Clear The Air News Blog Rotating Header Image

Global Warming

Our Cataclysmic Planet

How mass extinctions inform our understanding of human-caused climate change

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/03/clams-totally-have-it-figured-out/519432/?utm_source=nl-atlantic-daily-031517

If you could have been there, somewhere in Siberia at the end of the Paleozoic Era nearly 252 million years ago, you would have witnessed an apocalyptic horror that rarely visits our planet.

Also, I mean, you would have been doomed. Almost certainly. It was a bad scene. Mass extinction is a real shitshow.

But let’s say, somehow, you could have watched this madness unfold—without succumbing to the monstrous cloud of carbon dioxide belched up from the volcanoes of the Siberian Traps, without being incinerated by an ocean of lava, without starving in the ruins of the global acid rain that destroyed the ecosystems on land, and without being burned alive in the wildfires that scorched the earth.

If you could have lived through all of this, which, by the way, you wouldn’t have, you would have been among the few creatures to survive what paleontologists now refer to as the Great Dying. It’s a good name for what happened.

There have only been five mass extinction events, that we know of, on Earth. The mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs was the most recent—but it wasn’t the most devastating. The Great Dying, which preceded the demise of the dinosaurs by about 180 million years, was by far the worst: The planet warmed rapidly— roughly 50 degrees Fahrenheit over a 60,000-year period. Some 90 percent of all living creatures went kaput. It then took 10 million years for life on Earth to bounce back, which was a curiously long recovery period, even for an extinction of that magnitude.

“What interested us was how long it took life to recover afterward,” said William Foster, a professor of geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin and the lead author of a new study about the Great Dying, published in the journal PLOS ONE on Wednesday. “Because not only was this the worst mass-extinction event, but recovery took millions of years.”

Foster wanted to know: Did the recovery of life on Earth take so long after the Great Dying because the extinction event itself was so cataclysmic? Or was something else going on?

To find out, he and his colleagues traveled to the Dolomites, a mountain range in northeastern Italy that’s known for its long geologic record of the Triassic, the period that came just after the Permian, which was capped by the Great Dying. The team examined marine invertebrate fossils, and from that work produced the most continuous dataset ever collected from the region.

The fossils they found showed that there were two additional extinction events in the recovery period after the Great Dying—not so major as to be deemed “mass extinctions,” but bad enough to slow the recuperation of life on Earth. Foster and his colleagues found that during that 10 million year recovery period marine invertebrates peaked then died off two times in association with carbon isotope shifts, which correlated with volcanic pulses from the Siberian Traps. In other words, just as life seemed to be bouncing back from the Great Dying, another extinction event derailed it—twice.

“This is not only interesting from an evolutionary point of view,” Foster says, “but also because those environmental conditions that life had to adapt to, to survive back then, are similar to those predicted for future climate warming scenarios.”

Similar, maybe, but not the identical. And thank goodness for that.

The volcanic eruptions that marked the start of the Great Dying were absolutely monstrous. The entire area of what is now China was covered in some 40 feet of lava. Those same volcanoes released a huge amount of gas, which set off the atmospheric deoxygenation that led to dramatic climate change. For context, it’s borderline ridiculous to compare the magnitude of this event to the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, one of the deadliest and most violent volcanic eruptions in recorded history. “Krakatoa is very, very, very small compared to what happened at the Siberian Traps,” Foster said. Krakatoa killed some 36,000 people.

The magnitude of the volcanic eruptions 252 million years ago may be difficult to comprehend today, but what’s happening to the atmosphere is familiar.

“This is what makes it so interesting,” Foster told me, “Because you have this huge volcanic eruption that releases all these gases, and then you look at what’s happening today [with climate change] and they’re all the same gases. They’re causing the same effects. So we can say, ‘This is what it did in the past and this is what we might be looking at for the future.’”

The natural next question is: Where’s the threshold, in terms of planetary warming, for setting off a mass extinction like the Great Dying? “For most animals we don’t know the threshold,” Foster said. “It’s really, really hard to reconstruct values that far back in the past, but it’s what we’re trying to develop: What are our thresholds? What sorts of temperatures are we talking about?”

