The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

New evidence of faster global warming

global-warming1New study confirms NOAA finding of faster global warming 4 January 2017 by John Abraham

A new study has shown that a 2015 NOAA paper finding that the Earth is warming more rapidly than previously thought was correct.

Once again, science is shown to work. The laborious process in which scientists check and recheck their work and subject their ideas to peer review has led to another success. An independent test of global warming data has confirmed a groundbreaking 2015 study that showed warming was faster than prior estimates.

Because of its inconvenient findings, the study’s lead author Thomas Karl was subjected to harassment by Lamar Smith (R-TX), chair of the House Science Committee, in an effort to impugn his credibility. But now Karl and his co-authors have been vindicated.

Let’s take a step back and discuss the science. Measuring the temperature of the Earth is hard. There are many locations to measure and many choices to make. Should we measure the temperature of the ground? Of the ocean waters? How deep in the water? If we measure air temperatures, what height should the measurements be taken? How many locations should we make measurements at? What happens if the instruments change over time or if the location changes? What happens if a city grows near a measurement location and the so-called urban heat-island effect grows? How do we estimate the temperatures in areas where no measurements exist?

These and many other questions make measuring global warming challenge. Different groups of scientists make different decisions so that depending on the institution, they will get a slightly different temperature result.

But this diversity is also a good thing. It turns out that it doesn’t matter whose results you use – NASA, NOAA, The Hadley Centre in the UK, the Japanese Meteorological Agency, or the Berkeley Earth group – they all report a warming world. However, the rates are slightly different. So, one persistent question is, which group is most accurate? Whose methods are best?

The new study looks into just this question. The group focused on perhaps the biggest differences among the groups – how they handle ocean temperatures. Specifically, global temperature values typically use a combination of near-surface air temperatures in land regions and sea surface temperatures in ocean regions. Since oceans cover approximately 70% of our planet, the way ocean temperatures are dealt with can separate the warming rates between these groups.

Ocean temperatures can be measured by ship-based temperature sensors, by special floating measuring instruments, or by satellites. Prior to the advent of satellites and floating sensors, ships were the main temperature sensing platforms. Ship sensors, which measure engine intake water, are known to be slightly warmer than the actual water. So using them introduces a warm bias in the measurements.

Also, as ships have gotten larger, the depth of the engine intakes have increased – meaning the tested water was further from the actual ocean surface. Since the temperature results from buoys differs from ship measurements, the various scientific groups have tended to try to perform corrections between the different sensors. The way the correction is done affects the reported warming rate.

The authors recognized that one of the biggest questions is how to stitch together different temperature results from different sensors. Therefore, the broke the temperature data up into groups according to the measurement device (buoys, satellites, ARGO floats, ships, etc.) and they evaluated warming rates separately for each group. The authors also used advanced statistics to handle areas where no data were recorded.

After applying their tests, the authors found that the results promoted by Karl at NOAA are the best, and other groups, in particular the Hadley Centre in the UK and the Japanese agency, are too cold.

So what does this all mean? A few things. First, this study is a nice reminder that the proper way for science to work is for publications to be scrutinized and checked by others. This process leads the entire scientific community to a deeper understanding of the science.

Second, this validates the scientists who were originally attacked by political non-scientists and in some cases by contrarian scientists. For instance, Judith Curry, a well-known critic of mainstream climate science was quoted as saying:

The new NOAA dataset disagrees with a UK dataset, which is generally regarded as the gold standard for global sea surface temperature datasets … The new dataset also disagrees with ARGO buoys and satellite analyses … Color me unconvinced.

I actually study ocean temperatures so I knew this statement by Judith Curry was complete nonsense. It is nice to see a team actually take the time to prove it. Perhaps she and others will finally admit they were wrong. Click here to read the rest

January 6, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Greenland Ice Melt might cause Atlantic Circulation to Collapse

Greenland Ice Melt Could Push Atlantic Circulation to Collapse New research gives a glimpse of the potential long-term consequences of anthropogenic warming, Hakai Magazine,   January 3, 2017

In the North Atlantic, east of North America and south of Greenland, the ocean’s upper layers are much warmer than one might presume given the extreme latitude. This unexpected warmth is a product of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a vitally important system of ocean currents that moves warm salty water northward from the tropics and cold fresher water south. The AMOC looms large in the Earth’s climate: it is responsible for redistributing nutrients throughout the Atlantic Ocean and is a major driving force controlling the climate on both sides of the pond.

Ocean currents all experience fluctuations, which can dramatically change the distribution of nutrients, heat, and fish. The best known example is probably the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, in which unusually warm water occasionally disrupts the Pacific Ocean’s Humboldt Current that flows north from Chile toward Peru. El Niño events can shift the jet stream south, cause excessive rainfall and devastating floods, and temporarily collapse fish stocks.

