to talk about this hiatus discussion,” said Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at Berkeley Earth and PhD student at UC Berkeley who was not involved in the paper.
“The only sort of ‘true’ definition of a hiatus would be if global warming actually stopped,” he added, “and there’s no evidence in any operational datasets today that that happened.”
Regardless of the definition, to whatever the extent the global warming slowdown existed, it’s definitely over now. 


Independent analyses by NASA and NOAA show that 2016 was the hottest year on record, marking the third year of record-breaking heat in a row. 

The causes remain linked to human produced greenhouse gas emissions.


So the hiatus is over? 

Then why do scientists care?
Scientists had to care because everyone else seemed to. 

The hiatus, which is marked from 1998 to 2012, was generally treated by climate scientists as a reflection of short-term variations that didn’t affect long-term trends.
“In leaked drafts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group I (WG1) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), the global warming hiatus was considered to be consistent with natural variability, and hence not in need of a detailed explanation,” the study authors wrote. “At the time of the first draft, there was almost no literature on the hiatus to be assessed anyway. Scientists knew from observations and models that global temperatures fluctuate on timescales of years to decades.”
But the deviation from expectations was seized upon by the media as well as global warming skeptics, the study authors noted, turning it into a political football around the time that major policy decisions about how to deal with climate change were under discussion.
“The interest of the media and public grew, and groups with particular interests used the case to question the trust in both climate science and the use of climate models,” the authors wrote.
(The Times has reported on fossil fuel companies’ support of climate skepticism.)
Those short-term trends may be considered relatively minor fluctuations — but they matter on human timescales, and they’re still poorly understood.
“Now, in 2017 … after a wave of scientific publications and public debate, and with GMSTs [global mean surface air temperatures] setting new records again, it is time to take stock of what can be learned from the hiatus,” the authors wrote.
It is time to take stock of what can be learned from the hiatus.

— Authors of the Nature study

So what did this new analysis find?
This analysis in Nature pulls together many findings in the wake of several research efforts looking to address the hiatus conundrum. Some argued that global warming predictions didn’t match the actual data during that time period because they didn’t include complex short-term climate factors that are poorly understood. Others have argued that the hiatus didn’t really exist; that it was a problem with the instrumentation or the data analysis, for example.
The new Nature paper essentially works through several examples under both of these explanations and finds that it’s a combination of the two. For example:
Regions in the Arctic, where global warming is having marked effects, are actually sparsely monitored, and different analyses try to extrapolate from that limited data set in different ways.

The definitions of a pause are faulty, especially when you consider that “the data continue to show significant warming trends when the trend length exceeds 16 years,” James Risbey and Stephan Lewandowsky, who were not involved in the paper, wrote in a commentary on it. (Risbey is with the Oceans and Atmosphere Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia; Lewandowsky is from the University of Bristol.)

The observed global mean temperature data takes into account both ocean and surface air temperatures, but model predictions have often only used air temperatures. This leads to apples-and-oranges comparisons between predictions and reality, Risbey and Lewandowsky said.

Short-term ocean dynamics patterns, such as those of El Niño, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, move and store heat in ways that lead to surface temperature fluctuations that can last years or even decades. This does not mean that the heat’s gone, just that it’s out of range of sensors. And because we don’t fully understand those patterns, and when exactly one will start and when it will end, short-term predictions can be a little off — even though they’re right in the long-term.“The models have their own El Niño events but they’re not necessarily happening at the same time as the real-world El Niño events,” Hausfather said.

Climate change models did not perfectly characterize all the right complicating factors — how much solar radiation there was in a given year, for example, or the extent of the cooling effect from volcanic activity and human-produced aerosols. When those estimates are updated to reflect what actually happened, the models get much closer to reality.

Recent studies showed the need to better account for temperature detection changes that happened as ocean temperature monitors switched from ships to buoys. The buoys may have made temperature readings look a little cooler than expected, even when they were not. (In the older method, water would be heated by the ship’s engine on its way to be measured, while the buoys would measure water temperatures in the open ocean.)

