29 December 2012

Top Climate Stories of 2012

Greg Laden, via Science blogs

A group of us, all interested in climate science, put together a list of the most notable, often, most worrying, climate-related stories of the year, along with a few links that will allow you to explore the stories in more detail. We did not try to make this a “top ten” list, because it is rather silly to fit the news, or the science, or the stuff the Earth does in a given year into an arbitrary number of events. (What if we had 12 fingers, and “10” was equal to 6+6? Then there would always be 12 things, not 10, on everyone’s list. Makes no sense.)
    We ended up with 18 items, but note that some of these things are related to each other in a way that would allow us to lump them or split them in different ways. See this post by Joe Romm for a more integrated approach to the year’s events. Also, see what Jeff Masters did here.

07 December 2012

Scientists call for war on climate change, but who on earth is listening?

by David Spratt

When it's too late for half measures, the only option is to be really honest.  And that's what a number of brave climate scientists have just done.

Dr Daniel Pauly: time to prepare economy
for a climate change 'war':
It's been a week of startling news that has buried the idea that reasonable action will keep global warming to 2°C, with evidence that the world is now heading towards a 4–6°C warming this century, and as early as 2060. And we know that a safe climate is global warming of under 1°C degree!
    Releasing the Global Carbon Project's latest report on Monday,  executive-director Dr Pep Canadell of CSIRO reported:
Emissions trends over the past ten years are tracking consistently with the most carbon-intensive pathways of the four families of scenarios, leading to 4 to 6°C warming over pre-industrial times by the end of this century...
     It is clear that the type of transformation needed would required the world to wake up tomorrow and embrace a new green industrial revolution whereby new economic development is focused on establishing a large and rapidly growing non-polluting energy sector as the vehicle to meet new energy and jobs demand...In all cases, there is the need for high levels of technological, social, and political innovation, and the increasing likelihood of the need to rely on net negative emissions in future."

30 November 2012

Systematic short-termism: Climate, capitalism and democracy

by Jorgen Randers

[Third of three parts]
I am a climate pessimist. I believe (regrettably) that humanity will not meet the climate challenge with sufficient strength to save our grandchildren from living in a climate-damaged world. Humanity (regrettably) will not make what sacrifice is necessary today in order to ensure a better life for our ancestors forty years hence. The reason is that we are narrowly focused on maximum well-being in the short term. This short-termism is reflected in the systems of governance that we have chosen to dominate our lives: Both democracy and capitalism place more emphasis on costs today that on benefits forty years in the future.

26 November 2012

Forty more years of slow growth

by Jorgen Randers

[Second of three parts]
Will the rich world ever return to the high economic growth rates of the pre financial-crisis era? My answer is no, for the reasons given below. That is bad news for those who rely on GDP growth for increased prosperity and profit. But it is good news for those who worry about global resource shortages. A slow-growing world economy will consume less resources and give technology more time to evolve resource-efficient solutions. The human ecological footprint will remain lighter. The planet will fare better.
     Over the last forty years world GDP has grown by an average 3.5% per year. This growth can be seen as a combination of growth in a) the labour force and b) labour productivity. Since 1970 both have grown: the population by 1,5 % per year, and productivity by 2 % per year, when measured as annual output per person between 15 and 65 years of age.

22 November 2012

Serious talk about geo-engineering better than pious hand-wringing about 2 degrees

Cambridge Professor and Arctic expert Peter Wadhams
ABC TV's Lateline programme is schedule to discuss climate geo-engineering tonight, a debate that is long overdue.
     Suggesting that climate geo-engineering – such as top-of-atmosphere sulfate injections to reduce incoming solar radiation as a temporary measure until the world gets its act together to avoid the big global warming tipping points – might be necessary is as popular in the environment and climate movements as farting in the middle of a slow movement at a concert.
Almost everybody is keen to rail against it, such as Climate Authority member Clive Hamilton in The Philosophy of Geoengineering. I have yet to hear a climate or environment advocacy group in Australia even say that we should at least consider the issues on their merits.
      There's lots of reasons to be worried about the ideas – and reasons why we need to consider them – as has been canvassed recently in Nature, on the BBC, on NPR, in the Guardian, and in many scientific papers including herehere, here and here, for example.

20 November 2012

Plus 2°C in 2052. What to do?

Intro: Jorgen Randers of the Norwegian Business School is the author of the just-published "2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years" and a co-author of the 1972 Club of Rome report on "Limits to Growth". Forty years on from its publication, it has proved to be very prescient. In his new book, Randers looks forward by uses a wide array of data and expert elicitations as the basis for dynamic economic-ecological modelling of the world as he thinks in will be in another 40 years. This is the first of three short articles by Randers which explore aspects of his 2052 prognosis.

by Jorgen Randers

[First of three parts]
A year ago, I sat down to find out what will happen to my beloved world over the next 40 years. I’ve worked a lifetime promoting sustainability – sadly, with limited success – and I wanted to know whether I should continue worrying about the future during my final 20 to 25 years on planet Earth.