Looking at the human activity that is spiking global temperatures today, we’re still nowhere near the deoxygenation that took place 252 million years ago. “We don’t think we will reach the threshold we reached in the Great Dying,” Foster told me. “Or, we hope we won’t, anyway.”

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, average global temperatures are likely to increase by at least 3 degrees within the next 80 years. In some places, they might increase by nearly 9 degrees—still substantially below the 50-degree increase that began after the eruptions of the Siberian Traps. (Even a difference of one or two degrees, however, can yield extraordinarily different outcomes for the planet.) There’s clear scientific consensus that human activity is driving climate change today. What happens to our species as a result is less certain.

The Earth has reinvented itself at least five times before. In each mass extinction, planetary life was very nearly wiped clean. Microscopic organisms, insects, furry beasts, and reptilian land monsters have all been destroyed at one point or another.

There are survivors, of course. Even the Great Dying spared some clams, sea snails, urchins, brittle stars, and seed shrimp. These creatures didn’t just survive, they also became the most abundant animals in our oceans, a reminder that the story of life on our planet isn’t the story of a single species at the top of the food chain, but ultimately a tale of relentless adaptability.

“Big cool things like dinosaurs are pretty rare to find compared with clams,” says Peter Brannen, the author of The Ends of the World. And from one mass extinction to the next, there’s remarkably constancy on one hand—same magmatic systems on the same planet orbiting the same ole star. Yet there’s staggering newness, too.

“The world looks totally different before and after a mass extinction,” Brannen told me. “Sixty-seven million years ago, you had mosasaurs and big non-bird dinosaurs, and 15 million years later you have whales and giant land-mammals.”

“In one way it’s scary that we’re even in the same conversation as major mass extinction events,” Brannen added, referring to climate change. “But the Earth has seen way worse than we could ever dish out and it still recovers. The Earth, in the long run? The Earth will be fine.”

Humans, maybe not so much.

Scientists disprove there was a hiatus in global warming after confirming controversial study

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/01/05/scientists-disprove-hiatus-global-warming-confirming-controversial/

A reported pause in global warming between 1998 and 2014 was false, according to US-British research published Wednesday that confirmed the findings of a controversial US study on ocean warming.

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of York, England, corroborated the results of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) research paper in 2015.

Their findings were reported in the US journal Science Advances.

The NOAA paper had shown ocean buoys now used to measure water temperatures tend to report slightly cooler temperatures than older ship-based systems.

The switch to buoy measurements had hidden some of the real-world warming during the 1998-2014 period, the NOAA scientists concluded.

The NOAA paper had drawn outrage from some scientists who insisted there had been a “global warming hiatus” and from critics who consider global warming a hoax.

The US House of Representatives, controlled by the Republican Party, had even demanded the NOAA scientists provide lawmakers with their email exchanges about the research.

The US government agency agreed to transmit data and respond to scientific questions but refused to hand over the emails of the study’s authors, a decision supported by scientists worried about political interference.

“Our results mean that essentially NOAA got it right, that they were not cooking the books,” said Zeke Hausfather, a graduate student in UC Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group and lead author of the new study.

The International Panel on Climate Change, in a report published in September 2013, said the average global warming between 1951 and 2012 had been 0.12 degrees Celsius (0.22 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade.

But between 1998 and 2012, warming had amounted to only 0.07 degrees Celsius per decade, indicating a ‘global warming hiatus.’

The 2015 NOAA analysis, which was adjusted to correct for the “cold bias” of buoy measurements, found there was no detectable slowdown in ocean warming over the previous 15 years.

Reporting in the journal Science, the NOAA scientists said the oceans has actually warmed 0.12 degrees Celsius per decade since 2000, nearly twice as fast as the earlier estimates of 0.07 degrees Celsius per decade.

That brought the rate of ocean temperature rise in line with estimates for the previous 30 years, between 1970 and 1999.

The new study uses independent data from satellites and Argo floats, a worldwide satellite-based location and data collection system, as well as from buoys.

The information gathered confirmed the NOAA results in 2015 were correct, the scientists said.

“We were initially skeptical of the NOAA result, because it showed faster warming than a previous updated record from the UK Met Office,” said Kevin Cowtan of the University of York.