“If you do all of these things you end up getting observations that match models pretty exactly,” Hausfather said of all the mitigating factors included by the Nature study authors. “Each of these things is a little part of the divergence between models and observations.”
Another problem? Marking the beginning of the hiatus from 1998, which was a year of record-breaking heat.
“Picking a large El Niño event as the starting year, you’re necessarily going to have a lower rate of warming after that, even in a warming world,” Hausfather said.
The problem, ultimately, is that studies looking at long-term change simply aren’t especially good at predicting short-term variation. That doesn’t mean that the long-term trend isn’t there; human-caused carbon dioxide emissions continue to fuel global warming.
“In short, some data, tools and methods that were good enough when looking at longer-term climate change proved to be problematic when they were focused on the problem of explaining short-term trends,” Risbey and Lewandowsky wrote. “Small differences in GMST data that are inconsequential for climate change are amplified when short-term trends are calculated. Climate-model projections are blunt tools for the analysis of short-term trends.”
What new light does this paper shed on the hiatus?
This analysis isn’t a “bombshell,” pointed out Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University.
“The work of many groups (including our own) has shown that models and observations are consistent in terms of long-term warming, and that this warming — and recent extreme warmth — can only be explained by anthropogenic (human-caused) activity, namely the burning of fossil fuels,” Mann said in an email. “The fact that there is substantial internal variability that can mask this warming on decadal and multidecadal timescales is also something established by us in previous work.”
But it does offer a holistic explanation of all the research that has been chipping away at this climate conundrum, Hausfather pointed out.
“I think it does a really good job at tying a bow on the last five years or so of hiatus arguments,” he said.
Is there a lesson to be learned from the controversy around the hiatus?
The study authors seem to think so. For example, scientists were forced to better understand these short-term variations, which helped them pin down factors such as how sensitive the climate was to additional carbon dioxide, the dominant greenhouse gas in Earth’s atmosphere.
“As a consequence, after a surge of scientific studies on the topic, we have learned more about the ways in which the climate system works in several areas,” the authors wrote.
And then there are other evergreen lessons — particularly with respect to science and its interface with public discourse.
“Social sciences might find this an interesting period for studying how science interacts with the public, media and policy,” they wrote. “In a time coinciding with high-level political negotiations on preventing climate change, sceptical media and politicians were using the apparent lack of warming to downplay the importance of climate change…. This will not be the last time that weather and climate will surprise us, so maybe there are lessons to be learned from the hiatus about communication on all sides.”

Press link for more: LA Times.com

March for Science or March for Reality?

March for Science or March for Reality?

By Laurance M. klauss

Shortly after the inauguration of Donald Trump as President, it was announced that a March for Science would be held Washington DC and in a host of other cities in the United States and around the world to protest the new Administration’s apparent anti-science agenda—from denial of climate change to dismantling the EPA, to budget priorities that will cut key science programs throughout the country—and to lobby for science-based policymaking as well as support for scientific research to address the challenges of the 21st century.


Meanwhile the Trump administration’s anti-science actions continue.

 Attorney General Sessions announced just this week that he was disbanding the National Commission on Forensic Science, which advises the federal government to enhance national standards in this area.
I have no idea how the Marches for Science—now over 400 in number across the globe—will play out, and how the media will interpret them.

 A series of worrisome tweets emanating from the March for Science twitter account over the past week, following similar early statements made on the groups website that were subsequently removed, claimed that scientific research promotes violence and inequity in society. 

These have been disavowed but the variety of mixed communications from leaders of the march over the past months suggests at the very least that the organization encompasses a wide diversity of agendas.
This is not surprising. After all, the scientific community has never been a one-issue community, like, say, the anti-abortion movement.

 And the current administration is pushing so many different buttons at the same time, with various attacks on fundamental rights, privacy, diversity, and freedom of expression, that these are bound to get caught up in any movement that promotes openness and free-inquiry, the hallmarks of the scientific enterprise.
Despite any such concerns, a host major science organizations, from the American Association for the Advancement of Science to Union of Concerned Scientists, have signed on as supporters of the March, and are urging their members to join their local marches and speak out for science-based public policy on April 22.


If the event becomes a ‘March By Scientists’ rather than a March for Science—namely if it is dominated by scientists labeling themselves as such, in costumes like white lab coats, rather than by members of the general public supporting evidence-based public policy—that too could be problematic. 

