Climate change, uncertainty & natural disasters 2014

Written by  //  January 18, 2015  //  Climate Change, Natural Disasters  //  2 Comments

UN & Climate Change

Weather is not climate, and anecdotes are not statistics.

Politicians discussing global warming. Sculpture by Issac Cordal.

Politicians discussing global warming. Sculpture by Issac Cordal.

Last year was Earth’s hottest on record, U.S. scientists say
(Planet Ark|WEN) Last year was Earth’s hottest on record in new evidence that people are disrupting the climate by burning fossil fuels that release greenhouse gases into the air, two U.S. government agencies said on Friday.
The White House said the studies, by the U.S. space agency NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), showed climate change was happening now and that action was needed to cut rising world greenhouse gas emissions.
The 10 warmest years since records began in the 19th century have all been since 1997, the data showed. Last year was the warmest, ahead of 2010, undermining claims by some skeptics that global warming has stopped in recent years.
Record temperatures in 2014 were spread around the globe, including most of Europe stretching into northern Africa, the western United States, far eastern Russia into western Alaska, parts of interior South America, parts of eastern and western coastal Australia and elsewhere, NASA and NOAA said. (18 January 2015)

2014

Lessons from an unfinished tsunami recovery in Indonesia
(IRINNews.org)  Aid poured into Indonesia’s Aceh province following a tsunami a decade ago, but the recovery remains unfinished, writes Lilianne Fan, a research fellow at the Overseas Development Institute. “A more sustainable approach must start with a deeper understanding of the root causes of vulnerability as well as the relationships of power that keep people vulnerable,” she writes.
The Indian Ocean tsunami, triggered by a massive earthquake just off the coast of the province of Aceh on tip the Indonesian island of Sumatra, released the energy of 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs and devastated coastal towns and communities. The impact was global in scale – an estimated 270,000 people killed or missing across 14 countries, with casualties in 46 nations.
But while the tsunami’s destruction was felt around the world, Aceh was by far the region most devastated by the disaster, bearing almost half of the total damage and losses worldwide.
15 December
Past global warming similar to today’s: Size, duration were like modern climate shift, but in two pulses
The findings mean the so-called Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum, or PETM, can provide clues to the future of modern climate change. The good news: Earth and most species survived. The bad news: It took millennia to recover from the episode, when temperatures rose by 5 to 8 degrees Celsius (9 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit).
Climate talks bring deal on country-level emissions plans
The United Nations climate talks reached agreement on issues such as defining obligations of rich and poor countries but left the bigger issue of how to slow down climate change to be tacked by delegates at the Paris talks in 2015. Defining rich-poor obligations was “a very important breakthrough,” said UN climate chief Christiana Figueres. Reuters (12/14), Reuters (12/15), Inter Press Service (12/14)
13 December
UN climate talks risk collapse as China clashes with U.S.
With talks already in overtime because of deadlock after the Dec. 1-12 meeting, China said a draft text put too much burden on the poor to limit greenhouse-gas emissions compared with the rich nations whose citizens have burnt most fossil fuels. …
The clash between the two top emitters of greenhouse gases underscored that an agreement jointly announced by President Barack Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping last month to combat climate change did not translate into a new, common approach.
The European Union, Russia and other developed nations all said they could accept a watered-down text outlining measures to be taken by all nations before the Paris summit in December 2015.
1 December
Climate talks begin in Peru
The United Nations climate talks begin today in Lima, Peru. “Never before have the risks of climate change been so obvious and the impacts so visible. Never before have we seen such a desire at all levels of society to take climate action,” UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said. Responding to Climate Change (U.K.) (12/1), Detroit Free Press/The Associated Press (11/30), BBC (12/1)
23 November
“New Climate Normal” Poses Severe Risks to Development—World Bank Report
As the planet warms further, heat-waves and other weather extremes that today occur once in hundreds of years, if ever, would become the “new climate normal,” creating a world of increased risks and instability. The consequences for development would be severe as crop yields decline, water resources shift, sea-levels rise, and the livelihoods of millions of people are put at risk, according to a new scientific report released today by the World Bank Group.
Dramatic climate changes and weather extremes are already affecting people around the world, damaging crops and coastlines, and putting water security at risk, according to the report, Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal.  Many of the worst projected climate impacts could still be avoided by holding warming below 2°C, the report said.
16 November
G20 leaders force Australia to back down on climate change language
Communique calls on countries to contribute to green climate fund, after negotiations ‘like trench warfare’
World leaders have forced Australia to include stronger language on climate change in the G20 communique, but Tony Abbott told the summit that as the leader of a major coal producer he would be “standing up for coal”.
The references demanded by other leaders, including the US president, Barack Obama, were reluctantly accepted by Australia at the last minute. They included a call for contributions to the international green climate fund that the prime minister has previously derided and for the “phasing out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”.
A European Union spokesman reportedly described the climate negotiations with Australia as being like “trench warfare”. Other officials said it had been “very difficult” and protracted.
Barack Obama tells G20 a global climate change deal is possible and vital
