Climate News Roundup 9/18/2015

  • One of the world’s biggest problems is how to lift people out of poverty while simultaneously reducing the use of fossil fuels. One way of doing this is to help countries leap over fossil fuels and go directly to renewable energy, such as solar panels. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former finance minister of Nigeria and a former director of the World Bank, discusses how this is being done in an op-ed piece in The New York Times.
  • Numerous studies have made it clear that the majority of fossil fuels must remain in the ground if humanity is to have any hope of keeping global warming below 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial temperatures. This necessity was emphasized in the most recent IPCC report when it included the concept of a carbon budget. Now, in order to stay within the carbon budget, a group of environmental organizations has called on President Obama to stop new leases for the development of fossil fuels in public lands and waters.
  • The G20 nations pledged to end fossil fuel subsidies in 2009. In spite of that, subsidies given in the Powder River Basin total $2.9 billion a year according to a study by Carbon Tracker Initiative and three other organizations. This equates to $8 per tonne, or almost 25% of the sales price. However, the unaccounted for social costs of fossil fuels are even greater.
  • Bill McKibben reflects on the first installment of a report by Inside Climate News on Exxon’s understanding of climate change and its causes in the 1970’s and 80’s. The second installment was released Thursday.
  • Scientists and economists at Penn. State University have prepared a Climate Impacts Assessment Update for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Because of the proximity of Pennsylvania to Virginia, their findings may provide a clue as to the changes we might expect in a warming world.
  • Last week I provided a link to an article about projections indicating that all of the ice in Antarctica will melt if we burn all of the known reserves of fossil fuels. Jedediah Purdy, a professor at Duke Law School, used that article as a springboard for a discussion of the fact that the future of the planet is a political problem.
  • Dry lands comprise 40% of Earth’s land surface. They are covered with “biocrust”, a symbiotic mixture of mosses, lichen, and photosynthetic cyanobacteria,
    that glues the surface together, preventing the soil from blowing away. The biocrust also stores a significant amount of carbon, estimated at 25% of the carbon in Earth’s soil. Thus it is disturbing that a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that elevated temperatures, like those expected from global warming, disrupts the biocrust, causing loss of the mosses and lichen with their associated adhesive properties.
  • A research paper in the journal Nature Climate Change has found that the drought in California is more severe than any in the past 500 years. While the drought is considered to be part of a natural pattern, a Columbia University study has found that human-caused climate change has made it significantly worse. As if that wasn’t enough, a Stanford University study found that a future of more frequent drought in California is a near certainty. National Geographic provided a detailed report on the implications of these findings.
  • Commitments of CO2 reductions made for the Paris talks are inadequate to hold warming below 2C. Carbon Brief discusses a new report about the consequences of exceeding that threshold.
  • U.S. and Chinese cities are committing to higher standards for greenhouse gas reductions than their respective nations have. Meanwhile, some cities worldwide are progressing well in their efforts to abandon fossil fuels, whereas others are almost completely reliant on them.
  • The National Academy of Sciences has released a new booklet that highlights four ways that changes in the Arctic will reverberate beyond the Arctic: (1) changes in the weather, (2) impacts on our food supplies, (3) increase in sea level, and (4) worsening of global warming. You can download a copy of the booklet (8 MB) for free.
  • Two recently published scientific papers used new statistical techniques to conclude that a hiatus in global warming during the past 15 years never actually existed. When combined with other papers published recently the evidence is clear that global warming is continuing unabated.
  • Britain’s top climate and weather body, the Met Office, issued a report on Monday that predicted that 2015 and 2016 will be among the very warmest years ever recorded.
  • In a sensitive essay entitled “The Age of Loneliness“, Meera Subramanian writes about where we have been and where we might be going during the Anthropocene.
  • Here is an essay you just may want to pass on to a mom or dad who doesn’t seem too concerned about climate change.

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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