To date, most climate research suggests that the AMOC is relatively stable and carries water throughout the ocean in a reliable, repeating cycle. But anthropogenic climate change seems to have made the current weaken slightly, raising the question of whether more dramatic shifts are in store. As of the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, a shutdown of the circulation from further warming is considered unlikely. Yet a new study says that the unprecedented melting of Greenland’s massive ice sheets, previously overlooked in most climate modeling, will result in the AMOC weakening, and maybe even collapsing, within the next 300 years……..

January 6, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, oceans | Leave a comment

Climate Change threat to global ocean circulation might be worse than we thought

Scientists say the global ocean circulation may be more vulnerable to shutdown than we thought, WP,  January 4 2017Intense future climate change could have a far different impact on the world than current models predict, suggests a thought-provoking new study just out in the journal Science Advances. If atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were to double in the future, it finds, a major ocean current — one that helps regulate climate and weather patterns all over the world — could collapse. And that could paint a very different picture of the future than what we’ve assumed so far.

The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, or AMOC, is often described as a large oceanic conveyor belt. It’s a system of water currents that transports warm water northward from the Atlantic toward the Arctic, contributing to the mild climate conditions found in places like Western Europe. In the Northern Atlantic, the northward flowing surface water eventually cools and sinks down toward the bottom of the ocean, and another current brings that cooler water back down south again. The whole process is part of a much larger system of overturning currents that circulates all over the world, from pole to pole.

But some scientists have begun to worry that the AMOC isn’t accurately represented in current climate models. They say that many models portray the current as being more stable than real-life observations suggest it actually is. Recent studies have suggested that the AMOC is weakening, although there’s some scientific debate about how much of this has been caused by human activities and how much by natural variations.

Nevertheless, the authors of the new study point out, many climate models assume a fairly stable AMOC — and that could be affecting the predictions they make for how the ocean will change under future climate change. And because overturning circulation patterns have such a significant effect on climate and weather all over the world, this could have big implications for all kinds of other climate-related projections as well.

“This is a very common and well-known issue in climate models,” said the new study’s lead author, Wei Liu, a postdoctoral associate at Yale University, who conducted the work while at the University of California at San Diego. “I wanted to see, if I use a corrected model, how this will affect the future climate change.”

Liu and colleagues from the UC-San Diego and the University of Wisconsin at Madison took a commonly used climate model and corrected for what they considered to be the AMOC stability bias. Then they ran an experiment to see how the correction would affect the model’s projections under future climate change. They instantaneously doubled the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration from present-day levels in both the corrected and uncorrected models, and then they let both models run for hundreds of simulated years.

The differences were striking. In the uncorrected climate model, the AMOC weakens for a while, but eventually recovers. In the corrected model, however, the AMOC continues to weaken and after 300 years, it collapses altogether.

In a commentary also published today in RealClimate, Stefan Rahmstorf, an oceans physics expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, explained how such a collapse could occur when the AMOC gets too weak.

“Freshwater continually flows into the northern Atlantic through precipitation, rivers and ice-melting,” he wrote. “But supply of salty waters from the south, through the Gulf Stream System, balances this. If however the current slows, there is less salt supply, and the surface ocean gets less salty.”

Because freshwater is less dense than salty water, this process can lead to a kind of stratification, in which the lighter freshwater gets stuck on the surface of the ocean and can’t sink to the bottom when it reaches the cooler north. When this happens, the overturning process that drives the current back down south again can’t occur.

“There is a critical point when this becomes an unstoppable vicious circle,” Rahmstorf wrote. “This is one of the classic tipping points in the climate system.”

The resulting climate consequences, compared to the uncorrected model, are also dramatic. Without the usual transport of warm water into the north, the corrected model predicts a marked cooling over the northern Atlantic, including in the United Kingdom, Iceland and northwestern Europe, as well as in the Arctic, where sea ice begins to expand.

Because the AMOC is part of a larger global conveyor system, which ferries warm and cold currents between the equator and both poles, the model predicts disruptions in other parts of the world as well. Without cold water moving back down south again, the corrected model indicates a stronger warming pattern south of the equator than what’s predicted by the uncorrected model, causing a polarization in precipitation patterns over the Americas — more rain for places like northeastern Brazil and less rain for Central America. The model also predicts a greater reduction in sea ice for the Antarctic.

All this doesn’t necessarily mean that everything we thought we knew about the future climate is wrong……..

January 6, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, oceans | Leave a comment

Trump’s advisers ignore inconvenient scientific and economic evidence on climate change

climate-changeFacts matter, and on climate change, Trump’s picks get them wrong 27 December 2016 by dana1981

When speaking about climate change, President-elect Trump has flip-flopped between acceptance and denial, which suggests that he hasn’t put much thought into one of humanity’s greatest threats. However, what his administration does is far more important than what he thinks. Unfortunately, Trump has nominated individuals to several critical climate leadership positions who reject inconvenient scientific and economic evidence.

Stage 3 denial: climate dangers and model accuracy

Climate denial often pinballs between five different stages, but the cleverer denialist arguments tend to land on Stage 3: denial that climate change is a problem.