US president says every nation has a responsibility to do its part and ‘overcome old divides, look squarely at the science and reach a strong global climate agreement next year’
(The Guardian) Barack Obama has stared down both Republican hostility at home and the reluctance of his Australian G20 hosts to insist that the world can clinch a new climate change deal next year.
The president used a speech on the sidelines of the G20 in Brisbane, Australia, to confirm what was revealed by the Guardian on Friday: that the US would be contributing $3bn to the Green Climate Fund that aims to help developing nations cope with the effects of global warming.
And he insisted nowhere had more to lose from rising temperatures than the Asia Pacific region and Australia in particular.
“No nation is immune and every nation has a responsibility to do its part,” Obama said. “You will recall at the beginning I said the US and Australia has a lot in common. Well one of the things we have in common is we produce a lot of carbon … which means we’ve got to step up.”
In the backrooms of the G20 meeting, Australia was continuing to resist language in the official communique encouraging countries to make pledges to the Green Climate Fund, but to a rousing reception at a local university, Obama announced the $3bn US commitment.
12 November
US and China reach historic climate change deal, vow to cut emissions
(CNN) — In a historic climate change deal, U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced both countries will curb their greenhouse gas emissions over the next two decades.
Under the agreement, the United States would cut its 2005 level of carbon emissions by 26-28% before the year 2025. China would peak its carbon emissions by 2030 and will also aim to get 20% of its energy from zero-carbon emission sources by the same year.
“As the world’s two largest economies, energy consumers and emitters of greenhouse gases, we have a special responsibility to lead the global effort against climate change,” Obama said Wednesday in a joint news conference with Xi.
The announcement marks the first time China has agreed to peak its carbon emissions, according to the White House. Xi is calling for “an energy revolution” that would include broad economic reforms addressing air pollution.
2 November
UN climate report urges drastic drop in greenhouse gas emissions
(Globe & Mail) Climate change is happening, it’s almost entirely man’s fault and limiting its impacts may require reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero this century, the U.N.’s panel on climate science said Sunday.
The fourth and final volume of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s giant climate assessment didn’t offer any surprises, nor was it expected to since it combined the findings of three earlier reports released in the past 13 months.
But it underlined the scope of the climate challenge in stark terms. Emissions, mainly from the burning of fossil fuels, may need to drop to zero by the end of this century for the world to have a decent chance of keeping the temperature rise below a level that many consider dangerous. Failure to do so, which could require deployment of technologies that suck greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, could lock the world on a trajectory with “irreversible” impacts on people and the environment, the report said. Some impacts are already being observed, including rising sea levels, a warmer and more acidic ocean, melting glaciers and Arctic sea ice and more frequent and intense heat waves.
IPCC: rapid carbon emission cuts vital to stop severe impact of climate change
Most important assessment of global warming yet warns carbon emissions must be cut sharply and soon, but UN’s IPCC says solutions are available and affordable
(The Guardian) Climate change is set to inflict “severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts” on people and the natural world unless carbon emissions are cut sharply and rapidly, according to the most important assessment of global warming yet published.
The stark report states that climate change has already increased the risk of severe heatwaves and other extreme weather and warns of worse to come, including food shortages and violent conflicts. But it also found that ways to avoid dangerous global warming are both available and affordable.
3 October
CBC Ideacity online: A New Perspective on Climate Change By Matt Ridley (video)
This is more of the argument he has previously presented, e.g. in the WSJ Whatever Happened to Global Warming?
Now come climate scientists’ implausible explanations for why the ‘hiatus’ has passed the 15-year mark.
The climate-research establishment has finally admitted openly what skeptic scientists have been saying for nearly a decade: Global warming has stopped since shortly before this century began.
First the climate-research establishment denied that a pause existed, noting that if there was a pause, it would invalidate their theories. Now they say there is a pause (or “hiatus”), but that it doesn’t after all invalidate their theories.
Alas, their explanations have made their predicament worse by implying that man-made climate change is so slow and tentative that it can be easily overwhelmed by natural variation in temperature—a possibility that they had previously all but ruled out.
2 October
RED ALERT: Guy at Fraser Institute is pretty sure he just debunked climate change science
(Press Progress) A full 97% of scientists agree that climate change is real and it’s happening.
But one economist — and senior fellow at the Fraser Institute who has previously stated that climate change science is “held together by duct tape” — appears to think otherwise.
In a new report released Thursday by the right-wing institute, Ross McKitrick sets out again to debunk the accuracy of climate change models and questions the relationship between carbon dioxide and climate change.
“Climate models overpredicted global warming since 1998,” McKitrick writes in the report titled, Climate Policy Implications of the Hiatus in Global Warming. “There has been no statistically significant warming for about 18 years despite a rapid rise in GHG levels.”
So why do anything to tackle global warming, he asks. There’s “value to waiting” for new information about climate sensitivity expected within a few years “before making any irreversible climate policy commitments, in order to avoid making costly decisions that are revealed a short time later to have been unnecessary,” the report concludes.