The March for science could then appear as a self-serving political lobbying effort by the scientific community to increase its funding base.
Let’s imagine that this is not the case, and the organizers are wildly successful in attracting hundreds of thousands or million of marchers across the globe this coming Saturday.

 It is still reasonable to wonder what the long-term impact of the marches might be. 

After all, following the worldwide March for Women, in which millions of people marched around the world in support of women’s rights, the Trump administration reacted with a deaf ear. 

Just this past week the President signed legislation allowing states and local governments to withhold federal funding for Planned Parenthood, for example.
The situation is different in this case however, and it may have nothing directly to do with science policy, or even in those areas where science should play a key role in affecting policy.
Every week, the alternative realities invoked by the Trump administration are being demonstrated, by events, to be vacuous. 

The administration claimed it would immediately end, and then fix, problems with Obamacare, and failed miserably. Donald Trump campaigned against foreign military intervention, and this week alone initiated unilateral bombings in Syria and Afghanistan. 

Donald Trump pledged to immediately revise NAFTA, forcing Canada and Mexico to the table to make a better deal. 

Nothing has happened.
He promised Mexico would pay for a wall. 

However the first $2 billion installment for a wall was included in the budget proposal he presented to Congress, compensated by cuts in funding in key areas of science, but also in support of the arts and humanities in this country.
He promised to drain the swamp, but he removed restrictions on lobbyists entering government, and as the New York Times reported just this week, he has filled his administration with them, including individuals who are already facing conflict of interest allegations because of their former activities lobbying the organizations they now run.
He lobbied against Wall Street, but former Wall Street leaders dominate his cabinet and economic advisory groups.
He said he would release his taxes after his inauguration and has not. 

And he claimed he would immediate increase growth and the economy, but as the Wall Street Journal reported just this week, projections for growth of the economy have decreased sharply in recent months, as have retail sales, and the consumer price index.


These are just a few of the immediate and obvious inconsistencies. 

Further, as administration policies on energy and the environment take effect, citizens in communities with drinking water at risk from environmental threats will find that programs to avert further deterioration have been cut, and coal mining communities will find that the natural gas glut has much more to do with the continuing demise of coal than Obama’s efforts to improve air quality in the US by restricting coal plants, which, whatever Trump may claim, are bad for the environment. 

(Indeed as the New York Times reported this week, more than 200,000 tons of coal ash residue each year are produced by the Tennessee Valley Authority, and this has been making its way into groundwater, potentially affecting drinking water supplies, even as the EPA is now delaying compliance with rules enacted to enhance the safe storage and disposal of coal ash.).
The very essence of science, indeed that which is motivating the March for Science, involves skeptical inquiry and a reliance on empirical evidence and constant testing to weed out false hypotheses and unproductive or harmful technologies as we move toward a better understanding of reality: A willingness, in short, to force beliefs and policies to conform to the evidence of reality, rather than vice versa.


Unlike its perception among much of the public and its presentation in many schools today, science is not simply a body of facts, but rather a process for deriving what the facts are. 

This process has helped us uncover hidden secrets of the Universe that never would have been dreamed of and producing technologies that have not only been largely responsible for the standard of living enjoyed by the first world today, but have also increased lifespans around the world. 

With this process the very possibility of “alternative facts” disappears.
By providing such a constant and sharp explicit and observable contrast between policy and empirical reality, the Trump administration can encourage a new public skepticism about political assertions vs. reality, and a demand for evidence before endorsing policies and the politicians who espouse them—the very things that most marchers on April 22nd will be demanding. 

This skepticism is beginning to manifest itself in data. 

A Gallup poll result on April 17 indicated that only 45 percent of the public believe President Trump’s promises, a drop of 17 percent since February.
In this regard, it is worth remembering the words of the Nobel Prizewinning physicist, Richard Feynman, who said: For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled. 

Or, as the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick more colorfully put it: Reality is that which continues to exist even when you stop believing in it.
The Trump Administration is discovering that obfuscation, denial, and hype may work when selling real estate, but in public arena eventually reality has a way of biting you in the butt. And the public is watching. 