18 November 2012

Gas Industry Attacks Scientists After Research Finds Triple The Normal Levels Of Methane At Australian Gas Fields

by Graham Readfearn via DeSmogBlog

Levels of the potent greenhouse gas methane have been recorded at more than three times their normal background levels at coal seam gas fields in Australia, raising questions about the true climate change impact of the booming industry.
     The findings, which have been submitted both for peer review and to the Federal Department of Climate Change, also raise doubts about how much the export-driven coal seam gas (CSG) industry should pay under the country's carbon price laws.
Southern Cross University (SCU) researchers Dr Isaac Santos and Dr Damien Maher used a hi-tech measuring device attached to a vehicle to compare levels of methane in the air at different locations in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales. The gas industry was quick to attack their findings and the scientists themselves.

11 November 2012

Climate News

Week ending 12 November 2012


We are taking a break!  This will be the last weekly climate news for a little while, to allow me more time to see through some other projects. The blogs on this site will continue, in their irregular way.  So for 2012, a big thanks to Dave and Graeme and the others who have diligently fed in material for this service, and to all of you who have provided feedback. – David


An interview with Kevin Anderson: “Rapid and deep emissions reductions may not be easy, but 4°C to 6°C will be much worse”
Transition Culture, 2 November 2012
We are talking here at best a steady-state economy. The analysis that I and colleagues in the Tyndall Centre have undertaken would suggest there probably has to be a reduction in our consumption and an economic contraction.

Study: Predicted 6ºC Rise by 2100 Should End "Business as Usual"
Common Dreams, November 5, 2012
'This isn't about shock tactics, it's simple maths' says global accounting firm.
We’re Headed To 11°F Warming And Even 7°F Requires ‘Nearly Quadrupling The Current Rate Of Decarbonisation’

07 November 2012

Did climate change contribute to Sandy? Yes

Dr Bob Corell, Dr Jeff Masters and Dr Kevin Trenberth, Politico, November 5, 2012

As Hurricane Sandy battered the East Coast this week, meteorologists and climate scientists were repeatedly asked to explain what role climate change played in amplifying the storm.
     We did our best to answer: We know that a warming climate puts more energy into storms, including hurricanes, loading them with more rainfall and the stronger winds pushing more of a storm surge. That makes flooding more likely. We also know that storm surge now rides higher on sea levels that have risen over the last century due to global warming, amplifying losses where the surge strikes. On the stretch of the Atlantic Coast that spans from Norfolk to Boston, sea levels have been rising four times faster than the global average.
     Overall, we know that climate change has stacked the deck so that this kind of event happens more frequently. That answer, however, prompts a deeper, more unsettling question that many want to know: is climate change worsening some recent extreme weather events like super storm Sandy?

05 November 2012

A storm of stupidity? Sandy, evidence and climate change

By Stephan Lewandowsky via the Conversation

“It’s global warming, stupid” – Bloomberg’s Businessweek cover last week left little doubt about their opinion concerning “Frankenstorm” Sandy. The accompanying tweet anticipated that the cover might “generate controversy, but only among the stupid.”
   These frank words about the Frankenstorm are perhaps long overdue in light of the general failure of American politicians to show leadership on this issue.
      But is it really a matter of mere “stupidity” to deny the link between climate change and Sandy’s fury — a link that has been drawn carefully but quite explicitly by scientists around the world, including in Australia?
     No, it is not a matter of stupidity.

04 November 2012

Climate News

Week ending 4 November 2012


Note: The impact of Superstorm Sandy is the biggest climate story of the year. What happened corresponds with much of the scientific research, and it has changed the political landscape. Our picks of the week focus on this agenda-changing event


Hurricane Sandy and the Climate Connection
Given the unprecedented nature of this event, many people are asking whether it was caused by or its impacts amplified by global warming, and many others are of course trying to deny any hurricane-climate links.  There is actually a fairly simple answer to this question: human-caused climate change amplified the hurricane's impacts.

How Global Warming Made Hurricane Sandy Worse
Andrew Freedman, Climate Central, October 31, 2012
As officials begin the arduous task of pumping corrosive seawater out of New York City’s subway system and try to restore power to lower Manhattan, and residents of the New Jersey Shore begin to take stock of the destruction, experts and political leaders are asking what Hurricane Sandy had to do with climate change.

30 October 2012

Climate of doubt as superstorm Sandy crosses US coast

by Graham Readfearn via Readfearn.com

A 30-year-old man has just become the first New Yorker to be killed by the destructive force of the super-charged storm Sandy which, as I type, is moving across the eastern side of the United States.
     The New York Times reported how the man died when a tree fell on his house in Queens. The former-Hurricane Sandy has already claimed more than 60 lives in Caribbean countries.
     There are something like 50 million Americans currently in the storm’s path. It seems inevitable that more people will lose their lives in the coming hours.
     Whatever transpires we no doubt all hope that the number of fatalities is low. But neither good fortune nor any god will decide. The death toll will be what it is, and families will grieve.
It seems insensitive to mention the billions of dollars of damage the storm will cause. It might, to some, seem insensitive to mention human-caused climate change at a time like this.

29 October 2012

Connecting the dots between 'Frankenstorm' and global warming as extreme weather becomes the new norm

Courtesy: AP
“It's a freakish and unprecedented monster,” says Associated Press science writer Seth Borenstein of a super storm heading towards the US east coast “threatening 60 million Americans in the eastern third of the nation in just a couple of days with high winds, drenching rains, extreme tides, flooding and probably snow.”
     As Hurricane Sandy heads towards the east coast, it is likely to merge with an Arctic jet steam cold front to transform into an “unprecedented” “super storm”, the likes of which has not been seen over the eastern US in many decades, with sea surges of 1 to 2 metres.
     This storm is dangerous and unusual because it comes at the tail end of hurricane season and beginning of winter storm season, "so it's kind of taking something from both — part hurricane, part nor'easter, all trouble," says Jeff Masters of Weather Underground.

