22 November 2015

How 2015's record-breaking El Niño emerged on a warming planet

by Climate Nexus

Between the official arrival of El Niño in March and NOAA’s November update, the scope of the long-awaited global phenomenon is becoming clear: the 2015 El Niño is already setting records and is on track to becoming the strongest event ever recorded.The official classification will wait for three months of data, but model estimates suggest the 2015 event will grow even stronger and could top the high mark set by the 1997-98 event.

During the week of November 8 through 14, El Niño set a new record high for sea surface temperature in the central eastern Pacific, the most closely tracked indicator for measuring the strength of El Niño/La Niña events. At 5.4°F (3.0˚C), the weekly anomaly was 7 percent higher than the 5.0°F (2.8˚C) anomaly for the week prior, a reading that in turn had tied the high mark set by the 1997 El Niño.

08 November 2015

Misleading UN report confuses Paris climate talks outcome of 3.5C by 2100

by Joe Romm, Climate Progress

Memo to media: If countries go no further than their current global climate pledges, the earth will warm a total of 3.5°C by 2100.

A very misleading news release from the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) — coupled with an opaque UNFCCC report on those pledges, which are called intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) — has, understandably, left the global media thinking the climate talks in Paris get us much closer to 2°C than they actually do.

Indeed, the news release contains this too-cleverly worded paragraph quoting UNFCCC Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary:
The INDCs have the capability of limiting the forecast temperature rise to around 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100, by no means enough but a lot lower than the estimated four, five, or more degrees of warming projected by many prior to the INDCs,” said Ms. Figueres.

19 September 2015

Atlantic Ocean excited to move into beautiful beachfront mansion soon

This article first appeared in The Onion, and it's too good not to repost.

WEST PALM BEACH, FL—Admitting it has had its eye on the property for quite some time, the Atlantic Ocean confirmed Monday that it was looking forward to moving into a beautiful beachfront mansion in the near future.

“For the longest time it seemed like this place was completely out of reach for me, but I’ve come a long way in the past few years, and now it’s looking more and more like a real possibility,” said the body of water, which confided that, after having admired the building’s impressive exterior and grounds for so long, it was thrilled at the prospect of finally going inside and exploring all eight bedrooms and 7,500 square feet of living area.

“I’m not quite ready yet, but in a couple years or so, I can definitely see myself in there, making the place completely my own. And the little beachside community that the house is located in is just so cute, too—I can’t wait to go through and visit all the shops and restaurants.”

 The ocean noted, however, that it might make a few cosmetic changes to the mansion once it moves in, including gutting the lower floor and taking out a few walls.

08 September 2015

Why we need a politics of the far future

By Richard Eckersley, first published at On Line Opinion on 4 September 2015

If you were to assess various personal life paths and their risks and opportunities, would you choose one that had a 1 in 2 chance of wrecking your life, or even ending it? In most circumstances, no-one would; the risks are just too high.

Yet a new study suggests that many people think that we are taking risks of this magnitude with our future as a civilisation or a species. The study found most Australians (53%) believe there is a 50% or greater chance our way of life will end within the next 100 years, and a quarter (24%) that humans will be wiped out. These are surprisingly high estimates; no person or organization would accept or choose this level of risk, given the stakes.

When asked about different responses to these threats, 75% of the Australians surveyed agreed 'we need to transform our worldview and way of life if we are to create a better future for the world' (an 'activist' response); 44% agreed that 'the world's future looks grim so we have to focus on looking after ourselves and those we love' (nihilism); and 33% agreed that 'we are facing a final conflict between good and evil in the world' (fundamentalism).

24 August 2015

As 2015 smashes temperature records, it's hotter than you think

by David Spratt


There is an El Nino in full swing which helps push average global temperatures higher, and records are being broken, but just how hot is it? For several years, we have heard that global warming has pushed temperatures higher by around 0.8 to 0.85 degrees Celsius (°C).

But in 2015, that number is not even close.

Even before this year's strong El Nino developed, 2015 was a hot year. The first few months of the year broken records for the hottest corresponding period in previous years all the way back to the start of the instrumental record in 1880. Each month, new records fell.

13 July 2015

After the encyclical, lessons for climate activism?

by David Spratt
Note: This blog is based on and extends a short presentation at a Lighter Footprints climate action group monthly meeting in Melbourne on 24 June.
Washington Post advertisement
When I first heard early this year about the forthcoming papal encyclical on nature and climate change, my first reaction was that this could be one of the biggest moments so far in climate politics but, like many scientific "tipping points", that can only be judged well after the fact. That Pope Francis will be addressing the UN General Assembly and the US Congress on consecutive days in September 2015, the drawing of his title from Francis of Assisi (patron saint of nature), and his training as a chemist all suggest that this issue is a core concern and his advocacy is far from over.