It’s ironic that Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson – CEO of ExxonMobil – has the most sophisticated position on climate change among Trump’s key nominees. Tillerson accepts that humans are causing global warming, but he denies that it’s a problem. His key argument focuses on sowing doubt about the accuracy of climate models.

This happens to be the core topic in my book Climatology versus Pseudoscience, whose analysis I updated for a presentation at the American Geophysical Union conference two weeks ago. Climate scientists have been making global temperature predictions for over 40 years, and they’ve turned out to be amazingly accurate, as this video of the key slides from my presentation shows:

Tillerson has long cast doubt on the accuracy of climate models, for example saying at a 2013 ExxonMobil annual shareholder meeting:

our ability to project with any degree of certainty the future is continuing to be very limited … our examination about the models are that they’re not competent.

This line of argument led to the question Tillerson posed at the company’s 2015 annual meeting:

What if everything we do, it turns out our models are lousy, and we don’t get the effects we predict?

The answer to that question is that we get the co-benefits associated with reduced burning of fossil fuels: cleaner air, cleaner water, healthier people, green jobs and economic growth, energy independence, and so on. But the point is that Tillerson tries to cast doubt on scientists’ ability to project what will happen in the future, because the projections show that we need to leave most fossil fuel reserves in the ground. For Exxon, that’s bad for business.

Stage 2 denial: we’re causing the problem

Trump’s appointees will sometimes get stuck in Stage 1 denial – that global warming is even happening – but most frequently they land in Stage 2 denial – that humans are responsible.

This is a question that’s about as settled as science gets. The best estimate in the 2014 IPCC report, representing the consensus of the world’s top climate scientists summarizing the body of climate research, was that humans have caused all the global warming over the past 65 years. The report concluded with 95% confidence that humans have caused most of the global warming since 1950. Climate scientists are as confident in human-caused global warming as medical scientists are that smoking causes cancer. There’s a 97% expert consensus on the subject.

Trump’s nominee to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt is in Stage 2 denial. So is his choice to lead the Department of Energy, Rick Perry. His choice to lead the Department of Interior, Ryan Zinke is an interesting case, who strongly supported climate action in 2010, but now denies that humans are responsible. Even Trump himself has said “nobody knows” what’s causing it.

Somebody does: the world’s scientific experts.

Stage 4 denial: we can solve it

Trump’s nominees will sometimes advance to Stage 4 denial, and argue that solutions to the climate problem are too costly. For example, while environmental regulations actually have a positive net effect on employment, Pruitt and Trump argue that these sorts of regulations kill jobs. Tillerson argues that third world countries need fossil fuels to end ‘energy poverty.’ In reality, while access to electricity certainly helps the poor, distributed renewable energy like solar panels and wind turbines are a better fit for most developing nations, especially since poorer countries are the most vulnerable to climate changeimpacts.

Trump’s transition team also believes the cost of carbon pollution is lower than the estimates used by the Obama Administration. However, the most recent research on the subject indicates the actual cost is in fact much higher than government estimates, and a majority of economists agree that the federal estimate is too low.

Tillerson has claimed to support a revenue-neutral carbon tax – a bipartisan solution that in addition to helping curb climate change and its damages, would have a modestly beneficial direct impact on the economy. However, under Tillerson’s leadership, ExxonMobil hasn’t supported policymakers who have proposed this exact legislation, and has instead continued to fund climate denial organizations that work to obstruct it. And in 2013, Tillerson walked back his carbon tax support:

I would not support putting a carbon tax in place today because I think we still have a lot of gains to be made through technology and other less intrusive policies on the economy which are showing results.

Tillerson has argued that climate change is “an engineering problem and it has engineering solutions.” In other words, that we can keep burning fossil fuels, and solve the problem through adaptation efforts. However, research is quite clear that while we’ll need a combination of mitigation and adaptation, relying primarily on adaptation would be exceptionally costly.

It’s not surprising that the CEO of ExxonMobil advocates for a path that would lead to the burning of lots more fossil fuels. However, the Secretary of State has tremendous influence over America’s role in international climate negotiations. ExxonMobil’s priorities are in sharp conflict with America’s and the world’s on this issue.

December 30, 2016 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

Danger of Entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet Collapsing

Antarctica's Larsen C Ice Shelf (Youtube)What Would Happen if the Entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet Collapsed?  By Tim Radford, Dec 24 2016

Scientists in the U.S. have identified an ominous trend in the Southern Ocean—the creation of enormous icebergs as rifts develop in the shelf ice many miles inland.  And although three vast icebergs have broken from the Pine Island glacier in West Antarctica and drifted north in this century alone, researchers have only just worked out what has been going on.

Their first clue came from a telltale shadow in the south polar ice, caught by a NASA satellite and visible only while the sun was low in the sky, casting a long shadow.

It was the first sign of a fracture 20 miles inland, in 2013. Two years later, the rift became complete and the 580 sq km iceberg drifted free of the shelf.

Significant Collapse

“It’s generally accepted that it’s no longer a question of whether the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will melt—it’s a question of when,” said study leader Ian Howat, a glaciologist in the School of Earth Sciences at Ohio State University in the U.S.