Scientific consensus shifts public opinion on climate change

By Sunanda Creagh, 30 October 2012, via The Conversation

People are more likely to believe that humans cause global warming if they are told that 97% of publishing climate scientists agree that it does, a new study has found.
     Despite overwhelming evidence showing that human activity is causing the planet to overheat, public concern is on the wane, said the study, titled The pivotal role of perceived scientific consensus in acceptance of science and published in the journal Nature Climate Change on Monday.
     “One reason for this decline is the ‘manufacture of doubt’ by political and vested interests, which often challenge the existence of the scientific consensus. The role of perceived consensus in shaping public opinion is therefore of considerable interest,” the study’s authors said.

Climate News

Week ending 28 October 2012


'Frankenstorm': Worse than sum of its parts
Seth Borenstien, AP, 28 October 2012The storm that is threatening 60 million Americans in the eastern third of the nation in just a couple of days with high winds, drenching rains, extreme tides, flooding and probably snow is much more than just an ordinary weather system. It's a freakish and unprecedented monster.
Connecting the dots between 'Frankenstorm' and global warming as extreme weather becomes the new norm

Renewables: Australia's a land of plenty
Peter Hannam, the Age, 26 October 2012
When feisty UN climate change chief Christiana Figueres swept into Sydney this week, she mocked suggestions Australia is alone in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

26 October 2012

NASA climate chief demolishes denialist claims on sea levels

NASA climate chief James Hansen has three great attributes: his research is impeccable and pertinent, he is politically courageous, and he communicates with great clarity to lay audiences.
     Reading his presentation on 5 September — when he stepped in the deniers’ lion’s den at a meeting organised by the climate-denialist lobbyist Grover Norquist to rebut arguments previously presented by Pat Michaels — all three features of Hansen’s work were on display.
     Hansen shows how Michaels uses the denials’ favourite method – cherry-picking data over a particular range – to prove that black is white.
     Last week in Deniers cherry-pick in vain effort to prove up is down, we looked at how that technique had been used to falsely claim that “Global warming stopped 16 years ago”.

25 October 2012

After the Arctic big melt: (1) A hotter planet

by David Spratt

The Arctic is a place of seasonal climate extremes, and it will become more extreme as the planet warms. “In the most dramatic reconfiguration of the map of the world since the end of the last Ice Age”, wrote John Gibbons recently in the Irish Times, “the Arctic ice cap is now committed to accelerated collapse”. There are global consequences.
    In the first of a series, we look at how Arctic melting, in a self-perpetuating positive feedback, is leading to more global warming and a hotter future.
Day and night

For almost six months a year in winter, it is dark 24-hours-a-day at the North Pole as the Earth’s northern axis tips away from the sun. The sun sets around 25 September each year and does appear over the horizon again until 17 March, when it then stays in sight all day, every day, for the next six months. 
     Almost 2600 kilometres further south, around the Arctic Circle, there is sunlight 24-hours a day for a month around the summer solstice, but only two hours a day of sun at the December winter solstice.

21 October 2012

Climate News

Week ending 21 October 2012
Rank of hottest years to coldest. Courtesy UK Met Office

UN warns of looming worldwide food crisis in 2013
John Vidal, The Observer, 13 October 2012
Global grain reserves hit critically low levels; Extreme weather means climate 'is no longer reliable'; Rising food prices threaten disaster and unrest
Empty Promise
By George Monbiot, Guardian, 16 October 2012
Could scientists have got the impacts of climate change on food supply wildly wrong? I believe we might have made a mistake: a mistake whose consequences, if I am right, would be hard to overstate. I think the forecasts for world food production could be entirely wrong.

16 October 2012

Deniers cherry-pick in vain effort to prove up is down

It's spring, but today was cooler than yesterday. The trend is obvious, it's getting cooler and winter is coming?
     That's the cherry-picking method at the heart of climate denial, and it's at work again in a story by David Rose first published by the Mail on Sunday claiming that "Global warming stopped 16 years ago, reveals Met Office report quietly released... and here is the chart to prove it".  It's doing the rounds.
   Whilst the UK Met Office was reported as the source of the figures, they were in fact quick to issue a rebuttal, noting that it is "the second article Mr Rose has written which contains some misleading information, after he wrote an article earlier this year on the same theme".

14 October 2012

Climate News

Week ending 14 October 2012

Extreme Weather Photo Contest Winner: Ormond Shelf, by Jason Weingart

Climate change behind rise in weather disasters
USA Today, 10 October 2012
The number of natural disasters per year has been rising dramatically on all continents since 1980, but the trend is steepest for North America where countries have been battered by hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, searing heat and drought, a new report says. The study being released today by Munich Re, the world's largest reinsurance firm, sees climate change driving the increase and predicts those influences will continue in years ahead, though a number of experts question that conclusion.


The food security risk index – map
Guardian, 10 October 2012
The index has been developed by the risk analysis company Maplecroft for governments, NGOs and business to use as a barometer to identify those countries which may be susceptible to famine and societal unrest stemming from food shortages and price fluctuations. This map shows the results of evaluating the availability, access and stability of food supplies in 197 countries, as well as the nutritional and health status of populations
UN warns of rising food costs after year's extreme weather
John Vidal, Rebecca Smithers and Shiv Malik, Guardian, 10 October 2012
Warning comes as shops struggle to fill shelves and farmers' union reports wheat yields are at lowest level since 1980s.