Laudato si, on the care of our common home was issued on 18 June and described by an editorial in The Guardian as "the most astonishing and perhaps the most ambitious papal document of the past 100 years…[it] sets out a programme for change that is rooted in human needs but it makes the radical claim that these needs are not primarily greedy and selfish ones".  Some key points:

02 July 2015

Our zero emissions imperative: existential crisis demands emergency action

by Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr and Tom Weis via Ecowatch

Last year, we wrote an article explaining why zero has become the most important number for humanity. Since that time, zero emissions has been embraced as an idea that’s time has come by nearly 120 countries, leading European companies, high-profile CEOs, two Pontifical Academies, climate visionaries like Al Goremainstream media outlets and, if you can believe it, even the leaders of the G7. We now address the critical issue of timelines.

The time for timid visions and baby steps is over.
The time for our generational mission is at hand.
Zero emissions: because the first step to making things
better is to stop making things worse.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Currently, the two target dates most commonly cited for achieving zero greenhouse gas emissions are 2050 and 2100. Given the extreme weather weirding we are witnessing at current levels of pollution, we shudder to think what 35 years—let alone 85 years—of continued emissions will bring. Everyone can see that the climate is already on steroids and wreaking havoc.

The urgency of our planetary emergency requires that we transition from fossil fuels to renewables not in decades, but in years. We must move beyond what conventional wisdom views as politically feasible to what this existential crisis truly demands: an all hands on deck societal mobilization at wartime speed.

17 June 2015

Replacing Hazelwood is urgent, but who pays for the jobs transition?

by David Spratt

Download report
Replacing Hazelwood coal power station is a must: it is old, unsafe and dirty. Based on emissions intensity, it is the third-dirtiest coal power station in the world and the dirtiest in Australia, releasing around 16 million tonnes of greenhouse gases annually, almost three per cent of total Australian greenhouse emissions. 

The Hazelwood majority owner, Engie owns the third-most polluting coal-power station fleet in the world. The full – health and carbon pollution – social costs of Hazelwood totalling $900 million per year  are borne by the community, rather than the plant’s owners.

Expanding renewable energy requires coal-generating capacity to be removed from the market because oversupply is crowding out and preventing new investment. The Australian energy market operator says there are about eight gigawatts of surplus generating capacity across the national market, equivalent to five Hazelwood power stations.  This includes up to 2.2 gigawatts of brown coal generation that is no longer required in Victoria in 2015, which is greater than Hazelwood’s capacity.

04 June 2015

Winning the carbon war: the Vatican talks

Jeremy Leggett
"The UN negotiations are totally unsuited to the climate emergency", and the process must change "otherwise the negotiators, who have been there for 15 or 20 years, will continue their folklore," declared French Environment Minster Ségolène Royal to Le Monde on 1 June 2014. If the form of negotiations does not change, "the negotiators, who have been there for 15 or 20 years, will continue their folklore. You will find hundreds of people at their computers, discussing a point of the bracketed text or playing crosswords!"

As the heat (if not the light) intensifies in the leadup to global climate talks in Paris in December, perhaps the most interesting development is the intervention of Pope Francis, who trained as a chemist and seems keenly aware of the urgency of the problem. A sense of where the Vatican may be headed is "Climate Change and the Common Good: A statement of the problem and the demand for transformative solutions" issued on 29 April by  The Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, with signatories including leading climate figures  such as Dasgupta, Ramanathan, Archer, Crutzen, Sachs and Schellnhuber.

13 May 2015

The transformative power of climate truth

by Margaret Klein Salamon

The Climate Mobilization launched seven months ago, when we began spreading the Pledge to Mobilize at the People’s Climate March in New York City. Our mission is to initiate a WWII-scale mobilization that protects civilization and the natural world from climate catastrophe. Climate truth is central to this mission. We believe that the climate movement’s greatest and most underutilized strategic asset is the truth: That we are now in a planet-wide climate crisis that threatens civilization and requires an immediate, all-out emergency response.

05 May 2015

Hansen says "It's crazy to think that 2 degrees Celsius is safe limit"

by David Spratt

James Hansen
Two weeks ago, I started my blog on the Recount: It's time to 'Do the Math' again" report with a question: Have we gone mad and should contemporary climate change policy-making should be characterised as increasingly delusional?

Because I spend quite a lot of time following climate science closely and trying to understanding its political manifestations and representations, it's easy to feel that I am living in a parallel universe. There is the world of the scientific evidence, that climate change is already dangerous and 2 degrees Celsius (2°C) of warming would be an uncontrollable disaster.

22 April 2015

It's time to 'Do the math' again

Have we gone mad? A new report released today explains why contemporary climate change policy-making should be characterised as increasingly delusional.

As the deadline approaches for submissions to the Australian government's climate targets process, there is a flurry of submissions and reports from advocacy groups and the Climate Change Authority.

Most of these reports are based on the twin propositions that two degrees Celsius (2°C) of global warming is an appropriate policy target, and that there is a significant carbon budget and an amount of "burnable carbon" for this target, and hence a scientifically-based escalating ladder of emission-reduction targets stretching to mid-century and beyond.

A survey of the relevant scientific literature by David Spratt, "Recount: It's time to 'Do the math' again", published today by Breakthrough concludes that the evidence does not support either of these propositions.

