Warm oceans keep world on course for hottest year December 16, 2014 Peter Hannam Environment Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald Ongoing record warmth in the world’s oceans has increased the likelihood that 2014 will be declared the hottest year since reliable data began more than a century ago, US and Japanese agencies say.
The warmth comes as conditions in the Pacific remain conducive to an El Nino event forming in coming months, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said.
Surface temperatures have exceeded El Nino threshold levels for several weeks, and the bureau estimates there is a greater than 70 per cent chance of such an event soon.
The first 11 months of the year were the warmest on record, with combined global land and sea-surface temperatures running 1.22 degrees above the 20th-century average, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
This year will be the hottest on record – eclipsing 2005 and 2010 – provided December is at least 0.76 degrees above average, NOAA said…………http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/warm-oceans-keep-world-on-course-for-hottest-year-20141216-1287l2.html
Rapid warming of Arctic may trigger dangerous solar radiation feedback loop http://www.sciencerecorder.com/news/rapid-warming-of-arctic-may-trigger-dangerous-solar-radiation-feedback-loop/ Delila James | Science Recorder | December 18, 2014 NASA scientists at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco presented what is just the latest dire prediction about the runaway effects of climate change.
The researchers discussed a map created by satellites’ heat-sensing instruments showing the rate of solar radiation change in the Arctic, where the rate of heat absorption per square meter since 2000 has increased by more than 10 Watts of energy, according to a report by Wired. In some regions, such as the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska, the rate has increased as much as 45 Watts of energy per square meter.
For the past decade-and-a-half, NASA has been using satellite sensors called CERES to calculate how much solar energy is being absorbed by planet Earth as opposed to being reflected back into space. Every year the Arctic ice cap shrinks in the summer and grows in the winter. But because of the record loss of sun-reflecting sea ice in the Arctic seen in recent years, much of the winter ice cover now is thin—less than 6 feet thick, according to Wired.
So, when warm weather returns to the Arctic, the thin ice cover melts rapidly, causing the oceans to heat up. This then causes more ice to melt in a solar radiation feedback loop, in which the thinner the ice cover, the earlier in the summer it melts, which warms the ocean, which melts the ice, and so on.
Compared to 30 years ago, the annual summer melt in the Arctic comes seven days earlier, the Wired report said.
Atmospheric scientist Jennifer Kay of the University of Colorado, who collaborated in the research, said in a statement that CERES, which has only been collecting Arctic solar energy data since 2000, cannot be used to predict any long-term trends.
“Climate is usually considered to be a 30-year average,” Kay said.
If you believe the grim predictions of the latest climate science, Shishmaref is just the beginning. Towns in low-lying coastal plains and flood-prone river basins in the lower 48 may be next. A study from the U.S. Geological Surveywarns that 50 percent of the U.S. coastline is at high or very high risk of impacts due to sea level rise; according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 16.4 million Americans live in the coastal flood plain. If we can’t figure out how to save a village with fewer than 600 people from falling into the sea, what hope is there for everyone else?
Climate Change Takes A Village, Huff Post Kate Sheppard firstname.lastname@example.org
As The Planet Warms, A Remote Alaskan Town Shows Just How Unprepared We Are 12/14/2014 “……..The remote village of 563 people is located 30 miles south of the Arctic Circle, flanked by the Chukchi Sea to the north and an inlet to the south, and it sits atop rapidly melting permafrost. In the last decades, the island’s shores have been eroding into the sea, falling off in giant chunks whenever a big storm hits.
The residents of Shishmaref, most of whom are Alaska Native Inupiaq people, have tried to counter these problems, moving houses away from the cliffs and constructing barriers along the northern shore to try to turn back the waves. But in July 2002, looking at the long-term reality facing the island, they voted to pack up and move the town elsewhere.
Relocation has proven much more difficult than that single vote, however. And 12 years later, Shishmaref is still here, ready to begin another school year. Continue reading
Lima climate change talks end in agreement – but who won? Guardian, Suzanne Goldberg, 14 Dec 14 This weekend’s deal on cutting greenhouse gas emissions gave everyone at the talks in Peru what they came for – sort of There was one thing above all others that wealthy countries wanted out of the Lima negotiations and that was a method of accounting for emissions cuts.
The issue that mattered above all to developing countries was deciding who should carry the burden of emissions cuts, and getting the money flowing for climate aid.
For small island states, acknowledgement of “loss and damage” due to climate change was critical. All three contingents got what they wanted – sort of. The deal reached on Saturday afternoon was critical in keeping the talks on track. The US and the European Union had pushed hard for a text that would require countries to offer upfront information about the nature of their pledges to cut emissions – “clarity, transparency and understanding”.