08 October 2012

Antarctic sea ice and global warming

by Mark Robison, FactChecker, 6 October 2012

The claim
Record high amounts of Antarctic sea ice contradict global warming.

The background
Reno reader Judson Pierce contacted Fact Checker on Monday with a story from Newsmax headlined “Record Antarctica ice contradicts global warming trend”.
     He wanted to know whether it truly contradicts global warming and why the mainstream media seems to be ignoring this fact after widely reporting Arctic sea ice being at record lows.
    Pierce is right that, as of this writing, the mainstream media hasn’t reported much about the Antarctica ice. It’s likely they will, as the national data center for such statistics announced the news just this week with a story headlined “Arctic sea ice shatters previous low records; Antarctic sea ice edges to record high.”

07 October 2012

From Kermit to coal, book reveals how world's top brands greenwash the public

by Graham Readfearn, DeSmogBlog

"I guess it is easy being green," said Kermit the Frog as he bounced around a Ford Escape Hybrid in a 2006 television ad campaign.
    During the ad, Kermit displayed his innate talent for not blinking which, it has to be said, is due essentially to his congenital lack of eyelids.
    But had Kermit blinked, he would have missed the small print at the bottom of the ad which showed that at the time, this "green" vehicle had a fuel consumption slightly worse than the US average.
    But that seems to be the rule when it comes to claims of climate friendliness made by some of the world's biggest brands.
    Check the small print, and the responsible green hue soon fades to something resembling bullsh*t-brown (or whatever color denotes hypocrisy). At least that's the conclusion after reading Australian author and researcher Guy Pearse's latest book. Pearse spent close to four years immersing himself in some 3000 TV commercials and viewing about 4000 print and web adverts, all of which make claims of climate friendliness (I disclose here that I had a small paid role as a fact-checker on the book).

Climate News

Week ending 7 October 2012


Climate change may force evacuation of vulnerable island states within a decade
Jo Confino, Guardian, 4 October 2012
Leading climate scientist warns that vulnerable island nations may need to be evacuated within a decade as evidence shows polar ice is shrinking at greater speeds than models predicted


Calls for climate action as Great Barrier Reef suffers major coral loss
The Conversation interview, 2 October 2012
The Great Barrier Reef has lost half its coral cover in the last 27 years, and it could halve again by 2022 say researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
Great reef catastrophe
Nicky Phillips, SMH, 2 October 2012
Half the Great Barrier Reef's coral has disappeared in the past 27 years and less than a quarter could be left within a decade unless action is taken, a landmark study has found
Marine environments in Australia's southern waters under threat

30 September 2012

Climate News

Week ending 30 September 2012
Images: NASA

Arctic Sea Ice: What, Why and What Next
Ramez Naam, SA blog, September 21, 2012
On September 19th, NSIDC, the National Snow and Ice Data Center, announced that Arctic sea ice has shrunk as far as it will shrink this summer, and that the ice is beginning to reform, expanding the floating ice cap that covers the North Pole and the seas around it.

Interactive map: Arctic sea ice concentration, 1984 and 2012

23 September 2012

Climate News

Week end 23 September 2012


ACT government seeks 90% renewables by 2020
Giles Parkinson, Renew Economy, 19 September 2012
The ACT government has outlined an ambitious plan to source 90 per cent of its energy requirements from renewable energy by 2020, with solar, wind and energy efficiency at the centrepiece of its strategy.

Four-degree rise demands 90-degree rethink
Ian Dunlop, SMH, September 22, 2012
Climate change has moved into a new and dangerous phase. The Arctic has been warming two to three times faster than the rest of the world. In the past few weeks, melting of the Arctic sea ice has accelerated dramatically, reducing the area and volume to levels never previously experienced.

20 September 2012

Arctic warning: As the system changes, we must adjust our science

Update 20 September:
EXTENT: Satellite data shows Arctic melt sea-ice extent probably reached the minimum for the year at around 3.4 million square kilometres on Monday 17 September, 18 per cent less than the previous record in 2007 of 4.2 m.sq.kms. The JAXA daily raw data is here and the NSIDC date is here. This extent is now well less than half of the average extent of the 1980s.

VOLUME: The sea-ice volume is now down to just one-fifth of what it was in 1979. Latest PIOMAS volume from September 3, 2012 is 3407 cubic kilometers of ice remaining in the Arctic. Contrasted with the 16,855 of 1979, that is just about 20 per cent. Extent has dropped further since 3 September, so minimum volume this melt season will be about 5–10 per cent less than the early-September figure.

ICE-FREE ARCTIC: Debate rages within the scientific community. Previously we covered Big call: Cambridge prof. predicts Arctic summer sea ice “all gone by 2015”. On Monday the Guardian reported "Arctic expert predicts final collapse of sea ice within four years", in which Prof. Peter Wadhams of Cambridge said:  "I have been predicting [the collapse of sea ice in summer months] for many years. The main cause is simply global warming: as the climate has warmed there has been less ice growth during the winter and more ice melt during the summer… in the end the summer melt overtook the winter growth such that the entire ice sheet melts or breaks up during the summer months. This collapse, I predicted would occur in 2015-16 at which time the summer Arctic (August to September) would become ice-free. The final collapse towards that state is now happening and will probably be complete by those dates. As the sea ice retreats in summer the ocean warms up (to 7C in 2011) and this warms the seabed too. The continental shelves of the Arctic are composed of offshore permafrost, frozen sediment left over from the last ice age. As the water warms the permafrost melts and releases huge quantities of trapped methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas so this will give a big boost to global warming." Unforntunately, the eviednce is on his side.

