Climate News Roundup 9/11/2015

Before getting into this week’s climate news I want to give a shout out to CAAV Steering Committee member Charlie Strickler who is among the group engaged in a fast outside of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, DC. Thank you Charlie and good luck. Please take care of yourself.

  • Joni Grady, Doug Hendren, and I were in DC on Thursday to participate in the Grandparents Climate Action Day. The high point of our day was being part of a flash mob in Union Station in the morning. You can see it here.
  • How business responds to climate change will have a large impact on how rapidly the world reduces its carbon emissions. Thus, it is discomforting to learn that fewer than half (46%) of the CEOs of the worlds largest companies will prioritize the issue, even if a binding climate agreement is reached in Paris.
  • The Syrian crisis began when prolonged drought and an exhausted aquifer forced farmers off their land and into cities where there were no jobs. But, as Peter Mellgard discusses, the European migrant crisis may just be a harbinger of things to come as climate change forces people to leave their homelands. Craig Bennett, CEO of Friends of the Earth, also discusses the issue.
  • A new study by the New Climate Economy has shown that cities world-wide could generate savings of up $17 trillion by investing in green urban infrastructure.
  • Two recently published studies by different scientific teams provide further evidence that melting glaciers on Greenland could lead to disruption of global ocean currents, such as the Gulf Stream. Possible effects range from plunging temperatures in northern latitudes to centuries-long droughts in Southeast Asia.
  • In an interesting exercise, Damon Matthews of Concordia University in Montreal, Canada has monetized the CO2 emissions from various nations, dividing them into two groups (debtor and creditor) depending on whether they emitted more or less than the global per capita average. He used the EPA’s social cost of CO2 of $40 per tonne in arriving at his figures, which show that each person in the US has an accumulated debt of $12,000, whereas each person in India has a credit of $2500. Similarly, George Washington University’s graduate program in health administration has released a new visualization based on 2010 data showing the nations most responsible for climate change and the ones most vulnerable to it.
  • NASA has an interesting website that you might want to bookmark. It is called “Vital Signs of the Planet” and it tracks CO2, global temperature, sea level, etc. They have recently updated some of the figures so I encourage you to check it out.
  • Although it is normal for us to focus on changes occurring in the U.S. weather, we need to remember that changes are occurring all over the world. For example, this summer was especially hot and dry in Europe, as John Abraham reported in The Guardian.
  • The folk in Norfolk can look forward to greater than average nuisance flooding this fall, winter, and spring, according to a recent NASA report, going from about 8 flood days to 18.
  • A recently published paper by Australian scientists has shown that a single statistic, the ratio of the number of record hot temperatures to the number of record low temperatures in a year, is a good indicator of a changing climate.
  • Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 so there has been a lot of interest recently in reducing leakage from natural gas transport and distribution pipelines. Thus it is encouraging that a recent study focusing on Cincinnati, OH and Durham, NC has found that replacing old gas mains has brought about a significant reduction in gas leakage.
  • The oceans are major carbon sinks, with about a quarter of emitted CO2 being absorbed by them. Unfortunately, around 1980 the ability of the Southern Ocean to absorb CO2 began declining, which was a cause for concern. Now, new studies based on millions of observations from ships at sea have found that the ability of the Southern Ocean to absorb CO2 has recovered and that it is again a major sink.
  • Idaho has been hit particularly hard by wildfires this year, as well as in the past few. This has had a large impact on many sectors of the Idaho economy. Rocky Barker examines those effects and wraps up with a good list of things that have been learned about wild fires in Idaho this century.
  • In a “the glass is half full” essay, Fred Krupp of the Environmental Defense Fund provides “4 undeniable signs we’re making progress on climate change.” His optimism stems in part from “a deeply reported New York Magazine piece” by Jonathan Chait entitled “The Sunniest Climate-Change Story You’ve Ever Read.”
  • While we all hope it will never happen, a recent study investigated the consequences of burning all available fossil fuel reserves. Hint: don’t buy coastal property.
  • One impediment to building a consensus for action on climate change is the perception that the risk of extreme warming is low. This stems in part from uncertainty in climate science and in part from a lack of understanding of risk. For example, scientists have reported a range of values for the likely warming associated with a doubling of greenhouse gas concentrations. When we think about that range, we generally think that it follows a bell-shaped curve because the likelihood of so many other things in our lives do. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. It displays a distribution with a “fat tail”. Michael Mann of Penn State explains the impacts of that on the risks associated with rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

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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