“So we set out to test it for ourselves, using different methods and different data. We now think NOAA got it right, and a new dataset from the Japan Meteorological Agency also agrees,” he said.

Canada pressed to make clean environment a constitutional right

https://www.yahoo.com/news/canada-pressed-clean-environment-constitutional-162936015.html

A pioneering conservationist called on Canada this week to make clean environments a constitutional right — an idea forged decades ago and widely adopted but with mixed success around the world.

Canadian academic, science broadcaster and environmentalist David Suzuki said these protections must be enshrined in Canada’s bill of rights to prevent their degradation at the hands of less environmentally oriented governments that periodically come to power.

In an interview with AFP, he pointed to former Tory prime minister Stephen Harper, who during a decade in office (2006-2015) “began to dismantle a lot of our environmental laws,” and to the US President-elect Donald Trump who has called global warming a hoax.

“We’ve now seen a monumental earthquake kind of change in the United States with the election of Donald Trump,” said Suzuki, who turns 80 in March.

“In one election we could see the overturning of decades of environmental legislation that worked.”

The idea of clean air, potable water and healthy food free from heavy metals, pesticides, and other pollutants as a human right emerged in the mid-1970s.

The collapse of fascist, colonial and communist regimes led to an unprecedented wave of constitution making; more than half of the world’s constitutions in fact were written during this period.

This, combined with awareness of environmental degradation and the inadequacy of state responses, lead to more than 80 nations enacting some form of constitutional protection for the environment.

Yet ecological sustainability remains elusive for most.

Regardless, Suzuki lamented having to fight over and over the same battles of the last 35 years to prevent oil drilling in sensitive areas, the construction of hydroelectric dams requiring extensive flooding, or supertanker traffic along Canada’s pristine Pacific coast.

“We thought we won 30, 35 years ago,” he said. “Now we’re having to fight the same battles over again.”

“We can’t keep doing this. We have to change the way we have a relationship to the world.”

Canada, he said, needs hard rules not subject to political oscillations. “We need to enshrine these rights in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” he told AFP.

– Hottest year on record –

Constitutional change does not come easy in Canada.

The constitution was patriated from colonial masters in Britain in 1982, but with the support of only nine of Canada’s 10 provinces.

Quebec, then under separatist leadership, refused to sign the document. Subsequent attempts to officially bring the French-speaking province under Canada’s wing provoked infighting that threatened to break up the nation.

Failing a constitutional amendment, Suzuki called for activists to redouble their efforts in the face of growing threats to past achievements.

“You’ve got to fight like mad,” he said. “You’ve got to be eco-warriors.”

To Americans musing about moving to Canada, he offered a stern message: “I’m not interested in rats deserting a sinking ship.”

“Now is the time for you to work your ass off to make sure that (the next four years) are going to be as good for the environment as possible, and work toward the next election,” he said.

On Wednesday, business and political leaders meeting in Marrakesh urged Trump not to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on fighting global warming.

It sets the goal of limiting average global warming to 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels by cutting greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. On Monday the UN said average temperatures were already up 1.2 degrees Celsius.

Countries including the United States have pledged to curb emissions under the deal by moving to renewable energy sources.

But Trump has vowed to boost oil, gas and coal.

Suzuki praised Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for championing the Paris accord, but questioned Ottawa’s paradoxical support for the construction of new pipelines to move Canadian oil to tidewater in order to reach new overseas markets.

“Why are we even talking about pipelines,” he said.

“If we’re serious about the Paris agreement, we have to get off the fossil fuels very, very rapidly. And in order to recover the cost of building a pipeline, you have to use it for 30, 35 years.”

AGW Denialist and lobbyist Myron Ebell tapped to head the EPA

Myron Ebell was just tapped to head the EPA .

This is a short summary about him .

Choosing Myron Ebell means Trump plans to drastically reshape climate policies

Ebell is a well-known and polarizing figure in the energy and environment realm. His participation in the EPA transition signals that the Trump team is looking to drastically reshape the climate policies the agency has pursued under the Obama administration. Ebell’s role is likely to infuriate environmentalists and Democrats but buoy critics of Obama’s climate rules.