The March for Science may be lucky to capitalize upon a growing awareness that there is no Wizard behind the curtain. The number of marchers, their backgrounds, or even their myriad messages may not drive the success of the March. Rather, it may be driven by the harsh examples coming out every day that reality exists independent of the desires or claims of those in power. 

In this case, the greatest asset the March for Science has going for it may be Donald Trump himself.

Press link for more: Scientific American

We’re at War to save the planet! #auspol #climatechange #science 

By Paul Mason

It hits you in the face and clings to you. 

It makes tall buildings whine as their air conditioning plants struggle to cope.

 It makes the streets deserted and the ice-cold salons of corner pubs get crowded with people who don’t like beer. 

It is the Aussie heatwave: and it is no joke.

Temperatures in the western suburbs of Sydney, far from the upmarket beachside glamour, reached 47C (117F) last week, topping the 44C I experienced there the week before.

 For reference, if it reached 47C in the middle of the Sahara desert, that would be an unusually hot day.
For Sydney, 2017 was the hottest January on record. 

This after 2016 was declared the world’s hottest year on record. 

Climate change, even in some developed societies, is becoming climate disruption – and according to a UN report, one of the biggest disruptions may only now be getting under way.

El Niño, a temperature change in the Pacific ocean that happens cyclically, may have begun interacting with the long-term process of global warming, with catastrophic results.
Let’s start by admitting the science is not conclusive. 

El Niño disrupts the normal pattern by which warm water flows westwards across the Pacific, pulling the wind in the same direction; it creates storms off South America and droughts – together with extreme temperatures – in places such as Australia. 

It is an irregular cycle, lasting between two and seven years, and therefore can only be theorised using models.
Some of these models predict that, because of climate change, El Niño will happen with increased frequency – possibly double. 

Others predict the effects will become more devastating, due to the way the sub-systems within El Niño react with each other as the air and sea warm.
What cannot be disputed is that the most recent El Niño in 2015/16 contributed to the extreme weather patterns of the past 18 months, hiking global temperatures that were already setting records.

 (Although, such is the level of rising, both 2015 and 2016 would have still been the hottest ever without El Niño.) 

Sixty million people were “severely affected” according to the UN, while 23 countries – some of which no longer aid recipients – had to call for urgent humanitarian aid. 


The catastrophe prompted the head of the World Meteorological Association to warn: 

“This naturally occurring El Niño event and human-induced climate change may interact and modify each other in ways that we have never before experienced.”
The warning was enough to prompt the UN to issue a global action plan, with early warning systems, beefed-up aid networks and disaster relief preparation, and calls for developing countries to “climate proof” their economic plans.
Compare all this – the science, the modelling, the economic foresight and the attempt to design multilateral blueprint – with the actions of the jackass who runs Australia’s finance ministry.

Scott Morrison barged into the parliament chamber to wave a lump of coal at the Labor and Green opposition benches, taunting them: 

“Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared. 

It’s coal. 

It was dug up by men and women who work in the electorate of those who sit opposite.” 

Coal, argues the Australian conservative government, has given the economy “competitive energy advantage for more than 100 years”. 

Labor and the Greens had called, after the Paris climate accord, for an orderly shutdown of the coal-fired power stations that produce 60% of the country’s energy.
The Aussie culture war over coal is being fuelled by the resurgence of the white-supremacist One Nation party, led by Pauline Hanson, which is pressuring mainstream conservatives to drop commitments to the Paris accord and, instead, launch a “royal commission into the corruption of climate science”, which its members believe is a money-making scam.
All over the world, know-nothing xenophobes are claiming – without evidence – that climate science is rigged. 

Their goal is to defend coal-burning energy, promote fracking, suppress the development of renewable energies and shatter the multilateral Paris agreement of 2015.


Opposition to climate science has become not just the badge of honour for far-right politicians like Ukip’s Paul Nuttall.

 It has become the central tenet of their appeal to unreason.
People facing increased fuel bills, new taxes on methane-producing cattle farms, dimmer light bulbs and the arrival of wind and wave technologies in traditional landscapes will naturally ask: is this really needed? 