Wealthy countries also wanted a review process to ensure the pledges when they all come in would be enough to keep the world on course for two degrees of warming. But China especially had balked at providing detailed accounting of its emissions reductions plans, arguing that an outside review would amount to an affront to its sovereignty. The deal that emerged early on Sunday found a solution by changing a single word – “shall” to “may” – easing China’s concerns about outside interference……..http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/dec/14/lima-climate-change-talks-who-won
Lima climate summit extended as poor countries demand more from rich,Guardian, Suzanne Goldenberg in Lima 12 Dec 14 Leaders of rich nations have been lampooned by environment activists at the Lima talks, but developing countries are also frustrated by their apparent lack of commitment.
Talks stumble amid rising frustration over ‘ridiculously low’ cash commitments offered by rich nations to help pay for emissions cuts Climate talks in Lima ran into extra time amid rising frustration from developing countries at the “ridiculously low” commitments from rich countries to help pay for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
The talks – originally scheduled to wrap up at 12pm after 10 days – are now expected to run well into Saturday , as negotiators huddle over a new draft text many glimpsed for the first time only morning.
The Lima negotiations began on a buoyant note after the US, China and the EU came forward with new commitments to cut carbon pollution. But they were soon brought back down to earth over the perennial divide between rich and poor countries in the negotiations: how should countries share the burden for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and who should pay?
The talks were designed to draft a blueprint for a global deal to fight climate change, due to be adopted in Paris late next year. But developing countries argued that before signing on they needed to see greater commitments that the industrialised countries would keep to their end of a bargain to provide the money needed to fight climate change. After 10 days of talks, developing countries argued that those assurances were not strong enough.
By midweek, a little over $10bn had been raised for a green climate fund, intended to help poor countries invest in clean energy technology. That was below the initial target of $15bn and many of those funds will be distributed over several years………http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/dec/12/lima-climate-change-talks-stumble-cash-emissions-cuts
Planned shutdowns of nuclear plants could mean higher prices for consumers CTV Toronto , December 8, 2014 The planned shutdowns of two of Ontario’s biggest nuclear plants during normally high peak times could mean soaring prices for consumers next year.
The Bruce Power and Darlington Nuclear Generating Stations will be shut down at the same time next spring and summer for 16 weeks for planned repairs.
The closure means that Ontario will not have enough electricity to meet its mandatory reserve during those weeks, when power demands normally soar. Last year, Ontario’s top-10 record days for electricity demand fell during those weeks. And Toronto also declared six extreme heat alerts during the same time.
The massive shutdowns combined with the possible added demand for power could mean the province may import electricity from the U.S. to avoid an outage.
“We always have the option if we see extreme weather coming to import power from our neighbours,” Alexandra Campbell, a spokesperson for the Independent Electricity System Operator, told CTV Toronto.
But Ontario’s NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns is warning that could mean higher prices for consumers.
“Let’s all pray for a cool, rainy May and a cloudy June and July because very high prices comes with those very high temperatures,” Tabus said…….
House Republican Plans to Introduce Pro-Climate-Science Bill http://www.nationaljournal.com/energy/house-republican-plans-to-introduce-pro-climate-science-bill-20141205
Chris Gibson wants the GOP to “operate in the realm of knowledge and science.”
Rep. Chris Gibson said Thursday he plans to introduce a resolution on climate change that will help others “recognize the reality” of the situation. Gibson said the extreme weather he has witnessed in his own upstate New York district supports the science, and he wants to be a leader in spurring recognition of changing weather patterns.
“My district has been hit with three 500-year floods in the last several years, so either you believe that we had a one in over 100 million probability that occurred, or you believe as I do that there’s a new normal, and we have changing weather patterns, and we have climate change. This is the science,” said the two-term lawmaker who was reelected in November.
“I hope that my party—that we will come to be comfortable with this, because we have to operate in the realm of knowledge and science, and I still think we can bring forward conservative solutions to this, absolutely, but we have to recognize the reality,” Gibson said. “So I will be bringing forward a bill, a resolution that states as such, with really the intent of rallying us, to harken us to our best sense, our ability to overcome hard challenges.”
Gibson spoke at an event hosted by Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, which is a pro-Republican advocacy group; a PAC that supports Republicans called Concord 51; and the Conservation Leadership Council, a group of conservatives that includes Gale Norton, who was Interior Secretary under George W. Bush. The Environmental Defense Fund helped create the CLC. Event organizers provided a video clip of his comments. Gibson’s office did not respond to inquiries about the matter. But while the specifics of the effort aren’t yet clear, Gibson’s stances are at odds with many in the GOP’s ranks.