Climate summit 2014-banner-668-en
21 September
UN Climate Summit: Thousands march worldwide ahead of meeting
Canadians travel to New York City for massive demonstration
19 September
A weekend to bend the course of history
[The week of September 21] heads of state are going to New York City for a historic summit on climate change. With our future on the line, we will take a weekend and use it to bend the course of history.
In New York City there will be an unprecedented climate mobilisation – in size, beauty, and impact. This moment will not be just about New York or the United States. Heads of state from around the world will be there, as will the attention of global media.
17 September
Floods, storms and quakes uproot 22 million in 2013, numbers to rise
The majority were in Asia, where 19 million were displaced by floods, storms and earthquakes, according to the report from the International Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) of the Norwegian Refugee Council.
Typhoon Haiyan caused the largest displacement, with 4.1 million people leaving their homes in the Philippines, a million more than in Africa, the Americas, Europe and Oceania combined. Typhoon Trami displaced another 1.7 million people in the Philippines and floods in China displaced 1.6 million.
The new statistics show more than twice as many people are affected by natural disasters than 40 years ago and the trend is expected to worsen as more people move to crowded cities in developing countries.
“This increasing trend will continue as more and more people live and work in hazard-prone areas,” said Jan Egeland, the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. “It is expected to be aggravated in the future by the impacts of climate change.”
Africa will be particularly vulnerable as its population is expected to double by 2050.
Kathy Calvin: Climate change threatens development progress
Climate change, conflict and poverty are intertwined, and that makes the fight against rising temperatures all the more urgent, writes Kathy Calvin, president and CEO of the United Nations Foundation. “We will all feel the impacts of what we do or do not do on climate change — but the lives and well-being of the world’s poorest will depend on it,” she argues. The Huffington Post (9/15)
UN Climate Summit Approaches, as Evidence Against UNnatural Gas Rises
The U.S is hedging its bets with the lesser of fossil fuel evils — natural gas — as a way to avoid the calamity of climate change. But is this gas really the answer to runaway carbon emissions, polar ice caps disappearing and extreme weather woes?
Don’t let the benign moniker fool you. While natural gas (aka Methane) may be colorless, odorless, tasteless and lighter than air, it is an extremely potent greenhouse gas. For its first 20 years in the atmosphere methane traps about 86 times the heat of its more infamous cousin — carbon dioxide. Over a hundred year period methane’s heat trapping power is roughly 28 times that of CO2.
25 June
Climate change has huge costs: Report
Three authors with vast business history try to convince corporations
(Ottawa Citizen) Climate change is likely to exact enormous costs on U.S. regional economies in the form of lost property, reduced industrial output and more deaths, according to a report backed by a trio of men with vast business experience.
The report, released Tuesday, is designed to convince businesses to factor in the cost of climate change in their long-term decisions and to push for reductions in emissions blamed for heating the planet.
It was commissioned by the Risky Business Project, which describes itself as non-partisan and is chaired by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, former treasury secretary Henry Paulson Jr. and Thomas Steyer, a former hedge fund manager.
“If we act immediately, we can still avoid most of the worst impacts of climate change and significantly reduce the odds of catastrophic outcomes,” Paulson said.
Among the predictions: Between $66 billion and $106 billion in coastal property will likely be below sea level by 2050, labour productivity of outdoor workers could be reduced by three per cent because extremely hot days will be far more frequent, and demand for electricity to power air conditioners will require the construction of more power plants that will cost electricity customers up to $12 billion per year.
“Every year that goes by without a comprehensive public and private sector response to climate change is a year that locks in future climate events that will have a far more devastating effect on our local, regional, and national economies,” warn the report’s three authors.
The analysis and calculations in the report were performed by the Rhodium Group, an economic research firm, and Risk Management Solutions, a catastrophe-modelling company that works for insurance companies and other businesses. It was paid for by the philanthropic foundations of Bloomberg, Paulson and Steyer, among others.
Hank Paulson, Mike Bloomberg, and Tom Steyer walk into a bar and agree on this one thing
(Fortune) Their joint project on the economic risks of climate change is a bold attempt to galvanize business people and investors.
Don’t want to pay attention to climate change? That’s going to cost you.
This, broadly speaking, is the message of an ambitious report released today, aimed squarely at business leaders and investors.  Titled Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States, the nonpartisan report is an effort by three financial heavyweights—Michael Bloomberg, Henry Paulson, and Thomas Steyer—to change the conversation about climate change in the U.S.

