Climate News Roundup 9/4/2015

  • Ivy Main has a new blog post in which she presents her third annual update of Virginia renewable energy law and policy. If you are considering putting solar panels on your house or business this is a post you should read.
  • A major news story this week was President Obama’s trip to Alaska. Because of its full coverage in major media I will not repeat it here. Rather, I’ll give you a link to a story in The Atlantic about the difficulties of moving a small Alaskan village that is washing into the sea as a result of sea level rise and the melting of the permafrost. The people there are among the first climate migrants
    in the U.S. Another article has a picture of another Alaskan village that is even more vulnerable to sea level rise.
  • Climate migrants are not a future phenomenon, they exist right now. One case is in Zimbabwe. Although this migration is occurring within a single country it is still causing significant problems in the region to which the migrants are moving. Another article addresses the issue of climate displacement and why the term “refugee” is not really appropriate for people displaced by climate change, even when they leave their home country.
  • People in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and northwest China depend on melt water from glaciers in the Tien Shan mountain range as a critical part of their water supply. The melt rate of these glaciers has accelerated and by 2050 warmer temperatures driven by climate change could wipe out half of the remaining glacial ice.
  • Samuel Alexander (Research Fellow, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne, Australia) and Josh Floyd (advisor on energy, systems, and societal futures at Understandascope, and founding partner of the Centre for Australian Foresight) have some interesting ideas about a sustainable future. Some of their ideas may make you uncomfortable, but they certainly deserve consideration.
  • And now for some good news: CO2 emissions from electric power plants have hit the lowest point in 27 years. This happened even before the Clean Power Plan was released.
  • The World Wide Views Alliance has engaged 10,000 people in 76 countries to learn their views on the desirability of action on climate change. The United Nations Environment Programme has summarized the findings. A synthesis report is also available.
  • The world is undergoing a battery revolution and this may well have a big impact on your life. In fact, the second quarter of 2015 saw a 6-fold increase in energy storage deployment over the first quarter.
  • Tampa, Florida, Cairns, Australia and Dubai could experience super-charged hurricanes because of climate change, according to a new study from Nature Climate Change. These so called “grey swan” storms, events that are foreseeable but rare, pose a particularly grave threat to these three cities because of their massive storm surge potential.
  • A new study provides additional evidence that a warming Arctic can lead to colder winters in North America and Asia. Specifically, the new study identifies two areas in the Arctic that lead to colder winters, one affecting North America and the other Asia. The authors state that their findings will help weather forecasters.
  • A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences makes the case that droughts and heat waves have become more likely to overlap in the past 20 years compared to the period from 1960 to 1980. Interestingly, their map indicates that this has not been the case in the Valley, which has experienced fewer overlaps.
  • Deforestation has two impacts on climate change. First, as forests are cut down and burned, large quantities of CO2 are released to the atmosphere, directly contributing to warming. Second, the lost forests no longer remove CO2 through tree growth. Thus, it is disturbing that data from the University of Maryland and Google indicate that the world lost more than 45 million acres of tree cover in 2014. Also this week a new paper in Nature indicated that the world has many more trees than previously thought, although there are 46 percent fewer trees than there were before extensive deforestation began.
  • A paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters indicates that the record floods in Texas and Oklahoma in May 2015 were intensified by global warming.
  • A study published in the journal Nature/Scientific Reports has found that between 1950 and 2010, 5.7% of the global total land area shifted toward warmer and drier climate types. Modeling studies found that the shift cannot be explained by natural variations, but rather, was driven by anthropogenic factors such as CO2 emissions.
  • Even in the face of extreme climate change, life (of some sort) will go on. Lizzie Wade speculates in Wired on how biodiversity might change in a warmer world.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

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