OECD

Climate change has been underestimated. #auspol #science

Science has underestimated Earth’s sensitivity to CO2 changes, study finds
By Jim Shelton

April 7, 2016

Global warming

A Yale University study says global climate models have significantly underestimated how much the Earth’s surface temperature will rise if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase as expected.

Yale scientists looked at a number of global climate projections and found that they misjudged the ratio of ice crystals and super-cooled water droplets in “mixed-phase” clouds — resulting in a significant under-reporting of climate sensitivity. The findings appear April 7 in the journal Science.
Equilibrium climate sensitivity is a measure used to estimate how Earth’s surface temperature ultimately responds to changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). Specifically, it reflects how much the Earth’s average surface temperature would rise if CO2 doubled its preindustrial level. In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated climate sensitivity to be within a range of 2 to 4.7 degrees Celsius.
The Yale team’s estimate is much higher: between 5 and 5.3 degrees Celsius. Such an increase could have dramatic implications for climate change worldwide, note the scientists.
“It goes to everything from sea level rise to more frequent and extreme droughts and floods,” said Ivy Tan, a Yale graduate student and lead author of the study.
Trude Storelvmo, a Yale assistant professor of geology and geophysics, led the research and is a co-author of the study. The other co-author is Mark Zelinka of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison.

A key part of the research has to do with the makeup of mixed-phase clouds, which consist of water vapor, liquid droplets, and ice particles, in the upper atmosphere. A larger amount of ice in those clouds leads to a lower climate sensitivity — something known as a negative climate feedback mechanism. The more ice you have in the upper atmosphere, the less warming there will be on the Earth’s surface.
“We saw that all of the models started with far too much ice,” said Storelvmo, an assistant professor of geology and geophysics. “When we ran our own simulations, which were designed to better match what we found in satellite observations, we came up with more warming.”
Storelvmo’s lab at Yale has spent several years studying climate feedback mechanisms associated with clouds. Little has been known about such mechanisms until fairly recently, she explained, which is why earlier models were not more precise.
“The overestimate of ice in mixed-phase clouds relative to the observations is something that many climate modelers are starting to realize,” Tan said.
The researchers also stressed that correcting the ice-water ratio in global models is critical, leading up to the IPCC’s next assessment report, expected in 2020.
Support for the research came from the NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship Program, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Press link for more: Yale.edu

Bloomberg calls “bullshit” on clean coal #auspol 

Michael Bloomberg an outspoken environmentalist and former New York City mayor, had some harsh words for carbon capture and storage, the unproven technology that proponents say will turn fossil fuels into “clean” energy sources.
“Carbon capture is total bullshit” and “a figment of the imagination,” Bloomberg said on Monday, addressing a crowd at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance summit in New York.
Carbon capture involves taking the emissions from coal and natural gas-burning power plants and industrial facilities, then burying the carbon deep underground or repurposing it for fertilizers and chemicals. The idea is that by trapping emissions before they enter the atmosphere, we can limit their contribution to human-caused climate change.
Climate experts say it will be next to impossible to eliminate the world’s emissions without carbon capture systems. The International Energy Agency has called the technology “essential,” given that countries are likely to keep burning coal, oil, and natural gas for decades to come.
 Michael Bloomberg, billionaire, former NYC mayor, prominent environmentalist and major coal critic.

Michael Bloomberg, billionaire, former NYC mayor, prominent environmentalist and major coal critic.
Image: joe raedle/Getty Images
But to Bloomberg and other critics, that’s precisely the problem. By investing billions of dollars into carbon capture, countries can effectively delay the inevitable — the end of fossil fuels — and postpone investments in genuinely cleaner energy, such as wind and solar power.
So far, only a handful of carbon capture projects even exist around the world, and many of them have faced steep cost overruns and delays. The Kemper Project in Mississippi — billed as America’s “flagship” carbon capture project — is more than $4 billion over budget and still not operational.
Yet President Donald Trump and many coal industry leaders talk about carbon capture as if it’s already solved the nation’s energy challenges. If we have “clean coal,” why invest in alternatives?
Bloomberg has also used aggressive language to express disdain for the coal industry.
“I don’t have much sympathy for industries whose products leave behind a trail of diseased and dead bodies,” he wrote in his new book, Climate of Hope, which he co-authored with former Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope.
“But for everyone’s sake, we should aim to put them out of business,” Bloomberg said.