Their inner idiot wishes it were not. 

For most of us, the inner rationalist is strong enough to counteract that wish.

What distinguishes the core of the rightwing populist electorate is its gullibility to idiocy-promoting rhetoric against climate science. 

They want to be harangued by a leader who tells them their racism is rational, in the same way they want leaders who tell them the science behind climate change is bunk.


Well, in Australia, people are quickly finding out where such rhetoric gets you: more devastating bushfires; a longer fire season; more extreme hot days; longer droughts. And an energy grid so overloaded with demands from air conditioning systems that it is struggling to cope.
And, iIf the pessimists among climate scientists are right, and the general rise in temperature has begun to destabilise and accentuate the El Niño effects, this is just the start.
The world is reeling from the election victory of Donald Trump, who has called climate science a hoax.

 Dutch voters look set to reward Geert Wilders, whose one-page election programme promises “no more money for development, windmills, art, innovation or broadcasting”, with first place in the election. 

In France, 27% of voters are currently backing the Front National, a party determined to take the country out of the Paris accord, which it sees as “a communist project”.
The struggle against the nationalist right must, in all countries, combine careful listening to the social and cultural grievances of those on its periphery with relentless stigmatisation of the idiocy, selfishness and racism of the leaders and political activists at its core.
It’s time to overcome queasiness and restraint. 

We, the liberal and progressive people of the world, are at war with the far right to save the earth. 
The extreme temperatures and climate-related disasters of the past 24 months mean this is not some abstract struggle about science or values: it’s about the immediate fate of 60 million people still recovering from a disaster.

Press link for more: The Guardian.com

Climate Council: Key Findings #auspol #Science

Key Findings

 1. Climate change is infuencing all extreme
weather events in Australia.

› All extreme weather events are now occurring in an atmosphere that is warmer and wetter than it was in the 1950s.

› Heatwaves are becoming hotter, lasting longer and occurring more often.

› Marine heatwaves that cause severe coral bleaching and mortality are becoming more intense and occurring more often.

› Extreme fire weather and the length of the fire season is increasing, leading to an increase in bush fire risk. 

› Sea level has already risen and continues to rise, driving more devastating coastal ooding during storm surges.


 2. Some of the most severe climate impacts the world has experienced have occurred in 2016.

 › Arctic sea ice reached its lowest annual extent on record while record sea surface temperatures drove the worst coral bleaching event in the Great Barrier Reef’s history. G

› Tropical Cyclone Winston was the most intense cyclone to hit Fiji on record, while Hurricane Otto was the southernmost hurricane to hit Central America on record. 

› Canada experienced its costliest wild fire in history in Fort McMurray, forcing the evacuation of almost 90,000 people.

 › The US state of Louisiana experienced 1-in-500 year rains that brought severe flooding leading to 30,000 rescues and 13 deaths.  


3 .Across Australia, extreme weather events are projected to worsen as the climate warms further.

› Extreme heat is projected to increase across the entire continent, with significant increases in the length, intensity and frequency of heatwaves in many regions.

› The time spent in drought is projected to increase across Australia, especially in southern Australia.

 Extreme drought is expected to increase in both frequency and duration.

› Southern and eastern Australia are projected to experience harsher fire weather.

› The intensity of extreme rainfall events is projected to increase across most of Australia.

› The increase in coastal flooding from high sea level events will become more frequent and more severe as sea levels continue to rise.



4. The impacts of extreme weather events will likely become much worse unless global greenhouse gas emissions are reduced rapidly and deeply. 

› Burning of coal, oil and gas is causing temperatures to rise at unprecedented rates and is making extreme weather events more intense, damaging and costly.

› Major emitters including China and the European Union are leading action on climate change, but Australia is lagging well behind and is on track to even miss its very weak target of a 26-28% reduction in emissions by 2030.

› Australia is expected to do its fair share to meet the global emissions reduction challenge by cutting its emissions rapidly and deeply.

› Phasing out ageing, polluting coal plants and replacing them with clean, efficient renewable energy sources such as wind and solar is imperative for stabilising the climate and reducing the risk of even worse extreme weather events.