Ascendant Republicans on Capitol Hill are preparing fresh assaults on the White House climate agenda, and expressing continued doubts about the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels and other human activity is the leading driver of global warming.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, during his reelection campaign in Kentucky, said he is “not a scientist” when asked about climate change, a line used by a number of Republicans.
Gibson, to be sure, hardly marches in lockstep with environmentalists. He supports the Keystone XL oil-sands pipeline and has voted for expanded offshore drilling.
But he also joined just two other Republicans last March in voting against a bill to scuttle EPA’s carbon-emissions rules for power plants, and he has also voted against other attacks on federal climate-change programs.
He won support in this year’s elections from the political branch of the Environmental Defense Fund. “It’s very encouraging to see this kind of leadership emerging in the Congress,” Tony Kreindler, EDF Action’s senior director for strategic communications, said of Gibson’s planned resolution.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Gibson both touted his support for expanded drilling and called for more investment in federal green-energy investment, while noting the potential of solar energy as costs decline.
Nuclear energy is definitively not the solution
Phase out Fossils. Phase in Nuclear? http://adoptanegotiator.org/phase-out-fossils-phase-in-nuclear/Anna Pérez Català December 3, 2014
Second day of the COP20, and the plenary is full of delegates discussing the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP). The atmosphere is really hot, like if we could feel the 2 degrees temperature rise due to climate change, and delegates are discussing the beginning of the draft and how it would look in a screen.
The ADP document is very important, because it aims to define the new climate agreement in 2015 and foster greenhouse gas reduction. This fits into climate science and its latest outputs: during this last year, IPCC asked for a phase out on greenhouse gas emissions by end century, and UNEP for 2070. This would make accomplish Article 2 of the convention, and ‘prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system’. But how this will be done has yet to be decided in the two coming long weeks.
The ADP draft text mentions the strong necessity of reaching carbon neutrality.
Phase in and phase out – what does the COP say? Article 3 suggests a ‘40–70 per cent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions below 2010 levels by 2050 and near zero emissions of CO2 and other long-lived greenhouse gases by the end of the century’.
A part from that, there are parties that are thinking about their individual contribution to a carbon-free world. Some countries like Ethiopia, Finland, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Norway, France and Georgia, committed to carbon neutrality. In fact, Costa Rica recently made reference to a possible goal of zero emissions by 2050. Initiatives from cities, communities and individuals can also be found all over the world, trying to contribute to this urgent necessity of making greenhouse gas emissions disappear.
The phase out target is great, but negotiators of the ADP text should consider including something even more relevant: a phase in target: a serious promotion of renewable energies and a cut on fossil fuel investments.
Worryingly, there are country pledges that consider nuclear as a nice way of creating a transition from fossil to renewable energies, or just a way of diversifying their energy mix and having more energy security. The narrative of nuclear being good, carbon-free and safe needs to be countered, or nuclear plants could start proliferating.
Nuclear energy is definitively not the solution
Nuclear power is increasingly appearing in conversations related to climate change. For instance, the last big US-China agreement includes nuclear and green caoal as low carbon sources that China will promote. Furthermore, Julie Bishop Australia’s prime minister said that nuclear power could boost Australian economy, and is re-opening the nuclear debate in the country, due to its uranium potential. And the European Union is not better than that, with France having 58 nuclear plants which produce 73% of its electricity, followed by Belgium (52%), Slovakia (51%) and Hungary (50%). Greenpeace recently published a list of the most dangerous nuclear plants in Europe due to its age, especially pointing Spain that has extended the life of some of them. Sadly, this week begins the trial of 17 activist of this same organisation that were protesting against nuclear power in Spain, and now are facing jail.
Nuclear energy is not only dangerous, it is also unjust and polluting. There are reports that demonstrate that, with high quality ores, the CO2 produced by the full nuclear life cycle is about one half to one third of an equivalent sized gas-fired power station. Therefore, nuclear energy does contribute to climate change by producing greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, nuclear energy perpetuates a very polluting and unjust mining industry. Numerous reports of international organisations denounce the impacts of uranium mining on the environment (air, soil, water) and the effects that can have on people’s health. Apparently we are not listening to that, and just recently China made some moves on buying part of uranium mines, such as Langer Heirich in the Namib desert.