 Scott Pruitt, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, speaks with coal miners in Pennsylvania.
Scott Pruitt, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, speaks with coal miners in Pennsylvania.
Image: ustin Merriman/Getty Images
The billionaire media mogul has donated some $80 million to the Sierra Club to help the environmental group shut down coal-fired power plants as part of its Beyond Coal campaign.
More than 250 U.S. coal plants have shut down or committed to retire since the campaign began in 2011. Many of those closures came as natural gas prices plummeted, prompting utilities to ditch coal, and as federal clean air and water rules made it too costly to upgrade aging coal plants.
Of the nation’s more than 500 coal plants, only 273 now remain open, and Bloomberg’s philanthropy arm and the Sierra Club are working to shutter those, too.
The former mayor also recently announced a new coal-related donation. Bloomberg told the Associated Press that he plans to donate $3 million to organizations that help unemployed coal miners and their communities find new economic opportunities.
Bloomberg Philanthropies highlighted the struggles of miners in a new film, From the Ashes, to be featured at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York this week.
Coal miners “have paid a terrible price,” he told the AP.

Press link for more: Mashable.com

Scientists up their projections for sea level rise. #auspol 

Scientists keep upping their projections for how much the oceans will rise this century

 A 30-mile-long meltwater river runs through Petermann glacier, Greenland, on August 27, 2016. (Whitney Shefte/The Washington Post)

A report by a leading research body monitoring the Arctic has found that previous projections of global sea level rise for the end of the century could be too low, thanks in part to the pace of ice loss of Arctic glaciers and the vast ice sheet of Greenland.
It’s just the latest in a string of cases in which scientists have published numbers that suggest a grimmer picture than the one presented in 2013 by an influential United Nations body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The new Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic report presents minimum estimates for global sea level rise by the end of the century, but not a maximum. This reflects the fact that scientists keep uncovering new insights that force them to increase their sea level estimates further, said William Colgan, a glaciologist with the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, who contributed to the sea level rise section.
“Because of emerging processes, especially related to the Greenland ice sheet and the Antarctic ice sheet, it now looks like the uncertainties are all biased positive,” Colgan said.
The assessment found that under a relatively moderate global warming scenario — one that slightly exceeds the temperature targets contained in the Paris climate agreement — seas could be expected to rise “at least” 52 centimeters, or 1.7 feet, by the year 2100. Under a more extreme, “business as usual” warming scenario, meanwhile, the minimum rise would be 74 centimeters, or 2.4 feet.
The new findings were published Tuesday as part of a broader overview report by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, a working group of the intergovernmental Arctic Council, which unites eight Arctic nations, including the United States, and six organizations representing the indigenous peoples of the Arctic.
It is the work of 90 scientists and 28 peer reviewers and is expected to be presented in Fairbanks, Alaska, next month at the next summit of Arctic political leaders.
The report bluntly contrasts its sea level findings with a previous 2013 report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which had put the “likely” low end sea level rise number for these two scenarios at 32 centimeters (about 1 foot) and 45 centimeters (1.5 feet) for the period between 2081 and 2100. That global body — whose high end sea level rise number for the year 2100 was just shy of one meter, or 3.2 feet — has often seen its assertions on sea level rise faulted by scientists for being too conservative.
“These estimates are almost double the minimum estimates made by the IPCC in 2013,” said the new Arctic Council report, which is dubbed a “Summary for Policymakers” because the technical report underpinning it has not yet been released.
The new Arctic report is hardly the first of late to call the IPCC’s figures into question.
An influential study of Antarctica published last year in the journal Nature suggested that the frozen continent alone could nearly double the IPCC’s sea level projections for the end of the century.
(The IPCC did concede that sea levels could be higher than its “likely” forecast in the event of a “collapse of marine-based sectors of the Antarctic ice sheet” — but it added that “there is medium confidence that this additional contribution would not exceed several tenths of a meter of sea level rise during the 21st century.”)
And since then, several other scientific documents — presumably aware of this Antarctic research — have cited the possibility of particularly extreme sea level rise by 2100, even if they cannot necessarily quantify the likelihood of it occurring.
At the close of the Obama administration, a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggested that, at least as an “extreme” case, seas could possibly rise by as much as 8 feet by century’s end.
And yet another report, prepared for the state of California and released this month by a team of climate researchers, has now also presented the possibility of extreme sea level scenarios by 2100 — albeit ones that have either a low or an unknown probability of occurring.
That document looked specifically at California coastlines, and found that for San Francisco, for instance, the “likely” range for sea level rise in the year 2100 under a high global warming scenario would be 1.6 to 3.4 feet. But it also said there was a 1-in-20 chance of 4.4 feet, a 1-in-200 chance of 6.9 feet, and even a chance, whose probability could not be estimated, of 10 feet.
“We’re learning an increasing amount about the instability of marine based ice, and the amount of marine based ice that there is in Antarctica,” said Bob Kopp, a sea level researcher at Rutgers University and one of the authors of the California report. “And as we take more of these processes into account, the extent of the things that we don’t know that much about and aren’t yet able to quantify well has become clearer.”
The report for the Arctic Council, by contrast, focuses on a growing Arctic contribution to sea level rise, rather than an Antarctic one. Antarctica has far greater potential to raise seas over all, but the Arctic report emphasizes that for now, Greenland is actually raising seas the most and that it too has a great deal of potential sea level rise to contribute.
“These estimates of higher sea level contributions from the Arctic will only add to the new, higher estimates of potential sea level contributions from Antarctica — which is not good news,” said Rob DeConto, a geoscientist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst who published the aforementioned Antarctica study and also worked on the California study. He was not involved in the new Arctic report.
Here’s a figure that the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland’s Colgan provided, showing the new sea level projections for a modest and more severe warming scenario, as well as the different and changing components of sea level rise over time:

 The sources and amounts of sea level rise from 1850 to the present, and then projected to the year 2100. RCP4.5 represents a modest global warming scenario that’s not too much warmer than the goals contained in the Paris climate agreement, whereas RCP8.5 represents a more severe “business as usual” scenario (William Colgan)

The Arctic report states that Greenland, in particular, lost 375 billion tons of ice per year from 2011 through 2014, enough to single-handedly raise the global sea level by about a millimeter per year. That annual loss, the document states, is “equivalent to a block of ice measuring 7.5 kilometers or 4.6 miles on all sides.”
Meanwhile, the melting glaciers of the Alaskan, Canadian and Russian Arctic are all steadily raising seas as well and could also see their contributions grow. The report therefore estimates that 19 to 25 centimeters (0.6 to 0.8 feet) of sea level rise in this century will come from the Arctic alone, and that must be combined with all the sea level rise contributed by Antarctica, other glacier systems and the steady expansion of seawater itself as it gets warmer.
Because of the difference between the worst case and more moderate sea level rise scenarios, the report concludes that the Paris climate agreement could substantially reduce the global sea level rise seen by 2100, even though seas will still rise considerably under any scenario.
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“You have to have a deliberate and sustained implementation of Paris for 30 years before you see a significant difference in the rate of global sea level rise,” Colgan said.
The Trump administration has been divided over whether to stick with the president’s campaign pledge and withdraw the United States from that agreement. Because of the upcoming G-7 meeting in May, where Trump is likely to be pressed on climate change, many observers expect a decision relatively soon.
It is unclear how the United States may react to the new Arctic report at the upcoming Arctic council meeting — the U.S. is currently chairing the council — or whether this will also put any additional pressure on the Trump administration.
Meanwhile, scientists studying the planet’s ice and its seas continue their work.
“If you look at the history of sea level rise projections over the last 20 years, they’re going up through time,” said Colgan. “Not just because of sea level actually rising, but also because of our understanding of the processes improving through time.”

Press link for more: Washington Post

Why I March #ClimateChange #auspol 

Why I March: Climate Change And Migration Have Everything To Do With Each Other

By Thanu Yakupitiyage 

It’s pretty ironic that among Donald Trump’s first policies on his agenda were a crackdown on immigrant communities, followed by the dismantling of climate and environmental protections.

 By rolling back the little progress the U.S. has made on climate change ― as well as slashing the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency and lifting a moratorium on federal coal leases ― Trump’s administration is sending a global message: the U.S. (a country that considers itself a leader) will not meet any commitment to bring down greenhouse gas emissions or invest in clean energy jobs. 