The IPCC report takes us from alarmism to adaptation
(The Guardian) The landmark climate change study should silence the doubters, and steers us towards calm – if urgent – debate on how we act
Seven years of alarmism have yielded endless conferences and gargantuan sums of public expenditure, with no serious impact on carbon emissions. In a bitter irony, the state that has been most hostile to the concept, America, has been the leader in emissions reduction, largely through a free market shift from coal to gas.
Today’s report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change should silence those who believe there is no debate to be had. On even the mildest precautionary principle, policymakers should take note of the shifts – whether temporary or lasting – in the composition of the earth’s atmosphere. They are told to look with their own eyes at specific impacts, from glaciation to crop and fish yields. Sceptics may challenge some of these, but the balance of probability is clear. Something is happening that will matter to most of the world’s inhabitants.
Apocalyptish
(The Economist) Every six or so years, the IPCC produces a monster three-part encyclopedia; the first instalment of its most recent assessment came out last September and argued that climate change was speeding up, even if global surface temperatures were flat. The new tranche looks at the even more pertinent matter of how the climate is affecting the Earth’s ecosystems, the economy and peoples’ livelihoods.
Profoundly, is the headline answer, even though temperatures have warmed by only 0.8°C since 1800. They are likely to warm by at least twice that amount (and probably much more) by 2100. The report—the first since the collapse in 2009 of attempts to draw up a global treaty to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions—argues that climate change is having an impact in every ecosystem, from equator to pole and from ocean to mountain. It says that while there are a few benefits to a warmer climate, the overwhelming effects are negative and will get worse. It talks of “extreme weather events leading to breakdown of…critical services such as electricity, water supply and health and emergency services”; about a “risk of severe ill-health and disrupted livelihoods for large urban populations due to inland flooding”; and sounds the alarm about “the breakdown of food systems, linked to warming”.
Behind such headline scares, though, lies a subtler story, in which the effects of global warming vary a lot, in which climate change is one risk among many, and in which the damage—and the possibility of reducing it—depends as much on the other factors, such as health systems or rural development, as it does on global warming itself. (31 March)

Ban: China is on the “frontlines” of the climate change fight
China needs to show initiative against climate change, said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a speech Monday at the Shanghai Institute of International Studies. “[Y]ou are on the frontlines of the fight — with new carbon markets, large investments in renewable energy and strong new laws on pollution,” he said. Responding to Climate Change (U.K.) (5/20)
Study: U.S. is already feeling climate change