Ebell’s views appear to square with Trump’s when it comes to EPA’s agenda. Trump has called global warming “bullshit” and he has said he would “cancel” the Paris global warming accord and roll back President Obama’s executive actions on climate change (ClimateWire, May 27).

His lobbying clients in 2016 include Koch Companies Public Sector LLC, Southern Company Services, Dow Chemical Co. and Competitive Power Ventures Inc., according to public disclosures.

and

Tobbacco industry

The tobacco company Phillip Morris hired Ebell in the 1990s as Policy Director to mount a campaign to make regulating the tobacco industry “politically unpalatable”, and to advocate for acceptance of “safer cigarettes.”[12] As part of its “Control Abuse of Power” (CAP) project,[13] Ebell launched lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the 1998 tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), respectively.

Media appearances

In 2001, Ebell stated his belief that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the EU and the rest of the world to harm America’s economy. He justified the allegation with a quote from European Commissioner Margot Wallström in her response to Bush’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol.[14] Ebell also called the UK’s Chief Scientist David King “an alarmist with ridiculous views who knows nothing about climate change”; he added that since all scientists in Europe and in other countries outside the USA were funded by governments, none of them could be seen as independent

This really is the end of the world as we know it. 2 degrees increase is already baked in. This is going to make it worse for all of us.

Global community must unite against Trump to avoid climate catastrophe

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
9 November 2016
Contact:
Climate Justice Info Service
climatejustinfo@gmail.com

Global community must unite against Trump to avoid climate catastrophe

As news of Donald Trump’s victory in the US Presidential Election reached Marrakech, civil society groups gathered at the COP22 United Nations annual climate change talks reacted:

“Whilst the election of a climate denier into the White House sends the wrong signal globally. The grassroots movements for climate justice – native american communities, people of color, working people – those that are at this moment defending water rights in Dakota, ending fossil fuel pollution, divesting from the fossil fuel industry, standing with communities who are losing their homes and livelihoods from extreme weather devastation to creating a renewable energy transformation – are the real beating heart of the movement for change. We will redouble our efforts, grow stronger and remain committed to stand with those on the frontline of climate injustice at home and abroad.. In the absence of leadership from our government, the international community must come together redouble their effort to prevent climate disaster,” said Jesse Bragg, from Boston-based Corporate Accountability International.

“For communities in the global south, the U.S. citizens’ choice to elect Donald Trump seems like a death sentence. Already we are suffering the effects of climate change after years of inaction by rich countries like the U.S., and with an unhinged climate change denier now in the White House, the relatively small progress made is under threat. The international community must not allow itself to be dragged into a race to the bottom. Other developed countries like Europe, Canada, Australia, and Japan must increase their pledges for pollution cuts and increase their financial support for our communities,” said Wilfred D’Costa from the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development.

“The Paris Agreement was signed and ratified not by a President, but by the United States itself. One man alone, especially in the twenty-first century, should not strip the globe of the climate progress that it has made and should continue to make. As a matter of international law, and as a matter of human survival, the nations of the world can, must, and will hold the United States to its climate commitments. And it’s incumbent upon U.S. communities to unite and push forth progressive climate policies on a state and local level, where federal policy does not reign,” said
Jean Su from California-based Center for Biological Diversity.

“As a young woman and first-time voter I will not tolerate Trump’s denialism of the action needed for climate justice. Our country must undergo a systemic change and just transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy within my lifetime. The next four years are critical for getting on the right pathway, and the disastrous election of Trump serves as a solemn reminder of the path ahead of us. As young people and as climate justice movements we will be demanding real action on climate for the sake of our brothers and sisters around the world and for all future generations,” said Becky Chung from the youth network SustainUS.

“Africa is already burning. The election of Trump is a disaster for our continent. The United States, if it follows through on its new President’s rash words about withdrawing from the international climate regime, will become a pariah state in global efforts for climate action. This is a moment where the rest of the world must not waver and must redouble commitments to tackle dangerous climate change,” said Geoffrey Kamese from Friends of the Earth Africa.