Maybe there is still hope, and renewable energies will boom these coming years. We have seen great signals from Germany, which just announced that wants to cut emissions by 40% by 2020, a much ambitious goal than the UE package proposed. Furthermore, Spain had 43% of energy generation based on renewable energy this November, despite this obsession that they seem to have cutting finance to renewable energies and promoting energy industries based on nuclear.
But hoping is not enough, negotiators need to promote a phase-in discourse in the ADP text, so we ensure that we are building a future that is powered by renewable energies.
* Warm ending to year could make 2014 hottest after 2010
* U.N. to publish preliminary ranking on Dec. 3
By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent OSLO, Nov 27 (Reuters) - This year may eclipse 2010 as the hottest since records began in the 19th century, a sign long-term global warming is being stoked by rising greenhouse gas emissions, scientists said.
The period of January to October 2014 is already among the warmest ever recorded, and a warm ending to the year could easily make it top, according to U.S. and British data.
Sceptics who doubt the necessity of a shift away from fossil fuels to stop the Earth’s climate from heating up point out that world average temperatures have not risen much since 1998, despite rising greenhouse gas emissions.
But the final ranking for 2014, due next year, may influence public and businessperceptions about the severity of climate change. Almost 200 governments are due to agree a U.N. deal to combat global warming in Paris in December next year.
“2014 is more likely than not to be the warmest year,” Tim Osborn, a professor at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, told Reuters, saying manmade greenhouse gas emissions are tending to push up temperatures…….http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/11/27/climatechange-heat-idUKL6N0TG1VV20141127
Nuclear power’s dark future Japan Times, 25 Nov 14 BY BRAHMA CHELLANEY “…….New nuclear plants in most countries are located in coastal regions so that these water-guzzling facilities can largely draw on seawater for their operations and not bring freshwater resources under strain.
But coastal areas are often not only heavily populated but also constitute prime real estate. Moreover, the projected greater frequency of natural disasters like storms, hurricanes, and tsunamis due to climate change, along with the rise of ocean levels, makes seaside reactors particularly vulnerable.
The risks that seaside reactors face from global-warming-induced natural disasters became evident more than six years before Fukushima, when the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami inundated the Madras Atomic Power Station. But the reactor core could be kept in a safe shutdown mode because the electrical systems had been installed on higher ground than the plant level.
In 1992, Hurricane Andrew caused significant damage at the Turkey Point nuclear power plant in Florida, but fortunately not to any critical system. And in a 2012 incident, an alert was declared at the New Jersey Oyster Creek nuclear power plant — the oldest operating commercial reactor in the U.S. — after water rose in its water intake structure during Hurricane Sandy, potentially affecting the pumps that circulate cooling water through the plant.
All of Britain’s nuclear power plants are located along the coast, and a government assessment has identified as many as 12 of the country’s 19 civil nuclear sites as being at risk due to rising sea levels. Several nuclear plants in Britain, as in a number of other countries, are just a few meters above sea level……http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2014/11/25/commentary/world-commentary/nuclear-powers-dark-future/#.VHYvqNLF8nk
Germany may shut down eight more coal power plants, document shows, SMH, November 24, 2014 Germany is working on a new law to force energy companies to shut down several more coal-fired power plants as it tries to reach ambitious climate goals, a document seen by Reuters showed on Sunday.
According to a draft legislation prepared by the economy ministry, energy companies will be asked to reduce carbon emissions by at least 22 million tonnes by 2020.
Some 50 facilities already registered for decommission will not count, however, meaning that a further eight coal-fired power stations may be closed down……..
Although Germany has seen a boom in green energy, accounting for about 25 per cent of overall power generation, environmentalists criticise the country for its continued dependence on coal-fired plants, which made up nearly half of power generation last year.
The latest reduction in carbon emissions, if put into effect, would be shared equally between Germany’s power companies, among them major energy firms RWE, E.ON and Vattenfall…….
The latest measure is part of a raft of new climate rules which Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet is expected to decide on Dec. 3. The programme will also include steps to boost energy efficiency.
Merkel’s government wants renewables to make up between 40-45 per cent of power generation by 2025 and 55-60 per cent by 2035 – targets that experts say are ambitious for an industrialised country.
The European Union agreed last month a pledge to cut greenhouse gases by at least 40 per cent in 2030. http://www.smh.com.au/business/carbon-economy/germany-may-shut-down-eight-more-coal-power-plants-document-shows-20141124-11sfdn.html#ixzz3KE3Ddv19
Back in 2012, two researchers with a particular interest in the Arctic, Rutgers’ Jennifer Francis and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Stephen Vavrus, published a paper called “Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes.” In it, they suggested that the fact that the Arctic is warming so rapidly is leading to an unexpected but profound effect on the weather where the vast majority of Americans live – a change that, if their theory is correct, may have something to do with the extreme winter weather the US has seen lately.