A U.S. government report says that the country is already experiencing climate change. “There is mounting evidence that harm to the nation will increase substantially in the future unless global emissions of heat-trapping gases are greatly reduced,” the study says. The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (5/6)
19 April
Why climate deniers are winning: The twisted psychology that overwhelms scientific consensus
There’s a reason why overwhelming evidence hasn’t spurred public action against global warming
(Salon)
In the run-up to Earth Day this year, two major reports were released by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the largest such body in the world. On March 31, Working Group II released its report, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, and on April 13, Working Group III released its report, Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Both reports cited substantially more evidence of substantially more global warming and related impacts than past reports have, and they did so more lucidly than in past iterations. …
One reason global warming opponents still have the upper hand is basic confusion over the nature and significance of uncertainty. “There are numerous instances in which politicians and opinion makers stated that ‘there is still so much uncertainty, we shouldn’t invest money to solve the climate problem,’” [Australian psychologist Stephan] Lewandowsky explained to Salon. Now he has just co-authored two related articles on scientific uncertainty and climate change — “Part I. Uncertainty and unabated emissions” and “Part II. Uncertainty and mitigation” — which show this thinking is completely backwards. “This is shown to be wrong by our analysis, because uncertainty can never be too great for action. On the contrary, uncertainty implies that the problem is more likely to be worse than expected in the absence of that uncertainty.”
It’s a simple fact that your typical scientist already knows intuitively: Uncertainty grows with risk, exposure and potential loss, especially with complex nonlinear systems, like the global climate system.
4 April
The climate change uncertainty monster – more uncertainty means more urgency to tackle global warming
A new two-part study shows that higher uncertainty means larger climate risks and more need to cut carbon emissions
(The Guardian) A new two-part study published in Climatic Change by a team of scientists led by Stephan Lewandowsky examines mathematically what happens to the risks posed by climate change when the scientific uncertainty increases. Part 1 of the study explores two important points.
First, the probable range of climate sensitivity to the increased greenhouse effect isn’t symmetrical. Instead, based on the available evidence and research, it’s more likely that we’ll see a large amount of global warming than a small amount in response to rising carbon emissions. By itself, this means that more climate uncertainty translates into an even bigger risk of painful consequences than relatively benign consequences. More uncertainty means a slightly better chance of the low warming outcomes, but it also means an even bigger chance of the high warming outcomes, because the scientific data have a harder time ruling those out.
The second critical point is that economic models agree that once we reach a certain tipping point, the costs of climate damage increase at an accelerating rate. The models don’t agree on exactly where that tipping point lies, but they do agree on the shape of the curve and the acceleration of the climate damage costs once we pass that tipping point (even the ‘skeptics’ agree on this).
England wheezes through haze of Saharan dust cloud
(WEN/Planet Ark) It has shrouded England’s most famous monuments for days, prompted a rash of calls to the emergency services over health fears.
Pollution levels in the capital and southeast England were rated at a maximum level of 10 on Thursday, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). …
“The high level of air pollution this week is due to a combination of local emissions, light winds, pollution from the continent and dust blown over from the Sahara,” a Defra spokesman said.
27 March
The bill for climate change is coming due
This IPCC report predicts that by the end of the century, “hundreds of millions of people will be affected by coastal flooding and displaced due to land loss,” the majority living in island nations and in southern Asia.
The report goes on to link food price increases (like the 2010 spike in wheat prices that helped spark the Arab Spring) to climate change-related droughts and floods. It forecasts that prices will continue to rise as grain yields decline by as much as 2 percent per decade for the rest of the century, while demand is projected to rise by 14 percent per decade through 2050.
Food shortages are predicted to be the new normal in vulnerable areas, according to the IPCC. Africa and Asia will be the principal losers. Monsoon rain patterns are already being disrupted on both continents and desertification is spreading in semi-arid regions of western India and China as well as north and east Africa. River basins like the Mekong, the Yangtze, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra will see larger and more frequent floods in the years ahead, followed by permanent drying trend as the Himalayan glaciers gradually melt.
The biggest news from this report, however, may be the anticipated price tag for climate change. Even a relatively modest temperature rise of 2.5 degrees Celsuis (6.25 degrees Fahrenheit), scientists say, would reduce global economic output by more than 2 percent (roughly $1.4 trillion annually).
27 February
The cost of climate change includes higher food prices, increased healthcare spending, natural disasters like hurricanes, droughts and floods, the depletion of surface and groundwater and land loss due to the inundation of coastal areas from sea-level rise.
No global warming ‘hiatus’ for extreme heat days
(CBC) Average global temperature might not be best gauge of climate change, researchers suggest
The number and intensity of extremely hot days has been increasing steadily despite a “pause” in the rise of average surface temperatures over the past 15 years, a new study has found.
“This analysis shows that not only is there no pause in the evolution of the warmest daily extremes over land but that they have continued unabated over the observational record,” said the paper published Wednesday in Nature Climate Change.
… based on their results, the Swiss, Australian and Canadian authors of the new paper argue that in fact, during the so-called hiatus or pause in average global surface warming, there has been a constant increase in other climate change measures, including melting Arctic ice and snow and extreme heat days.
“We highlight that the term pause, as applied to the recent evolution of global annual mean temperatures,” the researchers wrote, “is ill-chosen and even misleading in the context of climate change.”
18 February
9,135 out of 9,136 scientists believe climate change is happening
The scientific literature leaves nothing for climate deniers to turn to
(Salon) Contrary to what conservatives might suggest, there really isn’t a debate in the scientific community over whether climate change is real. The commonly cited statistic is that 97 percent of scientists agree that global warming is happening, and that it’s caused by human activity. Another way of looking at that consensus comes courtesy of James Lawrence Powell, who examined a year’s worth of climate-related scientific studies and found that virtually all accept man-made global warming.
Powell’s analysis covers 2,258 articles published in peer-reviewed journals between November 2012 and December 2013, written by a total of 9,136 authors. He found but one holdout: S. V. Avakyan who, writing for the Herald of the Russian Academy of Sciences, concluded that “contribution of the greenhouse effect of carbon-containing gases to global warming turns out to be insignificant.” Powell discusses Avakyan’s dissenting opinion at his personal blog: (9 January)
23 February
Climate change is not debateable
(CNN) Depending on which study or which expert you consult, between 95 percent and 97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is happening now, that it’s damaging the planet and that it’s man-made.
That seems pretty definitive, right? So why does television news too often feel compelled to stage debate between those who represent the 97 percent and those who represent the fringe?
MICHIO KAKU, PHYSICIST: Climate change is the 800-pound gorilla in the living room that the media dances around. But in the scientific community it’s a settled question: 95 percent of scientists believe this is happening with 100 percent confidence temperatures are rising.
With 90 percent confidence, we believe it’s human activity and not natural cycles that is driving the increase in temperature on the Earth.
19 February
Wild weather puts climate back on global agenda before 2015 deadline
(Planet Ark) Bitter cold in the United States might appear to contradict the notion of global warming, but with Britain’s wettest winter and Australia’s hottest summer, extreme weather events have pushed climate change back on the political agenda.
A spluttering world economy had sapped political interest in the billion-dollar shifts from fossil fuels that scientists say are needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but rhetoric is changing in 2014, one year before a deadline for a new U.N. climate deal.
McNider and Christy: Why Kerry Is Flat Wrong on Climate Change
It was the scientific skeptics who bucked the ‘consensus’ and said the Earth was round.
(WSJ) Most of us who are skeptical about the dangers of climate change actually embrace many of the facts that people like Bill Nye, the ubiquitous TV “science guy,” say we ignore. The two fundamental facts are that carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere have increased due to the burning of fossil fuels, and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a greenhouse gas, trapping heat before it can escape into space.
What is not a known fact is by how much the Earth’s atmosphere will warm in response to this added carbon dioxide. The warming numbers most commonly advanced are created by climate computer models built almost entirely by scientists who believe in catastrophic global warming. The rate of warming forecast by these models depends on many assumptions and engineering to replicate a complex world in tractable terms, such as how water vapor and clouds will react to the direct heat added by carbon dioxide or the rate of heat uptake, or absorption, by the oceans.
17 February
Kerry calls climate change ‘weapon of mass destruction’
(Planet Ark) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Indonesians on Sunday that man-made climate change could threaten their entire way of life, deriding those who doubted the existence of “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction”.
9 February
Bjørn Lomborg: The Davos Apocalypse
(Project Syndicate) At the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos last month, leading participants called for a rapid shift to cleaner energy to tackle climate change. There is something unsettling about the global power elite jetting into an exclusive Swiss ski resort and telling the rest of the world to stop using fossil fuels.
In the long run, current investment in green research and development will help drive the price of future renewable energy below that of fossil fuels, enabling a choice that is both environmentally and economically sound. In the meantime, even dramatic cuts in CO2 emissions will have very little impact on hurricanes 50-100 years from now. Lifting billions of people out of poverty, however, would not only be intrinsically good; it would also make societies much more resilient in the face of extreme weather, whether caused by global warming or not.
Unfortunately, as we saw at Davos, the global climate debate is polluted with myths and wishful thinking. If we want to do more good at lower cost, we should start by cleaning it up.
9 February
Global warming ‘pause’ due to unusual trade winds in Pacific ocean, study finds