Climate scientists expected ‘nothing like’ this year’s record-breaking global temperatures

‘Massive temperature hikes, but also extreme events like floodings, have become the new normal’

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change-global-warming-record-temperatures-nothing-like-shocked-2016-a7157891.html

Every month this year has set a new record high temperature for the month, continuing a streak that now extends over 14 months.

“What concerns me most is that we didn’t anticipate these temperature jumps,” Dr Carlson told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We predicted moderate warmth for 2016, but nothing like the temperature rises we’ve seen.

“Massive temperature hikes, but also extreme events like floodings, have become the new normal.”

The WCRP was set up by the International Council for Science and the World Meteorological Organization in 1980.

Scientists have expressed concerns at a number of tipping points that could dramatically increase the rate of warming.

For example, the melting of ice at the poles reduces the amount of sunlight that is reflected with the darker water or land absorbing more of the sun’s energy and increasing the temperature. Experts have warned the warming in the Arctic – far higher than the global average – could have a “possibly catastrophic” effect on the number of dangerous storms in the northern hemisphere.

Vast amounts of methane – a powerful greenhouse gas – that has been frozen for thousands of years in the tundra of Siberia has also started to be released as it melts. Methane has also been seen bubbling to the surface in the ocean off the northern coast of Russia following dramatic reductions in sea ice cover.

And Dr Carlson said the way humans react to warmer weather could make things worse.

“Also critical is the fact that people survive the heat by using more energy for cooling, thus further depleting the world’s resources,” he said.

He said the increased frequency of extreme storms was starting to attract world leaders’ attention.

“The question is shifting from ‘has the climate changed?’ to ‘by how much?’” he said.

“Statistically we need to get better at predicting not only how frequent and intense these events will be – but how long they will last.”

Exxon-Mobil is abusing the first amendment

Global warming is perhaps the single most significant threat facing the future of humanity on this planet. It is likely to wreak havoc on the economy, including, most especially, on the stocks of companies that sell hydrocarbon energy products. If large oil companies have deliberately misinformed investors about their knowledge of global warming, they may have committed serious commercial fraud.

A potentially analogous instance of fraud occurred when tobacco companies were found to have deliberately misled their customers about the dangers of smoking. The safety of nicotine was at the time fiercely debated, just as the threat of global warming is now vigorously contested. Because tobacco companies were found to have known about the risks of smoking, even as they sought to convince their customers otherwise, they were held liable for fraud. Despite the efforts of tobacco companies to invoke First Amendment protections for their contributions to public debate, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found: “Of course it is well settled that the First Amendment does not protect fraud.”

The point is a simple one. If large corporations were free to mislead deliberately the consuming public, we would live in a jungle rather than in an orderly and stable market.

ExxonMobil and its supporters are now eliding the essential difference between fraud and public debate. Raising the revered flag of the First Amendment, they loudly object to investigations recently announced by attorneys general of several states into whether ExxonMobil has publicly misrepresented what it knew about global warming.

The National Review has accused the attorneys general of “trampling the First Amendment.” Post columnist George F. Will has written that the investigations illustrate the “authoritarianism” implicit in progressivism, which seeks “to criminalize debate about science.” And Hans A. von Spakovsky, speaking for the Heritage Foundation, compared the attorneys general to the Spanish Inquisition.

Despite their vitriol, these denunciations are wide of the mark. If your pharmacist sells you patent medicine on the basis of his “scientific theory” that it will cure your cancer, the government does not act like the Spanish Inquisition when it holds the pharmacist accountable for fraud.

The obvious point, which remarkably bears repeating, is that there are circumstances when scientific theories must remain open and subject to challenge, and there are circumstances when the government must act to protect the integrity of the market, even if it requires determining the truth or falsity of those theories. Public debate must be protected, but fraud must also be suppressed. Fraud is especially egregious because it is committed when a seller does not himself believe the hokum he foists on an unwitting public.

One would think conservative intellectuals would be the first to recognize the necessity of prohibiting fraud so as to ensure the integrity of otherwise free markets.

Prohibitions on fraud go back to Roman times; no sane market could exist without them.

It may be that after investigation the attorneys general do not find evidence that ExxonMobil has committed fraud. I do not prejudge the question. The investigation is now entering its discovery phase, which means it is gathering evidence to determine whether fraud has actually been committed.