In their paper, Francis and Vavrus suggested that a rapidly warming Arctic should interfere with the jet stream, the river of air high above us that flows eastward around the northern hemisphere and brings with it our weather. Sometimes, the jet stream flows relatively directly from west to east; but other times, it takes long, wavy loops, as in the image above. And according to Francis and Vavrus, Arctic warming should make the jet stream more wavy and loopy on average – some have called it “drunk” – with dramatic weather consequences.
Here’s the atmospheric physics behind the idea: Warm air expands, and naturally there is much more warm air at the equator than at the poles. Thus, the atmosphere is thicker at the equator, and the jet stream’s motion is driven by the decline in atmospheric thickness as one moves in a poleward direction – in effect, its atmospheric river flows “downhill,” in Francis’s words. However, if the Arctic is warming faster than the mid-latitudes, then the difference in thickness as you move in a poleward direction should decrease. And this should slow the jet stream, leading to more loops and turns – and consequently, weather of all types getting stuck in place for longer. There’s a nice video explanation of this by Francis here:
According to Francis, the extreme US winter of last year and now, the extremes at the beginning of this season, fit her theory. “This winter looks a whole lot like last winter, it’s a very amplified jet stream pattern,” she says. “We know that when we get these patterns, it tends to be very persistent. And it is definitely the type of pattern that we expect to see more often as the Artic continues to warm so fast.”………..
You can’t call Francis’s idea fully established. You can’t say there’s a “scientific consensus” on it. And you can’t say that the august UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change embraces it. Not yet. But it’s certainly a very serious idea and one of the most discussed theories in climate science. Call it a contender. And if it’s right, well … then we all know, already, what global warming feels like.
The ozone hole leaves a lasting impression on southern climate, The Conversation, Sharon Robinson Professor at University of Wollongong, 8 November 2014, Many people think of sunburn and skin cancer when they hear about the ozone hole. But more ultraviolet (UV) radiation isn’t the only problem.
The ozone hole has also led to dramatic changes in Southern Hemisphere weather patterns. These in turn are altering natural ecosystems and food production. These climate changes are likely having a similar if not greater impact than more UV radiation.
We discuss some of these changes in a paper published today in Global Change Biology.
This week the parties to the Montreal Protocol will meet in Paris, to consider the latest report from the United Nations Environment Programme Environmental Effects Assessment Panel. This report summarises the impact of both ozone loss and the associated increase in ultraviolet radiation on the environment and human health.
The Montreal Protocol continues to be effective at phasing out ozone depleting chemicals and has decreased levels of these greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. But while the Montreal Protocol is a success story, the Southern Hemisphere still faces the threat of climate change from rising greenhouse gases. There is still much to do.
Changing the weather
In recent years, climate scientists have shown that the ozone hole has had a profound impact on weather systems throughout the Southern Hemisphere, especially during summer.
The ozone hole has pulled the polar jet stream further south, increasing its strength. These winds isolate Antarctica and help to keep most of it cold as the rest of the world warms. This has prevented sea ice melt and rising sea-levels. By changing atmospheric circulation, the ozone hole modifies wind, rain and snowfall patterns across the Southern Hemisphere. The changing pattern and strength of winds has caused shifts in the regions that get plenty of rain or snowfall, and those that stay dry. …….
A world avoided
Ultraviolet (UV-B) radiation damage to all living organisms, including humans, has been minimised since the region where major ozone depletion occurred is over the sparsely-populated Antarctic. Even there the impacts on terrestrial life are thought to be small, probably less than a 6% loss in productivity in plants.
By controlling the release of ozone depleting chemicals the Montreal Protocol has made a large contribution to reducing greenhouse gases.
The world is cooler now than it would have been without the Montreal Protocol’s controls on emissions of ozone depleting chemicals. This is because many of the chemicals that break down ozone are also potent greenhouse gases (such as chlorofluorocarbons — CFCs).
Climate change in the Southern Hemisphere can be attributed to ozone depletion, as well as increasing greenhouse gases. Decades after the ozone hole was identified and action was taken, we are still discovering how profound its implications are both in terms of the “world avoided”, and unanticipated climate change.
Sharon Robinson and Dr. David Erickson, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, USA present this work in the scientific journal Global Change Biology. They are both members of the UNEP-EEAP. ttp://theconversation.com/the-ozone-hole-leaves-a-lasting-impression-on-southern-climate-34043
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