Northern Polar Institute Research Director Kim Holmen, left,
with UN Foundation Board Chairman Ted Turner and
President Timothy Wirth in the Arctic
Post of 13 September:
By David Spratt,
published in ReNewEconomy on 12 September 2012
and in Climate Progress on 13 September 2012

The Arctic sea-ice big melt of 2012 “has taken us by surprise and we must adjust our understanding of the system and we must adjust our science and we must adjust our feelings for the nature around us”, according to Kim Holmen, Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI) international director.
     From Svalbard (halfway between mainland Norway and Greenland), the BBC’s David Shukman reported on 7 September that Holmen had described the current melt rate “a greater change than we could even imagine 20 years ago, even 10 years ago”.
     As detailed last week, the thin crust of sea-ice which floats on the north polar sea is now only half of the average minimum summer extent of the 1980, and just one-quarter of the volume twenty years ago.

How British government's climate forecasting MET Office gets the Arctic wrong

Introductory note: It is now very likely that the Arctic will be sea-ice-free within a decade, with enormous consequences. Not only has the 2007 record minimum low been smashed, but the new record low 2012 sea-ice extent (3.4 million square kilometres) is less than half the figure three decades ago. And the volume of ice is now down to just one-fifth of the figure three decades ago. In 1979 the summer volume was 16,855 cubic kilometres, on 3 September this year it was just 3,407 cubic kilometres. 80 per cent of the ice has already been lost.
     The IPCC 2007 got the Arctic sea-ice wrong in projecting an Arctic still containing summer sea-ice by 2100. Now, Arctic specialists relying on new, regional climate models such as Prof. Peter Wadhams of Cambridge are making the big call of a summer ice-free Arctic as early as 2015.  By contrast, those relying for Arctic forecasts on global general circulation models (GCMs) used for the 2007 IPCC report are sticking to a 2030-2040 projection, but lament that “We just don’t know exactly why this (sea-ice loss) is moving so fast”. The predictions of those who rely too much on the GCM models seem strangely removed from the reality on the ground and even a common sense view of the evidence, as this analysis from Arctic News shows. Underestimating the speed and likely future rate of change in the climate system has deadly consequences. – David

UK MET Office keeps downplaying significance of events in the Arctic

by Sam Carana, Arctic News

One of the most respected datasets on Arctic sea-ice volume is  PIOMAS, the  Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System developed at the Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington. The graph below shows PIOMAS data for annual minimum Arctic sea ice volume (black dots) with an exponential trend added (in red).

16 September 2012

Climate News

Week ending 16 September 2012


Coal company shareholders dudded, says Garnaut
Ross Garnaut, AFR, 12 September 2012
Labor’s former climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, has accused coal companies of “dudding” their shareholders by overinvesting in mining projects

Decades Of Deception: The Coal Industry Has Advertised ‘Clean Coal’ Since At Least 1921
Stephen Lacey, Climate Progress, 13 September 2012
The coal industry has spent tens of millions of dollars trying to convince people that it can create an environmentally friendly product. However, whether it be the technological and cost barriers associated with capturing and storing carbon dioxide or the devastating impact of mountaintop mining on groundwater, ecosystems and human health, the concept of “clean” coal is a proven myth.

10 September 2012

On thin ice: Time-frame to save the Arctic is melting away

By David Spratt, first published by ReNew Economy on 5 September 2012

 Something extraordinary is happening when graphs of melting Arctic sea-ice have their vertical axis redrawn because the data are falling off the chart.
     But that’s what has occurred in the last 10 days, since the extent of floating Arctic sea-ice broke the satellite-era minimum record on 24 August. On that date it was 4.2 million square kilometres, according to data from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
     Since then, an additional half a million square kilometres of sea-ice has melted. The extent on 4 September was just half of the average minimum extent of the 1980s. At the current rate of loss, with one to three weeks left in the northern melt season, the minimum may well shrink below 3.5 million square kilometres. This is an astounding story.

09 September 2012

Climate News

Week ending 9 September 2012

Arctic sea ice extent over the past 1,450 years reconstructed from proxy data by Kinnard et al., with a 40-year low pass filter applied.  Note that the modern observational data in this figure extend through 2008, and thus it is a close approximation of current conditions, even though the extent is not as low as current annual data due to the 40-year smoothing. Courtesy Skeptical Science

Life Is Sacred
Chris Hedges, TruthDig, 3 September 2012
Corporations care nothing for democracy, the rule of law, human rights or the sanctity of life. They are determined to be the last predator standing. And then they too will be snuffed out. Unrestrained hubris always leads to self-immolation.

02 September 2012

Climate News

Week ending 2 September 2012
Arctic sea-ice volume 1979 to 25 Aigust 2012
It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.”
– Elizabeth Kolbert, Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change (2006)

Grassroots Movements Driving Back Coal Worldwide
Gordon Scott, Sierra Club, August 27, 2012
The global grassroots movement against dirty, polluting coal-fired power has added another continent to the ranks of those finally moving away from the carbon-intensive fuel source: Australia.