Study shows sharply accelerating trade winds have buried surface heat underwater, reducing heat flowing into atmosphere
The contentious “pause” in global warming over the past decade is largely due to unusually strong trade winds in the Pacific ocean that have buried surface heat deep underwater, new research has found.
A joint Australian and US study analysed why the rise in the Earth’s global average surface temperature has slowed since 2001, after rapidly increasing from the 1970s.
The research shows that sharply accelerating trade winds in central and eastern areas of the Pacific have driven warm surface water to the ocean’s depths, reducing the amount of heat that flows into the atmosphere.
In turn, the lowering of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific triggers further cooling in other regions.
24 January
Al Gore ata Davos 2014Al Gore: ‘extreme weather has made people wake up to climate change’
Haiyan and Sandy-like storms are ‘gamechanger’ for public awareness of global warming, says former US vice-president
(The Guardian) The former US vice-president, speaking to delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos, said: “I think that these extreme weather events which are now a hundred times more common than 30 years ago are really waking people’s awareness all over the world [on climate change], and I think that is a gamechanger. It comes about, of course, because we continue to put 90 million tonnes of global warming pollution into the atmosphere every day, as if it’s an open sewer.”
22 January
Davos summit calls for cleaner energy, focus on climate change
Leaders gathered in the Swiss ski resort of Davos are pushing for nations worldwide to shift to cleaner energy sources as the best way to contain global warming and re-energize the global economy.
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, reflecting the top billing that climate change has in Davos this year, said the world economy is at risk unless a binding deal is agreed in Paris in 2015 to lower heat-trapping carbon emissions from coal and oil.
Annan: “Bold leadership” is needed to address climate change
Action must be taken now against the impact of climate change on the world’s population, writes Kofi Annan, chairman of The Elders and former United Nations secretary-general. Everyone from the United Nations on down to citizens should pitch in to create a carbon-neutral world, he argues. The Washington Post (tiered subscription model) (1/22)
Delay on reducing carbon emissions is costly, IPCC draft report says
The final draft report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that further delays in reducing carbon emissions will make coping with climate change more difficult and expensive. Emissions rose by 2.2% per year, on average, from 2000 to 2010 due to economic growth and a steady population, the report says. The Associated Press (1/16), The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (1/16)
14 January
The Very, Very Thin Wedge of Denial
Why Don’t Climate Change Deniers Publish Papers?
(Slate) In 2012, National Science Board member James Lawrence Powell investigated peer-reviewed literature published about climate change and found that out of 13,950 articles, 13,926 supported the reality of global warming. Despite a lot of sound and fury from the denial machine, deniers have not really been able to come up with a coherent argument against a consensus. The same is true for a somewhat different study that showed a 97 percent consensus among climate scientists supporting both the reality of global warming and the fact that human emissions are behind it.
Powell recently finished another such investigation, this time looking at peer-reviewed articles published between November 2012 and December 2013. Out of 2,258 articles (with 9,136 authors), how many do you think explicitly rejected human-driven global warming? Go on, guess!
One. Yes, one.
9 January
Niagara Falls frozen 2Spectacular photographs show the moment Niagara Falls FROZE in polar vortex
The record-breaking chill across the U.S. and Canada was so frigid it literally stopped Niagara Falls in its tracks
Tuesday was a day of record-setting cold in Niagara, with the mercury bottoming out at a chilling -2F. Combined with the wind chills, it felt like -20F
Thankfully, the freezing air and ‘polar vortex’ that turned the cascading water to ice will depart during the second half of this week, and a far-reaching January thaw will begin