Meanwhile, the world is warming at an alarming rate, with each year hotter than the last. And while the planet warms and more climate-related disasters take place ― droughts get longer, rain patterns shift, land becomes infertile, food and water become scarce, and sea levels rise ― more and more people are migrating due to climate change impacts. These are often the world’s poorest people, from regions that have done the least to contribute to the severity of the climate crisis.

By disregarding the necessity for bold action on climate change, the Trump administration and climate deniers everywhere (the United States, China, India, and Russia have the highest emission rates) are ensuring that communities across the globe continue to be displaced and have no choice but to migrate for their own survival.
While Trump and many in his administration throw brown and black immigrants under the bus using hateful and racist isolationist tactics, calling for “Muslim Bans” and empowering Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to deport millions with little to no due process, his administration’s short-sighted and deliberate decisions to invest in the fossil fuel industry means that he is effectively aiding the process of creating more migrants.

It is estimated that by 2050, there will be 200 million people displaced by climate change-related impacts. According to the International Displacement Monitoring Centre, since 2008, an average of 26.4 million people per year have been displaced from their homes by disasters brought on by natural hazards. Climate change causes migration, and people migrate to flee the impacts of climate change on their homelands.
Make no mistake: people should have the right to migrate no matter what. 

However, the majority of migration happens because people need access to a better life.

 If there is no way for them to live in their homelands ravaged by climate change and other socio-economic impacts, they are left with no choice but to move.
In the United States, people in the Gulf are already being internally displaced due to rising sea levels.

We see this all over the world.

 In the United States, people in the Gulf are already being internally displaced due to rising sea levels. 

Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana, home to the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, has lost 98% of its land and most of its population to coastal erosion and rising sea levels since 1955. 

The population of the island is now down to less than 85 residents from the previous hundreds. In January 2016, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funded The Isle de Jean Charles Resettlement Project, the first allocation of federal dollars to move 400 tribe members struggling with the impacts of climate change to inland locations. (This year, the Trump Administration is proposing to slash the HUD budget by 6 billion).
In Mexico, farmers have been dealing with severe drought for decades, leading to a loss of agricultural productivity.

 The outcome?

 More rural Mexicans are migrating to the United States for better futures.

 One study found climate change-driven changes to agricultural livelihoods have impacted the rate of emigration to the United States, estimating that by 2080, climate change-induced migration from Mexico could be up to $6.7 million. Another study argues that undocumented migration to the U.S from rural Mexico very much has to do with climate change and the declining livelihoods of farmers facing droughts and lack of rainfall.
And while many factors have led to the conflict in Syria, some argue that severe drought that started in 2006, worsened by a warming climate, drove Syrian farmers to abandon their crops and flock to cities, helping trigger the civil war. It is widely acknowledged, including by the Pentagon, that climate change acts as a threat multiplier, intensifying conflict and war. The United Nations estimates that there are over five million Syrian refugees now. Within his first 100 days in office, Donald Trump made two attempts to ban refugee resettlement to the U.S from Syria as part of his “Muslim Ban.”
The climate crisis has been decades in the making, but it’s worsening each day that politicians and their fossil fuel ilk sow doubt about its existence. Meanwhile, many Western nations are seeing a rise in xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment at the same time as the displacement of people hits a record high. The road ahead requires that we collectively do what’s right – we must stand up for the rights of migrants everywhere who deserve dignity and respect as they seek better lives for themselves and their families, as we build bold and just solutions to the climate crisis.
That’s why these major actions in the upcoming days are so important. On April 29th, I’ll join tens of thousands in the Peoples Climate March in Washington D.C. There are over 314 sister marches across the United States and around the world. On the 100th day under the Trump administration, we will surround the White House and put forward our vision to build bold solutions for climate, jobs, and justice. Together with a broad spectrum of communities including indigenous peoples, workers, immigrants, and communities of all backgrounds, we understand that mitigating the climate crisis is a matter of social, economic, racial, gender, and immigrant justice.
Then on May 1st, workers and immigrants everywhere will participate in the annual International Workers Day. In light of the assaults on immigrant communities in the United States, this May Day is of particular importance. (Here are just some of the events taking place.) We will harness the energy of the climate march back into our communities to build local solutions and to stand in solidarity with immigrants. We will resoundingly say, “No Ban, No Wall, No Raids,” and push back against a white supremacist and anti-immigrant agenda that aims to divide people, disrespecting the very workers that help uplift America.
There is hope. We’ve seen people fearlessly stand up for justice and it’s imperative that we keep up the momentum. Communities around the world are advocating for more clean energy solutions such as solar paneling and wind power, as well expanding green jobs. We saw the power of inspirational indigenous-led movements like #NoDAPL that called on thousands to push back against destructive pipeline projects. And thousands rose to the occasion to protect and defend immigrants impacted by Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban, as well as to continue to push back against unjust deportations through creating sanctuary spaces.
The clock is ticking for our planet and our communities. Only by seeing these issues as inherently connected can we rise up to demand a fair and just world.