Opinions newsletter

Thought-provoking opinions and commentary, in your inbox daily.

Nevertheless, ExxonMobil and its defenders are already objecting to the subpoena by the attorneys general, on the grounds that it “amounts to an impermissible content-based restriction on speech” because its effect is to “deter ExxonMobil from participating in the public debate over climate change now and in the future.” It is hard to exaggerate the brazen audacity of this argument.

If ExxonMobil has committed fraud, its speech would not merit First Amendment protection. But the company nevertheless invokes the First Amendment to suppress a subpoena designed to produce the information necessary to determine whether ExxonMobil has committed fraud. It thus seeks to foreclose the very process by which our legal system acquires the evidence necessary to determine whether fraud has been committed. In effect, the company seeks to use the First Amendment to prevent any informed lawsuit for fraud.

But if the First Amendment does not prevent lawsuits for fraud, it does not prevent subpoenas designed to provide evidence necessary to establish fraud. That is why when a libel plaintiff sought to inquire into the editorial processes of CBS News and CBS raised First Amendment objections analogous to those of ExxonMobil, the Supreme Court in the 1979 case Herbert v. Lando unequivocally held that the Constitution does not preclude ordinary discovery of information relevant to a lawsuit, even with respect to a defendant news organization.

The attorneys general are not private plaintiffs. They represent governments, and the Supreme Court has always and rightfully been extremely reluctant to question the good faith of prosecutors when they seek to acquire information necessary to pursue their official obligations. If every prosecutorial request for information could be transformed into a constitutional attack on a defendant’s point of view, law enforcement in this country would grind to a halt. Imagine the consequences in prosecutions against terrorists, who explicitly seek to advance a political ideology.

It is grossly irresponsible to invoke the First Amendment in such contexts. But we are witnessing an increasing tendency to use the First Amendment to unravel ordinary business regulations. This is heartbreaking at a time when we need a strong First Amendment for more important democratic purposes than using a constitutional noose to strangle basic economic regulation.

Analysis of the implementation on the Paris Agreement

An analysis on how to translate the Paris agreement into action in a German context.

Greenpeace Germany and consultancy New Climate Institute have completed a first brief analysis of how to translate the goals of the international climate regime as determined by the Paris Agreement into the German context.

“Firstly, emissions reduction scenarios on a sectoral level from existing literature sources are compared. Since the literature on this topic does not cover 1.5°C scenarios for Germany to a sufficient degree, global scenarios and the total CO₂ budget available for 1.5°C are taken as a basis. Conclusions are drawn from the comparison of different emissions reduction scenarios.

Key messages

To be compatible with the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement …
• … global CO₂ emissions from energy generation and use as well as from agriculture and forestry will need to decrease +to zero by 2035. This way, temperature increase is likely to be kept “well below 2°C” and aim towards 1.5°C without taking the risk of needing to remove CO₂ from the atmosphere on a large scale in the future. Simultaneously, a smaller budget of emissions remains for sectors where (according to most models) a reduction in emissions would be exceedingly demanding, as is the case for non-CO₂ emissions from agriculture through livestock and soil.
• … developed countries such as Germany would have to decrease greenhouse gas emissions to zero earlier than the global average, i.e. CO₂ emissions before 2035.
• … the share of renewables in the energy mix (electricity production, building heating and cooling, industry, and transport) should reach 100% in Germany before 2035. The provision of electricity entirely from renewable sources should be achieved before 2030. This assumes the agreed phaseout of nuclear energy and no use of CCS.
• … the lignite and hard coal phase-out from electricity production should be achieved by around 2025 in Germany.
• … avoidance of travel, modal shift and increase in share of cars without combustion engines, e.g. through the development of electric mobility, are necessary beyond current targets in Germany.
• … 5% of Germany’s existing buildings need to be renovated to nearly zero energy standards per year, in addition to 100% of new stock conforming to nearly zero energy standards.
• … energy efficiency and electrification in industry have to be enhanced, in addition to research and development.
• … emissions from agriculture and forestry need to eventually be reduced to nearly zero as well, even if a little later than energy-related emissions.