Press link for full report: Climate Council

Sea Levels ‘Could Rise Higher Than A Three-Storey Buiding’ #climatechange #auspol 

Sea levels ‘could rise higher than a three-storey building due to climate change’


The last time ocean temperatures were this warm, sea levels were up to nine metres higher than they are today, according to the findings of a new study, which were described as “extremely worrying” by one expert. 
The researchers took samples of sediment from 83 different sites around the world, and these “natural thermometers” enabled them to work out what the sea surface temperature had been more than 125,000 years ago. 

This revealed that over the course of some 4,000 years the oceans had got about 0.5C warmer, reaching about the same temperatures as are found now – after a similar increase achieved largely as a result of human-induced climate change in little over a century. 


Previous research has established that sea levels at the time were between six and nine metres higher. 

This gives an indication of what sea levels might be like once the vast oceans expand and ice sheets melt over the course of the next centuries and millennia. 
If sea levels were to increase by nine metres, parts of London and New York, almost all the Netherlands, huge chunks of China, including Shanghai, and much of Bangladesh would be just some of the places that would be lost to the sea. But the bad news does not end there. 


For the computer models used by scientists to predict what the climate will be like in the future had failed to pick up on the rise in temperatures 125,000 years ago. 

This suggests the models could be missing a key warming effect that might be about to kick in, sending temperatures higher than currently expected. 
Another recent study suggested the sensitivity of the climate to greenhouse gases could be much greater than previously thought, potentially putting the world on course for more than 7C of warming by 2100 – a prospect described as “game over” for life as we know it. 
Dr Jeremy Hoffman, of Oregon State University, lead author of a paper in the prestigious journal Science about the new research, told The Independent that sea levels some 125,000 years ago might give a rough indication of what could be expected over the next few centuries as the warmer temperatures slowly take effect. 

But he stressed the reasons for the global warming then and now were very different – the former was natural, the latter caused by humans – so the world’s last major warm period could not be viewed as a simple way to predict the future. 
“There are a lot of things that have happened over the last century that far outpace the natural world,” Dr Hoffman said. 

“It’s not just the warming, it’s the release of carbon from reservoirs [of fossil fuels] in the planet that have been around for millions of years. 
“We’re talking about something that took millions of years to form and we’re removing it in decades,” he said. “The Earth would need to have an eruption like Mount St Helen’s happen every 2.5 hours … to keep pace with the emissions we are producing.” 

Dr Hoffman said perhaps the most significant implication of their research was that current computer models of climate change were failing to pick up on the warming 125,000 years ago. 

“If we are missing some process that would give rise to additional warming [at that time] … that would only work to be under-estimating the future climate as well,” Dr Hoffman said. 
Commenting on the research, Andrew Watson, a Royal Society research professor at Exeter University, said: “Sea level responds directly to global temperatures, but slowly, so that the full extent of sea level rise will only be apparent over thousands of years.

 The study suggests that in the long term, sea level will rise six metres at least in response to the warming we are causing. 

The good news is that with luck it will continue to rise slowly, so that we have time to adapt, but the bad news is that eventually all our present coastal city locations will be inundated.” 
Professor Richard Allan, a climatologist at Reading University, said: “The result that present global sea surface temperatures are indistinguishable from those at the last interglacial 125,000 years ago is extremely worrying since sea levels were six to nine metres higher then compared to present.” 

He said that heating up the “depths of our vast oceans” to the point where sea levels reached that point would take thousands of years “so sustained and substantive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from energy-intensive activities remain vital and beneficial to societies”. 


And Professor Michael Mann, a renowned climate scientist from Pennsylvania State University, described the studies findings as “sobering”. He continued: “It indicates that we may very well already be committed to several more metres of sea level rise when the climate system catches up with the carbon dioxide we’ve already pumped into the atmosphere.”

 
Dr Mann added: “That is actually consistent with some model simulations. 

The important thing to recognise is that the climate system hasn’t yet come into equilibrium with the increase in carbon dioxide, so it is misleading to compare the historical sea level rise we’ve seen so far with the sea level rise 125,000 years ago, because the latter indicates the full response [to the warming effect].” 

Press link for more: Economic Times Indi