Press link for more: Huffingtonpost.com

Seas could rise by over a metre by 2100 #auspol #climatechange 

CSU hosts climate change symposium Thursday
Researchers once thought the more drastic effects of climate change were centuries away, leaving humans time to adjust their conduct to mitigate the damage.
Not anymore.
“The Arctic Ocean is expected to become essentially ice free in summer before mid-century,” reports the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, adding Greenland lost 36 to 60 cubic miles of ice each year from 2002 to 2006, and Antarctica lost 36 cubic miles of ice from 2002 to 2005.


It notes 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have been reported since 2001. Last year was the warmest year on record, with eight of its 12 months the warmest months on record.
Because of melting ice, sea levels worldwide have risen 8 inches since 1880, and are expected to rise from one to four feet by the year 2100.
The warming caused by greenhouse gasses trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere wouldn’t stop now even if humans immediately quit adding more carbon dioxide.
“Even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, global warming would continue to happen for at least several more decades if not centuries,” says NASA. “That’s because it takes a while for the planet to respond, and because carbon dioxide – the predominant heat-trapping gas – lingers in the atmosphere for hundreds of years.”
The public’s invited to hear more about climate change 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center, 701 Front Ave.
The symposium “Climate Change: The Facts, The Fiction, The Future” features speakers from CSU’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences.
Physics Professor Kimberly Shaw will lead off with “Venus and the Greenhouse Effect: How Scientists Talk About Scientific Knowledge,” followed by geology Professor David Schwimmer talk on “Paleoclimates and What They Tell Us About the Past and Present.”
Columbus has a connection to an ancient climate. The high sea levels of the Cretaceous Period, from 145.5 million to 65.5 million years ago, created Georgia’s Fall Line, the ancient seacoast. The state chose this site for the city of Columbus so mills here could harness the hydropower from the river’s abrupt drop in elevation.
Following Schwimmer will be William Scott Gunter, an assistant professor of atmospheric science, with “Taking Earth’s Temperature: What Global Measurements Tell Us About Climate Change,” and then environmental science Professor Troy Keller will talk about “’Hacking’ Your Carbon Footprint.”
After that, the audience gets about 30 minutes to ask questions, followed by a reception with refreshments.
“This is in a sense a followup to the march on Washington,” Schwimmer said, referring to Saturday’s “March for Science” at the capital.
Those who couldn’t travel to Washington wanted to have a local event, he said.

Press link for more: Ledger-enquirer.com

Arctic Ice Melt Could Cost Trillions by 2100 #auspol 

Arctic Ice Melt Could Cost The World Trillions Of Dollars By 2100

By Chris Di’Angelo
WASHINGTON — Climate change, driven by greenhouse gas emissions, is causing the Arctic to warm “faster than any other region on Earth,” according to a new international assessment. 

The thaw there is expected to have “major consequences for ecosystems and society,” potentially costing tens of trillions of dollars by the end of this century.
“The Arctic is showing clear evidence of evolving into a new state before mid-century,” with warmer, wetter and more variable conditions, according to the report from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program.
By the late 2030s, the report suggests the Arctic could be completely free of summer sea ice, likely resulting in more extreme weather in southern latitudes. 

Without immediate action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the melting of land-based Arctic ice could raise global sea levels an estimated 10 inches by 2100, threatening coastal communities around the globe. 
“The changes are cumulative, and so what we do in the next five years is really important to slowing down the changes that will happen in the next 30 or 40 years,” James Overland, an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and an author of the report, said during a media briefing Tuesday.

 “The emphasis on action and immediacy is one of the key findings [of the report].”
It’s yet another terrifying reminder of what’s in store if humans continue with business as usual. 

Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images
A polar bear looks for food at the edge of the pack ice north of Svalbard, Norway.

The new report adds to the findings of the 2011 “Snow, Water, Ice, Permafrost in the Arctic” study, also coordinated by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program.