A large part of the CO₂ budget available to limit temperature increase to 2°C or 1.5°C has already been spent. In order to limit the global average temperature increase to the above-mentioned levels, the cumulative emissions over this century are the determining factor. If emissions are too high now,CO₂ could theoretically still be removed from the atmosphere at a later point in time. However, the technology that could enable this subsequent removal, i.e. the utilization of biomass in combination with carbon capture and storage (CCS), entails significant problems and risks. This brief analysis consequently assumes that the emission budget has to be reached without these “negative emission” technologies.”

Compiled and translated from German by Reinhold Pape
https://newclimateinstitute.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/160222_klimaschutz_paris_studie_02_2016_fin_neu1.pdf

New survey finds a growing climate consensus among meteorologists

96% of AMS members realize climate change is happening, and most understand humans are responsible

There have been multiple scientific studies that all concur: scientists know that climate change is happening and it is largely caused by humans. I recently wrote about this here, where I reviewed the studies. It turns out that the more scientists know about climate change, the more they are convinced that humans are warming the planet. In fact, the consensus is extraordinarily strong. But it isn’t just that the vast majority of scientists agree; it’s that the best scientist agree. We find that the contrarian scientists tend to be less accomplished, have had their research found to be incorrect time after time, and they produce less science.

But very recently, a study from the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication was completed that adds to our knowledge on the consensus. Lead author Ed Maibach and his colleagues are very well-respected surveyors and scientists who study this topic. The study didn’t focus on what we think of as climate scientists – rather they polled meteorologists.

There were actually two surveys that were merged. In one, the authors identified 1038 professionals currently working in broadcast meteorology from the American Meteorological Society (AMS). In a concurrent study, the authors obtained a list of members from the AMS who were not broadcast meteorologists. The two groups were asked a series of questions on whether climate change is occurring, the degree to which respondents felt humans were responsible, what could be done to minimize climate change, among others. The authors also asked about the educational background of the respondents.

Not all members of the AMS are meteorologists. Additionally, someone working in meteorology is not necessarily a climate scientist. Similarly, a climate scientist is not necessarily a meteorologist. Sometimes these populations overlap but in many cases they do not.

One thing that tends to differentiate practicing meteorologists from climate scientists is that meteorologists tend to observe short-term weather more, while climate scientists tend to look at long-term trends. While this difference may sound trivially obvious, it’s an important distinction to keep in mind because it suggests meteorologists may be more likely to see differences in observed weather patterns. Climate scientists would be less likely to be swayed by changes in weather patterns.

So what did the survey find? First, nearly every meteorologist (96%) agrees that climate change is happening, and the vast majority are confident in their opinion. Only 1% felt that climate change isn’t happening (3% did not know). Next, a large majority feel that climate change is being caused by humans. For instance, 29% believe that the change is largely or entirely human caused; 38% think most of the change is from humans; 14% answered that humans and natural factors are about equally responsible. Only 5% felt that climate change is mainly natural.

Another important finding is that most meteorologists feel that some of the change can be averted, based on how we react. Small minorities felt that a large amount of change can be averted or that climate change cannot be averted.

These views have changed over the years. For instance, almost 20% of meteorologists say their opinion on climate has changed over the past five years. Of that group, the vast majority are more convinced that the climate is changing and they cite a variety of reasons including new research, seeing first-hand evidence, the consensus amongst climate scientists, or from interactions with climate scientists. A final important result is that only 37% of the AMS respondents consider themselves climate experts.

Speaking more broadly about the meteorology community beyond the AMS, that population tends to be more skeptical that the Earth’s climate is changing. I tend to believe that the skepticism is partly because meteorologists in general focus on short-term events and also because a great many non-experts are counted as meteorologists (including people who do not have degrees in any science, let alone a meteorological science). Despite this, meteorologists’ views are important not only because they are a consistent scientific presence in many households, but also because the collective weather observation record from the meteorological community is a resource that is unmatched.

With this new study, the meteorological consensus is seen to be nearly as strong as that in the climate science community. I asked author Ed Maibach for a summary and he told me:

It is not surprising that more meteorologists are now more convinced that human-caused climate change is happening. That is how science works. As the scientific evidence becomes more irrefutable, which is the case with harmful, human-caused climate change, more scientists of all types will become convinced.