6 January
Analysis: Cold weather doesn’t cancel out climate change
Unusually cold weather in North America doesn’t count against arguments for climate change, writes Brad Plumer. “A single cold snap in the U.S. doesn’t disprove global warming any more than the record heat waves currently hitting Australia prove that it’s happening,” he argues. The Washington Post (tiered subscription model)/Wonkblog (1/6)
Everything You Wanted To Know About The ‘Polar Vortex’polar-vortex
(Climate Progress) … if climate change is real, then how did it get so cold?
The question is based on common misconceptions of how cold weather moves across the planet, said Greg Laden, a bioanthroplogist who writes for National Geographic’s Scienceblog. According to Laden, the recent record-cold temperatures indicate to many that the Arctic’s cold air is expanding, engulfing other countries. If true, this would be a perfect argument for a “global cooling” theory. The Arctic’s coldness is growing. Laden asks, “How can such a thing happen with global warming?”
The answer, he writes, is that the Arctic air that usually sits on top of our planet is “taking an excursion” south for a couple of days, leaving the North Pole “relatively warm” and our temperate region not-so-temperate. “Go Home Arctic, You’re Drunk,” he titled the explanation.
“The Polar Vortex, a huge system of moving swirling air that normally contains the polar cold air, has shifted so it is not sitting right on the pole as it usually does,” Laden writes. “We are not seeing an expansion of cold, an ice age, or an anti-global warming phenomenon. We are seeing the usual cold polar air taking an excursion. So, this cold weather we are having does not disprove global warming.” …
“The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question,” [Dr. Kevin E. Trenberth, a distinguished senior climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research] has written. “All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be.”
Polar Vortex Brings Dangerous Cold Temperatures To Midwest
(AP) — A whirlpool of frigid, dense air known as a “polar vortex” descended Monday into much of the U.S., pummeling parts of the country with a dangerous cold that could break decades-old records with wind chill warnings stretching from Montana to Alabama.
For a big chunk of the Midwest, the subzero temperatures were moving in behind another winter wallop: more than a foot of snow and high winds that made traveling treacherous. Officials closed schools in cities including Chicago, St. Louis and Milwaukee and warned residents to stay indoors and avoid the frigid cold altogether.
The forecast is extreme: 32 below zero in Fargo, N.D.; minus 21 in Madison, Wis.; and 15 below zero in Minneapolis, Indianapolis and Chicago. Wind chills — what it feels like outside when high winds are factored into the temperature — could drop into the minus 50s and 60s.
4 January
Winter Does Not Disprove Global Warming