30 August 2012

Big call: Cambridge prof. predicts Arctic summer sea ice “all gone by 2015”

By David Spratt  Published in ReNewEconomy on 30 August 2012

Cambridge Professor and Arctic expert Peter Wadhams

This is one of those moments when the pace of climate change and its consequences become simply extraordinary.
      In the last two weeks, I’ve spent some time trying to unravel the Arctic’s big melt of 2012 and what is means for future global warming and the world we will live in.
      It’s not territory for the faint-heartened, and one of the world’s foremost Arctic experts has stepped up to make a big call, a really big call.

29 August 2012

Arctic melt demands another look at Australia's climate policy

First published in New Matilda, 28 August 2012

There's half as much sea-ice as there was 30 years ago and the annual summer melt keeps smashing records. David Spratt on why Australian policy-makers should be paying attention.

In the last few days something so dramatic has happened in the Arctic that it demands another look at Australia's climate policies.
     On Friday 24 August, annual summer melting of the floating sea-ice in the Arctic Ocean smashed the previous record, with another three weeks of the melt season still to to go. Scientists are calling it "stunning" and "astounding". This breaks the record set in 2007. Back then there were scientific gasps that the sea ice was melting “100 years ahead of schedule”.
     Thirty years ago, the summer sea-ice extent was around 7.5 million square kilometres (similar to area of Australia), but this year it will end up at half that figure.  And the ice is becoming thinner, due to melting from below by warmer seas, and the relentless loss of thicker, multi-year ice. So the volume of the summer ice will in 2012 be only around one quarter of what it was three decades ago.  Now it looks like the sea-ice  will be gone in summer within a decade or so, maybe sooner.  That's what many of the cryopshere scientists and models are saying.

27 August 2012

Arctic sea-ice melt record more than broken, it’s being smashed

by David Spratt, first posted 25 August 2012
UPDATE 27 AUGUST: Sunday's data confirms that the previous sea-ice extent minimum of 24 September 2007 was broken last Friday, 24 August 2012. What is also stunning are sea-ice daily extent figures averaging ice loss of more than 100,000 square kilometres per day for the last four days. This suggest melt is accelerating very late in the melt season in a pattern that has never before been observed. The Arctic this year is heading into new territory and it looks like 2012 may in retrospect be seen as the year when a new melt regime took hold.
      The ice extent is about to drop below 4 million square kilometres for the first time in the satellite record, and the Arctic has shed almost half a million square kilometres of sea-ice in last five days! With three weeks of the melt season still to go, it's not hard to see extent dropping another half a million square kilometres (or more!) to 3.5 million square kilometres. (In previous big melt years of 2007 and 2011, around half a million square kilometres was lost after 26 August.)
    This is starting to make the second graph (below) looking reasonable, and those scientists and models which have been suggesting an sea-ice-free summer Arctic within a decade to be on the money.
     The commentary by Climate Commissioner Prof. Will Steffen in today's newspapers that ''We can expect to see an ice-free Arctic at about the middle of this century'' looks out of touch with the most recent data, and exhibits IMHO a scientific reticence which does a disservice to the urgent public debate we need on implications of the Arctic melt for Australian climate policy (and sea-level rises from Greenland!). Positive feedbacks now have a grip on Arctic sea-ice and the descent appears to be exponential, not linear. Looking at the PIOMASS date on sae ice volume (fifth chart here), its hard to know what Prof. Steffen  has based his assertion upon.
      Perhaps the enormity of the present situation is best summed up by sea-ice blogger Neven: "Basically, I'm at a loss for words, and not just because my jaw has dropped and won't go back up as long as I'm looking at the graphs. I'm also at a loss - and I have already said it a couple of times this year - because I just don't know what to expect any longer. I had a very steep learning curve in the past two years. We all did. But it feels as if everything I've learned has become obsolete. "
Climate change impacts are frequently happening more quickly and at lower levels of global warming than scientists expected, even a decade or two ago. And this week the Arctic has provided a dramatic and deeply disturbing example.
     According to IARC/JAXA satellite data at Arctic Sea-ice Monitor from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the sea-ice extent of 24 August 2012 of 4,209,219 square kilometres broke the previous record in the satellite era of 4,254,531 square kilometres set on 24 August 2007. Back then the were scientific gasps that the sea ice was melting “100 years ahead of schedule”.
JAXA Arctic sea ice extent to 24 August 2012. Updates: http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm

26 August 2012

Climate News

Week ending 26 August 2012
Projected sea-level rise to 2100 (inches). Source City of Boston

Arctic sea-ice melt record more than broken, it’s being smashed
David Spratt, ClimateCodeRed, 25 August 2012
Climate change impacts are frequently happening more quickly and at lower levels of global warming than scientists expected, even a decade or two ago. And this week the Arctic has provided a dramatic and deeply disturbing example.

20 August 2012

Arctic heads for record melt, but do we want to know?

Update to: Dramatic lessons from the Arctic big melt of 2012: It's already too hot, as Greenland melt record is smashed
Related post: US Media Turn A Blind Eye To Record Greenland Ice Melt
by David Spratt, first published at RenewEconomy, 21 August 2012

Two extraordinary events at the end of last week say a lot about the state of the climate change conversation in Australia.
     The first was data from US Arctic researcher Prof. Marco Tedesco showing that melting over the Greenland ice sheet had shattered the seasonal record on 8 August, a full four weeks before the close of the melting season (following image). The melting season lasts until the second week of September each northern summer, so this result is stunning: "With more yet to come in August, this year's overall melting will fall way above the old records. That's a goliath year -- the greatest melt since satellite recording began in 1979," said Tedesco.