“This kind of rifting behavior provides another mechanism for rapid retreat of these glaciers, adding to the probability that we may see significant collapse of West Antarctica in our lifetimes.”

The scientists report in Geophysical Research Letters journal says that they discovered that although shelf ice could be expected to wear at the ocean edge, something else was happening in West Antarctica.

The Pine Island glacier is grounded on continental bedrock below sea level, which means that warming ocean water could penetrate far inland beneath the shelf, without anyone being conscious of any change.

The first evidence of something unusual was a valley—the one highlighted by shadows visible only at a particular time and captured by NASA imagery—in the ice, where it had thinned. The valley was the first outward sign that ice was melting far below the surface.

The shelf ice plays an important role in slowing the progress of south polar glaciers: remove the shelf ice and the glacier flow accelerates.

Researchers have already identified evidence of glacier retreat in the West Antarctic and warned that bodies of ice massive enough together to raise global sea levels by three meters could—thanks to global warming as a consequence of fossil fuel combustion—be increasingly unstable.

Calving Icebergs

Dr. Howat said:

The really troubling thing is that there are many of these valleys further up-glacier. If they are actually sites of weakness that are prone to rifting, we could potentially see more accelerated ice loss in Antarctica.

Antarctica is home to more than half the world’s fresh water. The Pine Island glacier and its neighbor and twin, the Thwaite glacier, are at the outer edge of an ice stream. In effect, they have “corked” the flow.

But West Antarctica is warming far more swiftly than the rest of the south polar region. And the calving of huge icebergs fuels researchers’ fear that, within 100 years, the entire West Antarctic ice sheet could collapse, with disastrous consequences for many coastal cities worldwide.

December 26, 2016 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, climate change | Leave a comment

America enters the bizarre world of fossil fuel companies in charge of climate policy

climate-doomsdayAlex Smith, Radio Ecoshock,  22 Dec 16 The fossil fuel industry, and their paid climate deniers, have taken control of the government of the United States. Russia, another major world supplier of oil and gas, played it’s part, raiding the servers of the Democratic Party, the Democratic Candidate, and their campaign Chair.

As a result, scientists at the recent meeting of the American Geophysical Union are gathering to protect their data, and likely many of their jobs. Our first guest Joerg Schaefer came from his training in Germany and Switzerland for the brightest minds and best technology to analyze and predict climate change. Now all that is in doubt.

There are several movements in science to make copies of key climate databases and models, to get them out of the country before the climate killers take control.

But even this misses another threat. Climate science depends on long strings of dependable records. Weather comes and goes, but climate is understood decade by decade, through centuries, and even millions of years. The United States, through it’s network of satellites, ocean buoys, and research ships provides a great deal for scientists in many countries. If there is a break in those critical records, even for four years, or heaven forbid, eight – then we’ll know less, and be less prepared. Less prepared for the biggest shift in human affairs in the whole time we have been on this planet.

The great but slow movement to get off fossil fuels will continue. Citizens will continue to install solar panels, the price will continue to drop. While Donald Trump may subsidize the coal industry, and get a mine or two going, nobody wants to go back to coal. It cost more than renewable energy, or gas, even without a price on carbon. America might as well go back to making horse carriages, or the original Apple computers. Trying to rebuild a coal industry is just going to waste money and time.

We don’t have that time. Each and every scientist you’ve heard on Radio Ecoshock this fall has brought out another feed-back, a greater climate sensitivity, more reasons why we have to cut carbon emission drastically, ideally starting 20 years ago. As our guest Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Center told us, the next four years are critical.

Can we stop Greenland from reverting to the bare rock it knows best? Can we save the remaining Arctic sea ice, to stabilize the weather further south, where most of you live? Can we prevent methane geysers from the sea floor? Can we slow deglaciation in Antarctica until we find a way to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere?

All this may be up to the rest of the world, while America enters bizarro world, the place where foxes guard the hen-house. Or the responsibility may go back where it really belongs: into our own homes, lives and lifestyles. If we can’t count on the big father of national governments, the future returns to us. Prepare to organize. Prepare to act, to save ourselves and Nature……

December 26, 2016 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

Climate change: warnings have been given by scientists since 1880 or earlier

A 1912 news article ominously forecasted the catastrophic effects of fossil fuels on climate change Akshat Rathi  24 Oct 16, A short news clip from a New Zealand paper published in 1912 has gone viral as an example of an early news story to make the connection between burning fossil fuels and climate change.

It wasn’t, however, the first article to suggest that our love for coal was wreaking destruction on our environment that would lead to climate change. The theory—now widely accepted as scientific reality—was mentioned in the news media as early as 1883, and was discussed in scientific circles much earlier than that.

The French physicist Joseph Fourier had made the observation in 1824 that the composition of the atmosphere is likely to affect the climate. But Svante Arrhenius’s 1896 study titled, “On the influence of carbonic acid in the air upon the temperature on the ground” was the first to quantify how carbon dioxide (or anhydrous carbonic acid, by another name) affects global temperature. Though the study does not explicitly say that the burning of fossil fuels would cause global warming, there were scientists before him who had made such a forecast.