 Dozens of scientists contributed to the latest assessment, which mainly covers the five years from 2011 to 2015.
The cumulative cost of the changes unfolding in the Arctic could range from $7 trillion to $90 trillion by 2100, researchers found. 
The 200-plus page report calls on governments around the world to take immediate action to cut carbon emissions and to follow through on commitments made as part of the historic Paris climate pact. 

Such steps could stabilize Arctic temperatures in the later half of the century and prevent nearly 8 inches of additional sea level rise, according to the report. 
“The main message that’s coming through in this report, the main message we’d like to convey, is that over the timescale of the next 50 to 100 years, human actions can make a difference in the trajectory of the Arctic climate system,” contributing author John Walsh, a chief scientist at the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska, said in a video accompanying the report.

 “The way the cryosphere — ice and snow — will respond to climate change will depend a lot on the emissions scenarios, which basically are determined by human actions.” 


The assessment comes as President Donald Trump moves to roll back Obama-era policies aimed at reducing the United States’ carbon footprint and fighting climate change. 

Trump previously vowed to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, in which nearly 200 countries committed to cut carbon emissions (there is some indication that cooler heads may prevail).

 He has also dismissed climate change as “bullshit” and a “hoax.” And he has given encouragement to those who support oil and gas development in Arctic waters. 
Margaret Williams, managing director of the World Wildlife Fund’s Arctic Program, said the new report underscores the urgency of reining in emissions and allowing only sustainable development in the Arctic.
“An intact Arctic is critical to our future, but the planet’s air conditioner is in jeopardy,” Williams, who was not involved in the study, said in a statement. “The staggering pace of Arctic warming reinforces the need for scientists to continually engage policymakers and the public about these changes. Smart Arctic policy will come from sound science and shared responsibility.” 
Earlier this month, the International Union for Conservation of Nature called on world leaders to safeguard the Arctic from such threats as oil development and shipping. It highlighted seven marine areas worthy of protection.
This weekend, on Trump’s 100th day in office, thousands of Americans are expected to descend on Washington, D.C., to participate in the People’s Climate March, a demonstration against the president’s environmental policies.

Press link for more: Huffingtonpost.com

Earth Day: Climate Change, Conflict & Extreme Poverty #auspol 

Earth Day: Climate Change, Conflict and Extreme Poverty
By Kathleen Colson, Founder and CEO of the BOMA Project
Earth Day has become a worldwide call to action to address the many critical consequences of climate change and global warming: deforestation, species extinction, ocean acidification, rising seas, extreme weather. 

The impacts of climate change are also acutely felt in the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) of Africa – over 40% of the continent. 

While residents of these regions are accustomed to extended dry seasons, the cycles of drought are now more severe. The United Nations announced in March that in East Africa, 20 million people are on the brink of starvation, a consequence of drought and severe civil conflicts, which uproot communities and disrupt the distribution of food aid by humanitarian organizations.

There is a direct causal relationship between climate change and conflict in these areas. 

As communities struggle over dwindling resources like grazing land and water, violence is too often the result.

 Meanwhile, humanitarian aid networks struggle to deliver essential supplies and services, and vulnerable populations become overwhelmed by the two-fold tragedies of famine and violence.

As a non-profit organization operating in Northern Kenya, where the government recently declared a national disaster in 23 counties due to drought, we see every day the impact that climate change has on the most vulnerable members of extreme-poverty populations—women and children.

 The result is costly humanitarian aid programs that create a cycle of dependence, treating residents as passive beneficiaries instead of participants in the building of the resilience of their communities. 

Humanitarian response is important and saves lives, but it must be coupled with proven, holistic, resilience-building programs to help people make a meaningful transition from dependence to self-reliance, even in the face of severe and frequent shocks such as climate change and conflict. 

Globally, the poverty graduation approach has been proven to break the cycle of extreme poverty and lift families into self-sufficiency.

 In the face of growing skepticism about foreign aid, and significantly reduced funds for humanitarian responses, the global community has a responsibility to invest in programs that help families withstand the impacts of climate change and build resilience in their communities. 

If we don’t, we will see repeated cycles of expensive humanitarian responses that do little to solve the long-term problem.