One more reason not to listen to Donald Trump.
(Slate)  An intense blizzard, appropriately named Hercules, has blanketed the Northeast. Antarctic ice locked in a Russian ship containing a team of scientists—en route, no less, to do climate research. Record low temperatures have been seen in parts of the United States, and in Winnipeg, Manitoba, temperatures on Dec. 31, 2013 were as cold as temperatures on … Mars.
So as is their seasonal wont, here come the climate skeptics. …
Just a few brief observations:
1. Statements about climate trends must be based on, er, trends. Not individual events or occurrences. Weather is not climate, and anecdotes are not statistics.
2. Global warming is actually expected to increase “heavy precipitation in winter storms,” and for the Northern Hemisphere, there is evidence that these storms are already more frequent and intense, according to the draft U.S. National Climate Assessment.
3. Antarctica is a very cold place. But global warming is affecting it as predicted: Antarctica is losing ice overall, according to the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. However, sea ice is a different matter than land-based or glacial ice. Antarctic sea ice is increasing, and moreover, the reason for this may be climate change! (For more, read here.)
Finally, just one last thing: When it’s winter on Earth, it’s also summer on Earth … somewhere else. Thus, allow us to counter anecdotal evidence about cold weather with more anecdotal evidence: It’s blazing hot in Australia, with temperatures in some regions set to possibly soar above 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the coming days.
3 January
It’s Cold and My Car is Buried in Snow. Is Global Warming Really Happening?
Union of Concerned Scientists
For years, climate contrarians have pointed to snowfall and cold weather to question the scientific reality of human-induced climate change.
Such misinformation obscures the work scientists are doing to figure out just how climate change is affecting weather patterns year-round.
Understanding what scientists know about these effects can help us adapt. And, if we reduce the emissions that are driving climate change, we can dramatically reduce the pace of change and better prepare for the consequences in the future.
What is the relationship between weather and climate?
Weather is what’s happening outside the door right now; today a snowstorm or a thunderstorm is approaching. Climate, on the other hand, is the pattern of weather measured over decades.
Why is the British weather so stormy right now?
Lingering warm air that drifted from the Sahara to the Atlantic this summer could be to blame for Britain’s storms and heavy snowfall in the US and Canada
(The Guardian) For Europe it is normal to get storms at this time of year. Extra tropical cyclones, as they are known, are created by cold polar air meeting hot tropical air, spinning up powerful storms. “There is always a large temperature contrast between these two air masses between October and March, which produces a constant conveyor belt of storms,” says Milan Simic, managing director of AIR Worldwide, a risk modelling company.
But this year the warm air mass sitting over the North Atlantic appears to be extra warm. “Back in the summer warm air from the Sahara moved over the Atlantic Ocean and prevented the formation of North Atlantic hurricanes,” explains Simic.
And that lingering warmth may be partly responsible for the weather patterns we are seeing now. On both sides of the North Atlantic the weather conditions are reflecting the clash between warm and cold air, producing a string of storms for the UK, the Toronto ice storm just before Christmas and severe snow in the north-eastern United States right now.

2 Comments on "Climate change, uncertainty & natural disasters 2014"

  1. Diana Thebaud Nicholson February 28, 2014 at 2:01 pm · Reply

    Nick’s Gleanings #551
    Michio Kaku, a New York-based theoretical physicist, noted last Sunday on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS program on CNN that, while 95% of the global scientific community believes climate change is real & can back its view up with observations & data that can be analyzed, scrutinized & debated, the skeptics’ case is based on ideology (that by definition is not open to debate).

  2. Johannah Bernstein November 12, 2014 at 6:40 pm · Reply

    Sorry President Obama, your Co2 emission pledges are not “historic”. First of all, you have very sneakily used a 2005 baseline, instead of 1990! Do the math. Secondly, a reduction of 26%-28% by 2025 is woefully inadequate to keep you (and I do mean “you”) from unleashing further climate catastrophe. Glad to see that you and China have taken some form of initiative, but if you do, then please let authoritative science guide you instead of political expediency.

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