The earliest such mention that Quartz could find was in the journal Nature in December of 1882. The author HA Phillips writes:

According to Prof Tyndall’s research, hydrogen, marsh gas, and ethylene have the property to a very high degree of absorbing and radiating heat, and so much that a very small proportion, of say one thousandth part, had very great effect. From this we may conclude that the increasing pollution of the atmosphere will have a marked influence on the climate of the world.

Phillips was relying on the work of John Tyndall, who in the 1860s had shown how various gases in the atmosphere absorb heat from the sun in the form of infrared radiation. Now we know that Phillips was wrong about a few scientific details: He ignored carbon dioxide from burning coal and focused more on the by-products of mining. Still, he was drawing the right conclusion about what our demand for fossil fuels might do to the climate.

Newspapers around the world took those words published in a prestigious scientific journal quite seriously. ……..

Nichols found many examples between 1883 and 1912, where newspapers, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, Kansas City Star, and York Daily, wrote articles about what rising carbon dioxide levels would do the climate.

All through the 19th century, the increasing use of coal was hard to miss. Towns and cities across the world were becoming noticeably polluted because of factories, and later steam trains. In this light, it’s not surprising that a tiny New Zealand newspaper carried an article in 1912 about how the ever-increasing use of fossil fuels might change Earth’s climate.

December 26, 2016 Posted by | climate change, history, Reference | Leave a comment

Scientists now consider geoengineering, as well as curbing greenhouse gas emissions

geoengineeringWhat’s Next for Climate Action?Prominent scientists say researchers and policy makers need to focus more on adapting to warming and on controversial geoengineering techniques to limit it  By Annie Sneed on December 16, 2016 , Scientific American,  SAN FRANCISCO—Despite President-elect Donald Trump’s distaste for the Paris climate agreement, countries around the world are already working to ensure that the global temperature rise stays below 2 degrees Celsius. This week at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference here, several prominent scientists discussed the critical steps researchers and decision makers need to take now. They said reducing carbon emissions is important, of course, but countries worldwide must also put more energy into adapting to changing weather that even moderate warming will bring, as well as consider the potential of controversial geoengineering techniques to keep warming in check.

One of the primary goals of the Paris accord is mitigation—cutting or preventing greenhouse gas emissions. To help countries meet their emissions pledges, the international community needs to analyze how it can achieve “deep decarbonization,” according to Margaret Leinen, director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and president of the AGU. This means determining what emissions-reducing technologies and strategies will work best for a given country. As Leinen explained at a conference panel session, “We need to be able to evaluate these technologies quantitatively in order to understand which ones work, which ones are scalable and for what countries and energy economies they work for.”

Another major detail that still needs to be sorted out: how to track nations’ emissions, to make sure they’re sticking to their reduction targets. “We need to start asking, ‘Okay, how will you prove that you actually did what you pledged to do?’” Leinen told Scientific American after the panel. To do that, countries will have to have some kind of monitoring system, and the international community has yet to agree on the guidelines for how that system will work.

It is up to scientists and engineers to design effective monitoring systems, or strengthen existing ones. ………..

Scientists should thoroughly assess geoengineering techniques and understand what their impact on the Earth’s systems might be, including any unintended consequences. They also need to consider logistical challenges—how to actually make geoengineering techniques work, in case the world decides to use them. Then there are political and governance issues, such as how countries should respond if, say, a nation starts injecting sulfate aerosols into the atmosphere on its own to cool the planet. Despite people’s general unease with geoengineering because of its potential for major unintended consequences, it is another tool countries may eventually need to use to combat climate change. “At this point, we need to keep all options open,” Busalacchi said. “We need to have a solid and robust understanding of what geoengineering can and can’t do, in case mitigation and adaptation fall short.”

December 26, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, Reference | Leave a comment

Science under threat, as Trump demands lists of climate science workers

censorshipA dark time is coming to American climate science

Trump questionnaire recalls dark history of ideology-driven science, Skeptical Science 21 December 2016 by By Paul N. Edwards, Professor of Information and History, University of Michigan

President-elect Trump has called global warming “bullshit” and a “Chinese hoax.” He has promised to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate treaty and to “bring back coal,” the world’s dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fuel. The incoming administration has paraded a roster of climate change deniers for top jobs. On Dec. 13, Trump named former Texas Governor Rick Perry, another climate change denier, to lead the Department of Energy (DoE), an agency Perry said he would eliminate altogether during his 2011 presidential campaign.

Just days earlier, the Trump transition team presented the DoE with a 74-point questionnaire that has raised alarm among employees because the questions appear to target people whose work is related to climate change.

For me, as a historian of science and technology, the questionnaire – bluntly characterized by one DoE official as a “hit list” – is starkly reminiscent of the worst excesses of ideology-driven science, seen everywhere from the U.S. Red Scare of the 1950s to the Soviet and Nazi regimes of the 1930s.