Press link for more: Huffington Post

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

The Science that reveals #ClimateChange is Sound. #auspol 

Valley Voice: The science that reveals climate change is sound

By Dwight Fine 

In his April 10 Valley Voice, “Another opinion on climate science,” Larry Wilhelmsen expresses skepticism over climate change and bases that skepticism, in part, on a petition signed by “31,000 people with various science-related degrees,” and on two publications by atmospheric scientists. 

This illustrates the denialist techniques of “fake experts” and “magnified minority.”
The “petition signed by 31,000 scientists” has long since been discredited. 

The petition was sent out by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, a small group calling itself a research organization. 

Anyone with a bachelors degree or higher in a science-related field was invited to sign. 

Examination of the signatures showed that only about 0.1% of the signers had ever had any involvement with climate science research.

I do not feel that my own Ph.D. in chemistry qualifies me to speak with authority on climatology; instead, I look for the consensus of scientists who have actually done research in the field and have published their results in peer-reviewed journals.

Studies of publications of climatologists have been carried out at Queensland University, the University of Chicago and Princeton University. These studies examined some 12,000 publications.

 The average for the studies showed that 97 percent of climate scientists supported the hypothesis that global warming is real and mainly induced by human activity.

Furthermore, some 30 major scientific societies such as the American Chemical, Physical and Geological Societies have now endorsed this hypothesis, as have the national science academies of 80 countries. Are we to believe that all of these scientists, societies and academies are engaged in a gigantic conspiracy to perpetrate a hoax?
Wilhelmsen states that climate has changed forever and that advocates of human-induced climate change have stopped calling it global warming because warming was stopping. Stopping? 2016 was the warmest year on record, according to data reported by NASA and NOAA, and 15 of the 16 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001. Yes, the climate has always changed, but it has never changed at such an abrupt rate as we are observing now. The term ”climate change” came into use so as to be more inclusive of events other than increased surface temperatures.
Such events include:

1) increased severity of blizzards, tornadoes, flooding and wildfires;

2) sea level rise;

3) warming of oceans and increasing acidification of ocean waters due to increased concentrations of carbonic acid; this has led to extensive destruction of coral reefs;

4) declining Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets;

5) declining Arctic sea ice – we now have cruise ships sailing the once impenetrable Northwest Passage;

6) retreating of glaciers in the Himalayas, Andes, Alps, Rockies and Alaska.


As to the “pleasures” we owe to fossil fuels the Wilhelmsen referenced, such pleasures are becoming limited. Reserves of coal and oil are finite and non-renewable, and these fuels become increasingly difficult, expensive and hazardous to extract as reserves are depleted. Landscapes are littered with abandoned strip mines and oilfields, often laden with toxic chemicals. Renewable energy would seem to offer far greater potential in the way of jobs and development.
For readers confused by denialist rhetoric in regard to climate change, I recommend the websites climate.nasa.gov and skeptical science.com.
Dwight Fine is a retired research chemist living in Palm Springs. Email him at dwigf@msn.com.

Press link for more: Elpaso Times

Climate Change Predictions are accurate #auspol #science 

By Robert S. Eshelman 

Climate change contrarians have used many arguments to cast doubt on the scientific consensus that the atmosphere is warming and humans are to blame. 

They’ve alleged that tens of thousands of scientists, working across dozens of different disciplines, have organized a vast conspiracy to manipulate data. They’ve said more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will actually be a benefit because it will boost agricultural production. And they’ve even said that global warming has paused in recent years.

 

But their primary tactic these days appears to be to acknowledge that the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is increasing due to human causes, but suggest that the scientific community just can’t pin down what impact those emissions will have on the climate system.

 

Trump’s EPA administrator Scott Pruitt made that claim during his Senate confirmation hearing, as did former ExxonMobil CEO turned Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

 

Kyle Armour of the University of Washington, writing in Nature Climate Change, says that, actually, the scientific community has done quite well at developing accurate predictions of how sensitive the atmosphere and oceans are to carbon pollution.

 

The debate, he says, pivots around a number called equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS), which is the temperature change that scientists expect to occur with a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere compared to before the Industrial Revolution.

 

“This is the number that’s been essentially at the heart of climate change predictions for decades now,” he said. “It has a lot of policy relevance. If this number is high, we have a very sensitive Earth that will warm up a lot in response to greenhouse gases. If the number is low, we have a less sensitive climate system that would warm up a lot less.”