Arctic sea ice extent breaks record low for winter

With the ice cover down to 14.52m sq km, scientists now believe the Arctic is locked onto a course of continually shrinking sea ice

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/28/arctic-sea-ice-record-low-winter

A record expanse of Arctic sea never froze over this winter and remained open water as a season of freakishly high temperatures produced deep – and likely irreversible – changes on the far north.

Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre said on Monday that the sea ice cover attained an average maximum extent of 14.52m sq km (5.607m sq miles) on 24 March, the lowest winter maximum since records began in 1979.

The low beats a record set only last year of 14.54m sq km (5.612m sq miles), reached on 25 February 2015.

“I’ve never seen such a warm, crazy winter in the Arctic,” said NSIDC director Mark Serreze. “The heat was relentless.”

It was the third straight month of record lows in the sea ice cover, after extreme temperatures in January and February stunned scientists.

The winter months of utter darkness and extreme cold are typically the time of maximum growth in the ice cap, until it begins its seasonal decline in spring.

With the ice cover down to 14.54m sq km, scientists now believe the Arctic is locked onto a course of continually shrinking sea ice – and that is before the 2016 melt season gets underway.

“If we are starting out very low that gives a jump on the melt season,” said Rick Thoman, the climate science manager for the National Weather Service’s Alaska region.

“For the last few years, we have had extremely low ice cover in the summer. That means a lot more solar energy absorbed by the darker open water. That heat tends to carry over from year to year.”

After this winter’s record ice lows, scientists now expect more than ever that the Arctic will be entirely ice-free in the summer months within 20 or 25 years.

“Sometime in the 2030s or 2040s time frame, at least for a few days, you won’t have ice out there in the dead of summer,” said Dr John Walsh, chief scientist of the International Arctic Research Centre.

Those changes are already evident on the ground. In 1975, there were only a few days a year when ships could move from Barrow to Prudhoe Bay off the north coast of Alaska.
Now that window lasts months.

The Arctic will always have ice in the winter months, Walsh said. But it will be thinner and more fragile than the multi-year ice, and less reliable for indigenous peoples who rely on the ice as winter transport routes or hunting platforms.

“It’s not just about how many hundreds of thousands of square kilometres covered by the ice. It’s about the quality of that ice,” Thoman said.

The extent of ice cover is a critical indicator of the changes taking place in the Arctic – but the shrinking of the polar ice carries sweeping consequences for lower latitudes as well.

The bright white snow-covered ice reflects about 85% of sunlight back into the atmosphere, compared to the dark surfaces of the open water which absorb most of the heat energy.

“Basically the polar regions are the refrigerator for the Earth,” said Dr Donald Perovich, a researcher at Dartmouth University. “They are extremely important for being able to keep the Arctic colder, and in turn help keep the rest of the planet colder.”

Since 1980, however, the summer sea ice cover over the Arctic has gone into a drastic decline, from 7.8m sq km to 4.4m sq km in 2012, before rebounding slightly. “It would be as if the entire United States east of the Mississippi melted away plus the states from Minnesota down to Louisiana, past North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. It’s huge,” Perovich said.

This winter scientists said the Arctic freeze stalled early on, across the polar seas. The sea ice extent was exceptionally low both in the Barents and the Bering seas – which in past years has been one of the most prolific producers of ice. And it was thinner, especially in the Beaufort sea north of Alaska, scientists said.

There were a number of causes, in addition to the record high temperatures and carry-over effects of earlier ice loss.

The El Niño weather system produced more warming, and the Arctic saw influxes of exceptionally warm water from the Pacific as well as the Atlantic side.

In any event, Walsh said it was becoming increasingly clear the Arctic would never return to its previous frozen state, even if there are small gains in ice cover in a single year.

“The balance is shifting to the point where we are not going back to the old regime of the 1980s and 1990s,” he said. “Every year has had less ice cover than any summer since 2007. That is nine years in a row that you would call unprecedented. When that happens you have to start thinking that something is going on that is not letting the system go back to where it used to be.”