The questionnaire asks for a list of “all DoE employees or contractors” who attended the annual Conferences of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – a binding treaty commitment of the U.S., signed by George H. W. Bush in 1992. Another question seeks the names of all employees involved in meetings of the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon, responsible for technical guidance quantifying the economic benefits of avoided climate change.

It also targets the scientific staff of DoE’s national laboratories. Continue reading

December 24, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, climate change, USA | Leave a comment

Research shows that human activities have brought about freakish weather in the Arctic

Antarctica's Larsen C Ice Shelf (Youtube)Yes, the Arctic’s freakishly warm winter is due to humans’ climate influence, The Conversation, December 22, 2016 For the Arctic, like the globe as a whole, 2016 has been exceptionally warm. For much of the year, Arctic temperatures have been much higher than normal, and sea ice concentrations have been at record low levels.

The Arctic’s seasonal cycle means that the lowest sea ice concentrations occur in September each year. But while September 2012 had less ice than September 2016, this year the ice coverage has not increased as expected as we moved into the northern winter. As a result, since late October, Arctic sea ice extent has been at record low levels for the time of year.

These record low sea ice levels have been associated with exceptionally high temperatures for the Arctic region. November and December (so far) have seen record warm temperatures. At the same time Siberia, and very recently North America, have experienced conditions that are slightly cooler than normal………

Arctic attribution

Our World Weather Attribution group, led by Climate Central and including researchers at the University of Melbourne, the University of Oxford and the Dutch Meteorological Service (KNMI), used three different methods to assess the role of the human climate influence on record Arctic warmth over November and December.

We used forecast temperatures and heat persistence models to predict what will happen for the rest of December. But even with 10 days still to go, it is clear that November-December 2016 will certainly be record-breakingly warm for the Arctic.

Next, I investigated whether human-caused climate change has altered the likelihood of extremely warm Arctic temperatures, using state-of-the-art climate models. By comparing climate model simulations that include human influences, such as increased greenhouse gas concentrations, with ones without these human effects, we can estimate the role of climate change in this event.

This technique is similar to that used in previous analyses of Australian record heat and the sea temperatures associated with the Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching event.

To put it simply, the record November-December temperatures in the Arctic do not happen in the simulations that leave out human-driven climate factors. In fact, even with human effects included, the models suggest that this Arctic hot spell is a 1-in-200-year event. So this is a freak event even by the standards of today’s world, which humans have warmed by roughly 1℃ on average since pre-industrial times.

But in the future, as we continue to emit greenhouse gases and further warm the planet, events like this won’t be freaks any more. If we do not reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we estimate that by the late 2040s this event will occur on average once every two years.

All of our analysis points the finger at human-induced climate change for this event. Without it, Arctic warmth like this is extremely unlikely to occur. And while it’s still an extreme event in today’s climate, in the future it won’t be that unusual, unless we drastically curtail our greenhouse gas emissions.

As we have already seen, the consequences of more frequent extreme warmth in the future could be devastating for the animals and other species that call the Arctic home.

Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, Marc Macias-Fauria, Peter Uhe, Sjoukje Philip, Sarah Kew, David Karoly, Friederike Otto, Myles Allen and Heidi Cullen all contributed to the research on which this article is based.

You can find more details on all the analysis techniques here. Each of the methods used has been peer-reviewed, although as with the Great Barrier Reef bleaching study, we will submit a research manuscript for peer review and publication in 2017.

December 24, 2016 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Women face up to climate change threat, some choosing not to have children

climate-doomsdayWomen are breaking the climate taboo and questioning whether to have kids in such a world, Fusion, By Renee Lewis, 20 Dec 16, Climate change has caused a reproductive justice crisis, activists say, as its projected impacts lead some to question how they could have a baby with such an uncertain future.

Nearly 200 nations came together to sign a climate treaty in Paris last year, but even their collective efforts to reduce emissions will not be enough to keep the planet at a safe level of temperature rise.

President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to expand fossil fueldevelopment, meanwhile, scientists say the world may have entered its sixth mass extinction event.

 All of these things point to a precarious future for our species—a business-as-usual scenario will mean some six feet of sea level rise and some regions of the world becoming uninhabitable or disappearing under rising seas by the end of the century.

With little time to spare, many are trying to take matters into their own hands and consider their options. A group of 21 youth recently sued the federal government for its role in creating the climate crisis and for leaving them to inherit a polluted planet—calling it generational injustice.

Others worry more about future generations.

“Decision makers have repeatedly put big business and fossil fuels over a future for our children,” said Meghan Kallman, co-founder of Conceivable Future. The women-led network hopes to bring awareness to the threat climate change poses to reproductive justice, and to end U.S. subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.

Kallman and co-founder Josephine Ferorelli brought up a taboo question—how this affects a person’s decision on whether or not to have kids.

“How does this affect people of childbearing age?” Kallman asked.