13 April 2015

Hazelwood: Australia's dirtiest power station in nation with the world's dirtiest power industry

This coming Thursday 16 April a 12.30pm lunchtime rally on the steps of Melbourne's parliament house will kick off a campaign to put the replacement of Australia's dirtiest coal-fired power station back on the political agenda.

Recently-elected Victorian Greens MP Ellen Sandell that afternoon will make a statement in Parliament, calling on the government to replace Hazelwood with clean energy and to support a community-led transition plan for mine rehabilitation and job creation.

Sandell says: "Labor promised to close Hazelwood in 2010 but now they are sitting on their hands. Not even the devastating mine fire last year has compelled them to act. No government can claim to have a credible climate change policy unless it has a plan to shut down coal-fired power."

In 2010, then Labor premier John Brumby, in explaining his policy for a phased close-down of Hazelwood, told ABC radio listeners:

06 February 2015

Two degrees of warming closer than you may think

by David Spratt

It's taken a hundred years of human-caused greenhouse emissions to push the global temperature up almost one degree Celsius (1C°), so another degree is still some time away. Right?  And there seems to have been a "pause" in warming over the last two decades, so getting to 2C° is going to take a good while, and we may have more time that we thought. Yes?

Wrong on both counts. 

The world could be 2C° warmer in as little as two decades, according to the leading US climate scientist and "hockey stick" author, Dr Michael E. Mann. Writing in Scientific American in March 2014 (with the maths explained here), Mann says that new calculations "indicate that if the world continues to burn fossil fuels at the current rate, global warming will rise to 2C° by 2036" and to avoid that threshold "nations will have to keep carbon dioxide levels below 405 parts per million", a level we have just about reached already.  Mann says the notion of a warming "pause" is false.

Global temperature over the last 1000 years: the "hockey stick"

07 January 2015

2014 was the hottest year on record globally by far

by Joe Romm, Climate Progress

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has announced that 2014 was the hottest year in more than 120 years of record-keeping — by far. NOAA is expected to make a similar call in a couple of weeks and so is NASA.

21 November 2014

We are heading towards 2014 being hottest on instrumental record

We are heading towards 2014 being hottest on instrumental record, according to data from the leading US government climate agency for the first ten months of the year.

According to data and charts released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association through its National Climate Data Center, the first 10 months of this year are the warmest on the instrumental record, and it is projected to be the warmest year on the instrumental record based on five scenarios for November and December.

Click graph to enlarge

02 November 2014

9 significant scientific findings too recent to be included in the new IPCC report

by C. Forbes Tompkins and Kelly Levin via World Resources Institute

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases its landmark synthesis report today. The report—which summarizes findings released in Assessment Reports over the past year—underscores three major facts about climate change: It’s happening now, it’s already affecting communities and ecosystems around the world, and the most dangerous impacts can still be avoided if we act now.

28 October 2014

"Myths and reality" now in French: Réchauffement climatique dangereux - Mythes et réalité

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L'objectif explicite des négociations internationales sur le climat est d'éviter un changement climatique «dangereux» ou, plus expressément, d'écarter le danger d'une «ingérence anthropogénique dangereuse dans le système climatique». Si cependant les conditions actuelles sont déjà suffisantes sans nouvelles émissions pour pousser un plus grand nombre d'éléments du système climatique au delà de leur point de bascule et pour créer des ruptures «catastrophiques», quel est donc notre but et qu'avons-nous à dire ?
Ce rapport explore la littérature scientifique récente afin d'examiner sept mythes du paradigme dominant qui guident l'élaboration des politiques climatiques: 

23 September 2014

The coming climate revolt

by Chris Hedges, first published at TruthDig

New York climate march, 21 September 2014
Author and columnist Chris Hedges made these remarks on Saturday 20 September 2014 at a panel discussion in New York City titled “The Climate Crisis: Which Way Out?” The other panelists were Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, Kshama Sawant and Sen. Bernie Sanders. The event, moderated by Brian Lehrer, occurred on the eve of the People’s Climate March in New York City. For a video of some of what the panelists said, click here.

24 August 2014

Dangerous climate change: Myths and reality (3)

Third in a 3-part series | Part 1 | Part 2

by David Spratt

Download report (16 pages)
Myth 6: Long-term feedbacks are not materially relevant for carbon budgeting

Some elements of the climate system respond quickly to temperature change, including the amount of water vapour in the air and hence level of cloud cover, sea-level changes due to ocean temperature change, and the extent of sea-ice that floats on the ocean in the polar regions. These changes amplify (increase) the temperature change and are known as short-term or “fast” feedbacks.

There are also long-term or “slow” feedbacks, which generally take much longer (centuries to thousands of years) to occur. These include changes in large, polar, land-based ice sheets, changes in the carbon cycle (changed efficiency of carbon sinks such as permafrost and methane clathrate stores, as well as biosphere stores such as peat lands and forests), and changes in vegetation coverage and reflectivity (albedo).