 

Put another way, climate sensitivity tells us how we need to limit greenhouse gas emissions in order to stay well below an average global temperature increase of 2°C compared to the mid-19th century, which many scientists say is a dangerous threshold to pass.

 

The problem is observations collected over the past 100 years have shown the climate to be less sensitive to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations than computer models of the climate have predicted.

 

And that’s where Armour got to work.

 

“It appeared that newer observations suggested a fairly low climate sensitivity in the range of about 2°C for a doubling of CO2, whereas the models suggested a higher climate sensitivity more in the range of 3°C for a doubling of CO2,” he said. “What I was interested in with the study was basically how much of the discrepancy between the observations and the models could be explained by the fact that climate sensitivity changes over time.”

 
 

There’s an incredible amount of inertia built into Earth’s climate system. The increased amount of energy trapped in the atmosphere due to all of the greenhouse gas emissions from our coal-fired power plants and internal combustion engines takes many decades to fully take effect.
And the climate system works in complex ways. When rising air temperatures in the Arctic melt summer sea ice, for example, it creates larger areas of dark, open ocean which absorb rather than reflect sunlight, which in turn causes more global warming. That type of feedback loop combined with the inertia of the climate system means climate change doesn’t move along smooth, linear plots on a line graph.

 

Armour found that while observations might show climate sensitivity to be on the lower end, the models are picking up quite well the amount of warming that emerges over the long-term.

 

“The conclusions are really two-fold,” said Armour. “When the models are treated consistently with the observations, that is measuring climate sensitivity within the models in the same way you would with the observations, it brings that value of sensitivity in the models downward, meaning they’re not too sensitive.”

 

“But the other way you could view the results,” he added, “is that the model range of future warming is rather realistic, meaning that our apparent climate sensitivity we get from the observations can be expected to increase in the future, meaning more global warming than you might naïvely expect from taking just that low value that people have been talking about from the observations.”

 

Gavin Schmidt, a NASA climate scientist not involved in the study, said Armour’s findings complemented the results of a 2016 report on climate sensitivity conducted by researchers at NASA and Columbia University. 

 

“What Armour finds is that [feedback loops] do change and in such a way that if you estimate the final sensitivity from just the early period you will end up underestimating the ECS,” he said in an email. “This is important because that’s almost exactly what’s happening when we try and use recent temperature trends to estimate the ECS. Those estimates have tended to come in lower than others, in ways that aren’t consistent with our understandings of processes or paleoclimate. So this result makes those studies much more consistent with other methods.”

 

Armour pointed to a pair of feedbacks that have yet to take effect, but are likely to lead to significant levels of warming.

 

“Over the next several decades to centuries we expect the Southern Ocean to warm up almost as much as the Arctic and get that big, positive feedback to start kicking in,” he said. “So it’s really that delay in the positive feedbacks kicking in that causes this increase in climate sensitivity into the future.”

 

That feedback in the southern hemisphere is projected to occur when ocean temperatures in the Southern Ocean warm, melting sea ice, like is already happening in the Arctic, causing the ocean to absorb more sunlight and leading to greater amounts warming.

 

Increased warming in the eastern tropical Pacific over the next several decades, he added, is is likely to diminish cloud cover in the region. That cloud cover, like sea ice in the Arctic and Southern Ocean, reflects incoming sunlight. 

 

“Initially in the very early stages of global warming, like today, like we’ve seen over the last hundred years, your clouds in the eastern tropical Pacific are actually acting to limit global warming, it has a negative, damping impact,” he said. “But in the future, say over the next several decades, we expect those to be a positive feedback, enhancing global warming.”

 

What Armour didn’t find was any suggestion that Earth’s climate might somehow absorb all of our increased greenhouse gas emissions and warm less than any climate model has predicted.

 

“There are no examples of models showing a decrease in sensitivity by any significant amount,” he said. “That range of predicted warming in the future, is actually, as far as we can tell, pretty accurate.”

 

And those predictions, whether gleaned from UN reports or NASA or any other peer-reviewed account, warn of dangerous changes to the climate, which could imperil millions of people and future generations.

 

“This is a good result for the scientists — because it closes a hole of inconsistency — but in terms of the ‘public’ argument, this won’t matter,” said NASA’s Schmidt. “The contrarians have been ignoring studies like this for years, and I doubt they will stop doing so now.”

Press link for more: Seeker.com