Dramatic lessons from the Arctic big melt of 2012: It's already too hot, as Greenland melt record is smashed

Related post: Arctic heads for record melt, but do we want to know?

UPDATE 21 August: RECORD SEA-ICE MELT: The Arctic big melt is charging along and a number of data sets today show that 2012 has broken the 2007/2011 record for minimum sea-ice extent / area. These include data sets from Arctic ROOS and Cryosphere Today. This closeup from Neven of the Cryosphere Today data is very clear:

Cryosphere Today sea ice area August 2005-2012

Cryosphere Today data set shows:
  • 2012, day 230, 2.87743 million square kilometers
  • 2011, day 253, 2.90474 million square kilometers (previous record low)
So it looks like the record has been smashed with another 3 weeks to go in the melt season.  This is almost as extraordinary as the Greenland record melt story below. 

19 August 2012

Climate News

Week ending 19 August 2012
Arctic sea-ice extent decade by decade: the rate of loss is increasing. Source: http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/seaice/extent/Sea_Ice_Extent.png

Australians lead in fitting solar panels on homes
Ben Cubby, SMH, 18 August 2012
Australians put more household solar panel systems on their roofs than anyone else in the world last year, new data from the Clean Energy Regulator and the International Energy Agency show.

12 August 2012

Climate News

 Week ending 12 August 2012

Extensive melt over the Greenland Ice Sheet. This figure shows the daily, cumulative area of the Greenland ice sheet showing surface melt for 2012, 2011, 2010 and for the 1980 to 1999 mean. While melt was unusually extensive through May and June of 2012, the melt area increased rapidly in early July in response to an unusually warm weather event. Source: http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/2010/08/a-most-interesting-arctic-summer/figure6-2/

Rate of Arctic summer sea ice loss is 50% higher than predicted
Robin McKie, Guardian, 11 August 2012
New satellite images show polar ice coverage dwindling in extent and thickness
Sea Ice Decimated, Huge Storm May Have Broken Arctic Ocean Stratification

06 August 2012

Beyond Coal and Gas Forum

by Ellie Smith, Mackay Conservation Group

Over the weekend of 28-29 July, over 80 people from all over Queensland, along with some visitors from NSW and Victoria, gathered just south of Mackay to learn about and discuss the impacts of the Central Queensland coal and CSG boom on our environment, communities and economy at the Beyond Coal and Gas Forum.

     The weekend was an extremely energising event. Participants went home feeling more powerful and optimistic about their chances of protecting their communities and their livelihoods from the impacts of the massive boom in coal and CSG that is planned for Central and North Queensland.

05 August 2012

Climate News

Week ending 5 August 2012
Arctic sea-ice volume (red line is 2012) from
Arctic Death Spiral Continues: Record Low Sea Ice Volume Appears Likely
Neven, Climate Progress, 4 August 2012
I think it’s pretty safe to say that we’re going to have a new record volume low, although the difference with 2010 and 2011 has become smaller. Right now it’s 1249 and 730 km3 respectively. 

More Arctic charts

04 August 2012

Are we experiencing more extreme hot weather due to climate change? The evidence is in.

By James Hansen, Makiko Sato and Reto Ruedy (available at PDF here)

The greatest barrier to public recognition of human-made climate change is probably the natural variability of local climate. How can a person discern long-term climate change, given the notorious variability of local weather and climate from day to day and year to year?

Figure 1: Fire fighters battle the Taylor Creek blaze, one of several fires which have burned over 75,000 acres in southeastern Montana in summer 2012. Image credit: USFWS/Gerald Vickers via InciWeb.org.

30 July 2012

Climate News

Week ending 29 July 2012
Global Drought Monitor July 2012   Source: http://drought.mssl.ucl.ac.uk/drought.html
Erratic Weather Across Globe Fueling Impending Food Crisis
Common Dreams, July 23, 2012
In addition to the ongoing drought in the United States, experts warn that the potential for a worldwide food crisis is heightened by extreme and erratic weather across the globe.

Extreme Drought Areas in US Nearly Triple in One Week
Mat McDermott, Treehugger, 27 July 2012
The drought gets worse: The US Drought Monitor reports that areas on the nation under extreme drought conditions in key agricultural states has tripled in the past week. Furthermore, the amount of land experiencing drought conditions more broadly has increased to nearly two-thirds of the nation, up from 56% just a week ago.

When National Climate Disasters Go Global: On Drought, Food, And Global Insecurity

29 July 2012

The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic

By Joe Romm, a Climate Progress cross-post
ten year data analysis comparison graph
The decadal land-surface average temperature using a 10-year moving average of surface temperatures over land. Anomalies are relative to the Jan 1950 – December 1979 mean. The grey band indicates 95% statistical and spatial uncertainty interval.A Koch-funded reanalysis of 1.6 billion temperature reports finds that “essentially all of this increase is due to the human emission of greenhouse gases.”
The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study (BEST) is poised to release its findings next week on the cause of recent global warming.