The response they’ve received has been overwhelming, with many people commenting on articles written about the group: ‘That’s my reason!’

Women as well as men are consciously deciding not to have children, knowing that their kids could inherit a future that is unlivable.

“People are still shocked when they ask why I don’t have children, and I tell them ‘for environmental reasons,’” Shannon O., 38 years old,said in a testimonial for Conceivable Future. Having a child, especially in America where consumption levels are so high, adds another carbon footprint. For example, an American woman who makes lifestyle changes such as recycling and driving a fuel-efficient car saves almost 500 tons of CO2 emissions in her lifetime. But choosing to not have a child would dwarf that, preventing almost 10,000 tons of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere………

The testimonies are part of Conceivable Future’s strategy to build a conversation—and a movement—around this question. Ferorelli said they hope the movement will become powerful enough to enact change at the local level—especially with Trump’s statements on expanding the fossil fuel industry.

“Now more than ever, we need to organize at the grassroots level, because the possibility of federal action is pretty severely limited,” Ferorelli said.

The group encourages anyone who’s interested in talking about these issues to host a house party. There, they can discuss these often taboo topics openly in a comfortable environment.

Across the country, people have hosted house parties and sent in nearly 70 testimonies……..

December 24, 2016 Posted by | climate change, USA, women | Leave a comment

Soaring Arctic temperatures are at cutting edge of climate change research

Arctic ice melt ‘already affecting weather patterns where you live right now’ Soaring Arctic temperatures ‘strongly linked’ to recent extreme weather events, say scientists at cutting edge of climate change research, Guardian, , 20 Dec 16 The dramatic melting of Arctic ice is already driving extreme weather that affects hundreds of millions of people across North America, Europe and Asia, leading climate scientists have told the Guardian.


Severe “snowmageddon” winters are now strongly linked to soaring polar temperatures, say researchers, with deadly summer heatwaves and torrential floods also probably linked. The scientists now fear the Arctic meltdown has kickstarted abrupt changes in the planet’s swirling atmosphere, bringing extreme weather in heavily populated areas to the boil.

The northern ice cap has been shrinking since the 1970s, with global warming driving the loss of about three-quarters of its volume so far. But the recent heat in the Arctic has shocked scientists, with temperatures 33C above average in parts of the Russian Arctic and 20C higher in some other places.

In November, ice levels hit a record low, and we are now in “uncharted territory”, said Prof Jennifer Francis, an Arctic climate expert at Rutgers University in the US, who first became interested in the region when she sailed through it on a round-the-world trip in the 1980s.

“These rapid changes in the Arctic are affecting weather patterns where you live right now,” she said. “In the past you have had natural variations like El Niño, but they have never happened before in combination with this very warm Arctic, so it is a whole new ball game.

“It is inconceivable that this ridiculously warm Arctic would not have an impact on weather patterns in the middle latitudes further south, where so many people live. “It’s safe to say [the hot Arctic] is going to have a big impact, but it’s hard to say exactly how big right now. But we are going to have a lot of very interesting weather – we’re not going to get around that one………

December 21, 2016 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

A climate scientist who faces death threats

exclamation-Smclimate-changeI’m a scientist who has gotten death threats. I fear what may happen under TrumpMichael E. Mann, The Washington Post, December 18, 2016  Michael E. Mann is a professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University.

My Penn State colleagues looked with horror at the police tape across my office door.

I had been opening mail at my desk that afternoon in August 2010 when a dusting of white powder fell from the folds of a letter. I dropped the letter, held my breath and slipped out the door as swiftly as I could, shutting it behind me. First I went to the bathroom to scrub my hands. Then I called the police.

It turned out to be only cornstarch. And it was just one in a long series of threats I’ve received since the late 1990s, when my research illustrated the unprecedented nature of global warming, producing an upward-trending temperature curve whose shape has been likened to a hockey stick.

I’ve faced hostile investigations by politicians, demands for me to be fired from my job, threats against my life and even threats against my family. Those threats have diminished in recent years, as man-made climate change has become recognized as the overwhelming scientific consensus and as climate science has received the support of the federal government. But with the coming Trump administration, my colleagues and I are bracing for a renewed onslaught of intimidation, from inside and outside government. It would be bad for our work and bad for our planet.

Donald Trump, of course, famously dismissed global warming as a Chinese hoax and “a big scam for a lot of people to make a lot of money.” This month he framed his position on climate change as “nobody really knows – it’s not something that’s so hard and fast.” He has vowed to cancel U.S. participation in the Paris climate agreement and threatened to block the Clean Power Plan, a measure to reduce carbon emissions in the power sector.

The strong anti-science bent of his advisers is similarly ominous. Among the members of his Environmental Protection Agency transition team are some of the most notorious climate change deniers. One adviser has threatened to cut NASA’s entire climate research program, disparaging it, with no apparent sense of irony, as “heavily politicized.”………

We are afraid that four (possibly eight) years of denial and delay might commit the planet to not just feet, but yards, of sea level rise, massive coastal flooding (made worse by more frequent Katrina and Sandy-like storms), historic deluges, and summer after summer of devastating heat and drought across the country.

