22 April 2015

It's time to 'Do the math' again

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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
JMA2014

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

Télécharger PDF
Télécharger PDF  

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).

23 August 2014

Dangerous climate change: Myths and reality (2)

Second in a 3-part series | Part 1 | Part 3

by David Spratt

Download report (16 pages)
Myth 3: Big tipping points are unlikely before 2°C

Tipping points, often an expression of non-linear events, are difficult to project. But if it is sometimes hard to see tipping points coming, it is also too late to be wise after the fact. Estimated tipping points around or below ~1.5ºC include: 
  • West Antarctic Ice Sheet: Current conditions affecting the West Antarctic Ice Sheet are sufficient to drive between 1.2 and 4 metres of sea rise, and these glaciers are now in "unstoppable" meltdown at global average warming of just 0.8ºC (NASA, 2014A; Rignot, Mouginot et al., 2014; Joughin, Smith et al., 2014). 

22 August 2014

Dangerous climate change: Myths and reality (1)

First in a 3-part series | Part 2 | Part 3

by David Spratt

Download report (16 pages)
Few would disagree that the world should avoid "dangerous" (or unsafe) climate warming, but what does that term mean? What does climate safety mean? Is climate change already dangerous? Are greenhouse gas levels already too high? This report surveys some recent developments in climate science knowledge as a way of discerning the gaps between myth and reality in climate policy-making.

Scientific and political reticence

Amongst advocates for substantial action on climate warming, there is a presumption of agreement on the core climate science knowledge that underlies policy-making, even though differences exist in campaign strategy.

But the boundaries between science and politics have become blurred in framing both the problem and the solutions. Amongst advocates, advisors and policy-makers there are very different levels of understandings of the core climate science knowledge, how it is changing, what constitutes "danger", what needs to be done, and at what pace.

11 July 2014

Is a 2014 El Niño still on the way?

by Rob Painting, via Skeptical Science  

Main points
  • Development of El Niño in 2014 continues to edge closer with sea surface temperature in the key indicator equatorial regionapproaching El Niño thresholds.
  • The discharge of ocean heat to the atmosphere associated with the build-up of the El Niño phenomenon has predictably seen a rise in global surface temperatures, resulting in May 2014 being the warmest May ever recorded.
  • Despite the strong initial build-up of a large warm water volume anomaly (WWV) in the equatorial subsurface ocean earlier in the year, the atmosphere has so far not provided sufficient reinforcement to maintain this large pool of warmer-than-average water and a substantial portion has been eroded.
  • The last half-century of observations, however, still favour the development of an extreme El Niño event, but the substantial reduction of the warm water volume anomaly (thankfully) diminishes the odds of a powerful event rivaling that of 1997-1998 from taking hold.

15 June 2014

Big trouble in the Antarctic has been brewing for a long time

by David Spratt

"A game changer" is how climate scientist Dr Malte Meinshausen describes newly published research that West Antarctic glaciers have passed a tipping point much earlier than expected and their disintegration is now "unstoppable" at just the current level of global warming. The research findings have shocked the scientific community. "This Is What a Holy Shit Moment for Global Warming Looks Like," ran a headline in Mother Jones magazine.


08 June 2014

Carbon budgets, climate sensitivity and the myth of "burnable carbon"

by David Spratt

Breakthrough National  Climate Restoration
Forum 21-22 June,  Melbourne
In my previous post explaining why there is no carbon budget left for burning fossil fuels for a 2-degree Celsius (°C) target, I explained that these carbon budget calculations are expressed in probabilities of not exceeding the target. This reflects a number of uncertainties in understanding, including climate sensitivity, ocean heat uptake inertia, the influences of non-carbon dioxide forcing agents, and because results vary somewhat among model ensembles.

Of these, climate sensitivity is the biggest issue, because of the possibilities that climate change might proceed more rapidly than currently estimated because of reinforcing feedbacks, thresholds or tipping points in the climate system, or less rapidly because of dampening feedbacks. 