24 July 2012

A sober assessment of our situation (3)

by David Spratt

[Final of a 3-part series]

The first part in this series described some characteristics of the climate debate and the climate action advocacy movement in Australia. Part two explored some of the forces which have moulded the shape of climate politics in Australia today.
3. Challenges  

3.1 The “possible” and the necessary

Our goal is to achieve a desirable future, not to just reduce the misery, because the alternative is really awful, and failure is not an option. Current global greenhouse gas mitigation commitments will result in global warming of  4 degrees Celsius plus by 2100. Fatih Birol of the International Energy Agency says that “with the current policies in place, the world is perfectly on track to six degrees Celsius increasing the temperature, which is very bad news. And everybody, even school children, know this will have catastrophic implications for all of us.”

22 July 2012

Climate News

Week ending 22 July 2012

Carbon dioxide emission per head of population - see first story


As emissions rise, China loses moral high ground
Jeff Tollefson, Nature News Blog, 18 July 202
For years China has dismissed concerns about its rising carbon emissions by pointing out that, on a per-capita basis, Chinese citizens still emit far less than their counterparts in the industrialized world. But now that China’s per-capita emissions are on par with those of the European Union, that argument will be much harder to make.
A da xiang in the room: new emissions data
Cathy Alexander, Crikey, 20 July 2012
There’s a dà xiàng in the room when it comes to addressing climate change. Dà xiàng is mandarin for elephant. And if you want to get your head around the latest data on greenhouse gas emissions, you’ll need to look to China.

20 July 2012

Post-Carbon Postcard #2: New York City

by John Wiseman, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne

a Post Carbon Pathways crosspost

Over the last few months I’ve had the privilege of listening to a range of leading climate change policy advocates in Australia, the US, Canada and Europe reflect on priority actions for reducing the risk of runaway climate change.
     This has included interviews with many of the lead authors of the strategies reviewed in the Post Carbon Pathways report. In this Post Carbon Postcard #2, written from New York City, I’d like to highlight a few of their responses to two of the most common questions in the minds of people who have been working on climate change and environmental issues for many years: Is it too late? And...So what should we do now?

17 July 2012

A sober assessment of our situation (2)

by David Spratt

The first part in this series described some characteristics of the climate debate and the climate action advocacy movement in Australia.
2. How we got to here  [Part 2 in a series of 3]

2.1 Climate in the media

In the USA (and Australia too), concern about climate change (as measured by the climate change threat index - see chart below) peaked around 2007.  Research studies find that media coverage of climate change directly affects public concern levels, and that the actions of political elites turn out to be the most powerful driver of public concern. Concern in the USA was at its heightat the time of media focus on the IPCC’s 2007 fourth assessment reports and Al Gore’s “The Inconvenient Truth”.

The Climate Change Threat Index aggregates data from 6 different polling organizations gauging how much people worry about global warming

16 July 2012

The wet side of Greenland

An Arctic Sea Ice blog crosspost

When writing The dark side of Greenland, a recent blog post on decreasing reflectivity of the Greenland ice sheet, with images comparing the southwest of Greenland with satellite images from previous years, I of course realized that when that ice sheet becomes less reflective, it will soak up more solar energy and thus melt faster. But the practical aspect of this theory never really dawned on me, until I saw this video:

More videos here and here.

15 July 2012

Climate News

Week ending 15 July 2012


The bush is dying, yet still we deny it
Canberra Times Editorial, July 13, 2012
Australian politicos' focus on Whyalla earlier this month - will or won't the carbon tax wipe it ''off the map''? - summed up just how low the national climate change debate has sunk

Must-See Videos: ABC Interviews Climatologist Michael Mann
Joe Romm, Climate Progress, July 12, 2012
ABC’s Bill Blakemore has a 5-part interview of the most vindicated climate scientist in America, Michael Mann. All 5 videos are posted below with links to their transcripts.

10 July 2012

A sober assessment of our situation (1)

by David Spratt 

Where we are   [Part 1 in a series]

1.1 Introduction

In the last five years, Australia has signed the Kyoto Protocol, legislated a price on greenhouse gas emissions, established a Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), and more than doubled the Renewable Energy Target (RET) to 20 per cent of electricity production by 2020. The Contracts for Closure of around 2GW of dirty coal power is due to be resolved soon. Household electricity demand is falling and the wholesale price has dropped substantially. Energy efficiency measures, installed household solar PV and higher prices have already reduced demand by the equivalent of Hazelwood power station’s full capacity.
     The Greens’ vote and influence has increased, the Transition Towns and sustainability movements are growing, and a formidable community campaign against coal seam gas is gaining significant political power. The coal industry in Queensland is a hot topic. The cost of renewable energy, especially PV solar, is falling quickly and household rooftop solar is already grid competitive. Community support for replacing dirty fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy is strong.

05 July 2012

The case for shutting Hazelwood, Australia's dirtiest power station

by Roger Dargaville, Research Fellow, Energy Research Institute at University of Melbourne 

Under its Clean Energy Future, the Federal government will negotiate to close 2000 MW of the dirtiest fossil fuel power generating capacity in Australia by 2020.
     With the price on carbon now in operation, there will be pressure on some highly carbon intensive station to remain viable – this policy pre-empts the failure of the most vulnerable businesses and provides some certainty as to which stations will close, as well as compensating the companies affected, including the workers who will lose their jobs.
The plants under consideration are Hazelwood, Yallourn and Energy Brix in Victoria, Playford B in South Australia and Collinsville in Queensland.