We also fear an era of McCarthyist attacks on our work and our integrity. It’s easy to envision, because we’ve seen it all before. We know we could be hauled into Congress to face hostile questioning from climate change deniers. We know we could be publicly vilified by politicians. We know we could be at the receiving end of federal subpoenas demanding our personal emails. We know we could see our research grants audited or revoked.

I faced all of those things a decade ago, the last time Republicans had full control of our government………

I’ve also come under pressure at the state level. In Pennsylvania, an organization funded by conservative Richard Mellon Scaife persuaded Republican state senators to threaten to hold my university’s funding hostage until “appropriate action” was taken against me. In Virginia, then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a tea party Republican, accused me of fraud and sued the University of Virginia for all my personal emails from when I was teaching there. When Cuccinelli was unsuccessful, a Koch brothers-funded front group attempted to sue for the same emails. That effort, too, was ultimately blocked by the Virginia Supreme Court, which ruled that unpublished research should be protected in the interest of academic freedom.

In all, I’ve been through roughly a dozen investigations prompted by climate change deniers. Each time, I’ve been exonerated: Investigators find my methods are sound, my data is replicable and my lab is run responsibly. But by then, much time has been lost, expense has been incurred, and abuse and vilification has been endured on my part.

And then there have been the threats of violence. I’ve received email warnings that “the public will come after you,” suggesting that I’ll find myself “six feet under” and hoping to read that I had “committed suicide.”

Such threats could spike again under a president and Congress hostile to climate science. As we’ve seen recently, a segment of Americans is receptive to fake news, and some are eager to act on it. Wild conspiracy theories have propelled a woman to make death threats against the parent of a child killed at Sandy Hook Elementary and motivated a man to discharge an assault rifle in a family pizza restaurant in Washington.

I fear the chill that could descend. I worry especially that younger scientists might be deterred from going into climate research (or any topic where scientific findings can prove inconvenient to powerful vested interests). As someone who has weathered many attacks, I would urge these scientists to have courage.

The fate of the planet hangs in the balance.

Michael E. Mann is a professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University. He co-authored, with Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles, “The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy.”

December 19, 2016 Posted by | climate change, PERSONAL STORIES, USA | Leave a comment

American scientists making backups of climate data: fears that Trump will destroy climate files

trump-burning-booksScientists backing up climate data over fears it could be erased under Donald Trump, ABC News 14 Dec 16  Scientists in the United States are making copies of federal climate and environmental data over fears it could be erased under Donald Trump’s administration.

The mass action — being coordinated by the University of Pennsylvania’s Program in the Environmental Humanities (PPEH Lab) — has been dubbed a “data rescue” and has brought together academics from across the country and in neighbouring Canada.

It aims to safeguard data “vulnerable under an administration which denies the fact of ongoing climate change” by storing it on an independent server. Researchers are also collating a spreadsheet of the research they deem to be at risk once the President-elect takes office on January 20.

The movement was spurred by a tweet from meteorologist and journalist Eric Holthaus, who became worried after Mr Trump announced he would be appointing Exxon-Mobil Corp chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state…….

news that Oklahoma attorney-general Scott Pruitt will lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has further inflamed tensions.

In a statement, Mr Pruitt was described as “a national leader against the EPA’s job-killing war on coal”.

In a piece for The Washington Post, Holthaus yesterday wrote that archiving climate data was “an extraordinary step to have to take, but we live in an extraordinary moment”.

“There is no remaining doubt that Trump is serious about overtly declaring war on science,” he said.”This isn’t a presidential transition. It’s an Inquisition. It’s a 21st-century book burning.”

December 17, 2016 Posted by | climate change, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Divestment from fossil fuels has now reached $5.2 Trillion

Fossil Fuel Divestments Now Represent $5.2 Trillion, Climate Central  December 12th, 2016 Investing heavy weights are moving their assets and funds out of fossil fuels at a record pace.

A network of local governments, pension funds, faith organizations, philanthropies and wealthy individuals representing $5.2 trillion in assets have committed to — and in some cases already started — divesting from fossil fuel companies, according to a report released on Monday. That’s a huge sum of money for a movement that started just four years ago on U.S. college campuses and its growth is likely to continue as the world strives to reach its climate goals.

“It’s pretty clear that the growth trajectory is enormous,” said Ellen Dorsey, the executive director of the Wallace Global Fund. In the past 15 months alone, the assets represented by the fossil fuel divestment movement have doubled. As of December 2016, there are 688 institutions and 58,400 individuals across 76 countries who are on board with divesting from fossil fuels, according to the report. The analysis was completed by Arabella Advisors, a philanthropy services firm.

Those divesting include Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, Germany-based financial services giant Allianz, and Amalgamated Bank, which in September became the first U.S bank to divest. Private businesses represent $4.6 trillion in assets being divested, nearly 90 percent of the overall total……

December 16, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, climate change | Leave a comment