22 May 2014

The real budgetary emergency and the myth of "burnable carbon"

by David Spratt

How fast and how profoundly we act to stop climate change caused by human actions, and work to return to a safe climate, is perhaps the greatest challenge our species has ever faced, but are we facing up to what really needs to be done?
LISTEN
Listen to David's carbon budget interview on Radio EcoShock
RELATED POST
Carbon budgets, climate sensitivity and the myth of "burnable carbon"
WATCH PRESENTATION
No carbon left to burn (audio + slides, 17 minutes)
We have to come to terms with two key facts:  practically speaking, there is no longer a "carbon budget" for burning fossil fuels while still achieving a two-degree Celsius (2°C) future; and the 2°C cap is now known to be dangerously too high.


No Carbon Budget Left - David Spratt from Breakthrough on Vimeo.

For the last two decades, climate policy-making has focused on 2°C of global warming impacts as being manageable, and a target achievable by binding international treaties and incremental, non-disruptive, adjustments to economic incentives and regulations (1).

14 April 2014

Climate change communication: Key psychological research findings (and why you haven't heard about them yet) (2)

Research has identified a number of psychological barriers that can prevent people from believing in or acting on messages about climate change. Luckily, it has also suggested strategies for overcoming these barriers. Second of a two-part report by Paul Connor.

Second of 2 parts | Part 1

5. Some messages can get through to conservatives! Sort of…

One of the most common analyses one hears about the social psychology of climate change is that the issue has become increasingly politicised over the last decade. More and more, it is said, people are making up their minds on the issue according to their political allegiance, and not by an objective assessment of the facts. And certainly, there has been an observable trend for opinions on the issue to increasingly diverge across political and ideological lines.

Climate change communication: Key psychological research findings (and why you haven't heard about them yet) (1)

Research has identified a number of psychological barriers that can prevent people from believing in or acting on messages about climate change. Luckily, it has also suggested strategies for overcoming these barriers. First of a two-part report by Paul Connor.

Part 1 of 2 parts | Part 2

1. Climate change activists are pretty decent social psychologists. Social psychologists are terrible activists.

Most climate change activists I know are at least to some degree also social psychologists. They constantly consider questions like ‘how can we change the way people think’, ‘how can we make people care more’, and ‘what is the sound bite that is going to be most effective for this campaign?’. Generally, they hold reasonable theories about human psychology and societies. And for the most part, they’re willing to revise these theories as experience dictates.

04 April 2014

Climate economic impact models meaningless, so key question is "what is survivable?" not "what is affordable?"

Forget the cost of mitigating climate change, say two researchers. It's impossible to work out how much it will be - and whatever it is, we should do it anyway.

By Alex Kirby, Climate News Network

Two researchers who tried to work out the economics of  reducing global climate change to a tolerable level have come up with a perhaps surprising answer: essentially, we do not and cannot know what it would cost.

15 March 2014

14 things we learned — and the Abbott government didn’t

by Giles Parkinson, via RenewEconomy

It has been a busy few weeks. All sorts of things have become apparent: Climate change is real, and it man-made, Australia’s policies are a joke, renewable energy investment is leaving Australia, wind and solar do not add costs to the grid, they don’t need new back-up, and they have been reducing prices. And the world is changing while Australia stands still. So, what’s the problem? Clarke and Dawe have the answer.

Source: Climate Council
The planet is warming, and so is Australia
The latest survey compiled by the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology – two institutions that the Abbott government has yet to remove or successfully muzzle – shows that Australia is almost a degree warmer, on average, than it was a century ago. And that is roughly in line with global rates of atmospheric warming. And, it is set to continue warming at a rate that depends on how fast greenhouse emissions can be reduced.
The report says seven of Australia’s 10 warmest years have happened since 1998; over the past 15 years, very warm months have occurred at five times the long-term average, while very cool months have declined by a third; and by 2070, temperatures will be anywhere between 1C and 5C warmer than the 1980-1999 average, depending on future emissions cuts. Note the link between rising temperatures and emissions.