climate change

Fri, 2014-05-30 09:51Graham Readfearn
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Richard Tol's Attack On 97 Percent Climate Change Consensus Study Has 'Critical Errors'

Professor Richard Tol

One of the most consistent of all the attacks from climate science sceptics and deniers is the one which tries to convince the public that expert scientists are divided on the causes of climate change.

Those attacks have come from ideologically motivated think tanks and the fossil fuel industry, often working together. Only last week, the Wall Street Journal published a polemic to try and mislead the public that a consensus does not exist.

In 1998, the American Petroleum Institute was developing a campaign with the explicit aim of convincing the public that “uncertainties” existed in the science of climate change and its causes.

In 2002, Republican pollster Frank Luntz wrote that: “Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly.”

Several studies have surveyed the views of climate science experts or the scientific literature and have come to the same conclusions — the number of studies and the number of scientists who reject the fact that humans are causing climate change remains vanishingly small.

The latest and most high profile study to survey the scientific literature was led by John Cook, of the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute and founder of the Skeptical Science website, and published in the journal Environmental Research Letters in May 2013.

Cook et al analysed close to 12,000 global warming studies from 1991 to 2011 to see how many accepted or rejected the fact that human activities are causing climate change. The researchers also asked scientists themselves to look at their own papers and confirm whether they endorsed the scientific consensus.

The central finding, reported widely and even Tweeted by Barack Obama’s campaign team, was that 97 percent of the scientific papers on climate change found that humans were causing it.

Since that study was published, Professor Richard Tol, an economist from the University of Sussex, has been planning to attack Cook’s paper. 

Wed, 2014-05-28 00:06Guest
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Mounting Global Warming Evidence Underscores the Need to Act

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

Because we enjoy relatively pure air, clean water and healthy food systems, Canadians sometimes take the environment for granted. Many scarcely blink if oil from a pipeline spills into a river, a forest is cleared for tar sands operations or agricultural land is fracked for gas. If Arctic ice melts and part of the Antarctic ice sheet collapses, well… they’re far away.

Some see climate change as a distant threat, if they see it as a threat at all. But the scientific evidence is overwhelming: climate change is here, and unless we curb behaviours that contribute to it, it will get worse, putting our food, air, water and security at risk. A recent White House report confirms the findings of this year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment report, and concludes global warming is a clear and present danger to the U.S.

Climate change is not a distant threat, but is affecting the American people already,” says White House science adviser John Holdren in a video about the report. “Summers are longer and hotter, with longer periods of extended heat. Wildfires start earlier in the spring and continue later into the fall. Rain comes down in heavier downpours. People are experiencing changes in the length and severity of allergies. And climate disruptions to water resources and agriculture have been increasing.”

Recognizing the problem’s severity is a start, but whether the U.S. will actually do anything is another question. Action to curb climate change is constantly stalled — thanks to the powerful fossil fuel industry, political and media denial, extensive fossil fuel-based infrastructure and citizen complacency.

Tue, 2014-05-27 14:26Sharon Kelly
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“All of the Above” or “Action now?”: Obama’s Natural Gas Contradiction

At a talk in Vermont last week, the nation's top energy official offered up his thoughts on a problem the White House has said calls for “urgent action”: climate change.

“We need to mitigate the effects of climate change and need to adapt at the same time,” said Dr. Ernest Moniz, Secretary of Energy, as he described the findings of a White House report issued earlier this month outlining the dangers of global warming and the impacts already felt nationwide.

But Moniz's talk also highlighted a fundamental flaw in the approach that President Obama has taken to energy and the environment.

The president has begun sounding alarm bells about the hazards and costs of worsening climate disruption. At the same time, he has aggressively promoted the nation's ongoing shale gas rush. And yet, experts warn this drilling frenzy may have wiped out most of the gains made by slashing carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal.

It's a paradox that the Washington Post labeled “a jarring juxtapostion” and “the contradiction at the heart of President Obama's climate change policy.” 

Wed, 2014-05-21 09:31Chris Rose
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California Governor Brown Warns of Increasing Drought, Wildfire Costs, Decries Climate Denial

Alarmed by California’s intensifying wildfires and withering drought, Governor Jerry Brown has lashed out at Republicans and other politicians who continue to deny that destructive climate change is already occurring.

In a series of recent comments, Brown also said California is at “the epicenter of climate change” and urged other states and nations to work to halt the rising temperatures that are threatening the future of humankind.

We live in a world that is not just government or not just business, it’s natural, the natural systems. And as we send billions and billions of tons of heat-trapping gases, we get heat and we get fires and we get what we’re seeing,” Brown was quoted as saying on ABC News.

So we’ve got to gear up. We’re going to deal with nature as best we can, but humanity is on a collision course with nature and we’re just going to have to adapt to it in the best way we can.”

Brown added he believes California is taking steps to reduce greenhouse gases in a way that exceeds any other state in the nation.

A Democrat, Brown said it is difficult to create a consensus to act on climate change when Republicans deny global warming exists and that humans are largely responsible for temperature increases in the atmosphere.

That’s a challenge. It is true that there’s virtually no Republican who accepts the science that virtually is unanimous. I mean there is no scientific question. There’s just political denial for various reasons, best known to those people who are in denial.

Whatever the thoughts of the Republicans, we here in California are on the front lines. We’ve got to deal with it. We’ve already appropriated $600 million. We have 5,000 firefighters. We’re going to need thousands more. And in the years to come, we’re going to have to make very expensive investments and adjust. And the people are going to have to be careful of how they live, how they build their homes and what kind of vegetation is allowed to grow around them.”

Mon, 2014-05-19 12:47Julie Dermansky
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Photos of Superstorms and Extreme Events, Inspired by Years of Living Dangerously

The release of Showtime's “Years of Living Dangerously” series about climate change inspired me to edit a collection of my climate change related photographs. They include the aftermath of extreme storms and drought.

Although the United Nations has acknowledged the threat of climate change, as have President Obama and other leaders around the world, the fossil fuel industry forges ahead with business as usual, apparently without real concern for impending catastrophic change. 

Focusing on a wide range of issues, from the continued expansion of the fossil fuel industry to the destruction of forests, these photos serve as a warning call to the growing number of imminent disasters we face. 

“Years of Living Dangerously” episode six airs tonight at 8pm on Showtime. Brendan DeMelle, DeSmogBlog's Executive Director and Managing Editor, was interviewed by host America Ferrera for the segment airing tonight called “Against the Wind.” DeMelle and Center for Media and Democracy executive director Lisa Graves talk with Ferrera about the attacks on renewable energy by the climate denial group Heartland Institute.

You can watch episode one of the series for free here:

My photo slideshow is below.
  

Sun, 2014-05-18 23:08Graham Readfearn
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Environment Journal Editor Responds To Conservative Media Storm Over Rejected Climate Manuscript

Lennart Bengtsson

THERE’S an old proverb that suggests it’s always the lie that gets half way around the world while the truth is still pulling its boots on.

But if evidence from the latest conservative media beat-up on climate science is anything to go by, even if the truth is only a couple of blocks behind, the myth can just keep on running.

We’re talking about a story that sprinted out of the blocks from the offices of The Times newspaper in Britain.

The newspaper’s environment editor Ben Webster was writing about the University of Reading’s Professor Lennart Bengtsson (pictured), who had a research manuscript rejected by the prominent Environmental Research Letters journal earlier this year. 

Webster’s front page story claimed Bengtsson’s research had been “deliberately suppressed” because it didn’t sit well with the views of the vast majority of climate scientists.

Bengtsson’s manuscript had reportedly concluded that the sensitivity of the climate to added carbon dioxide was on the lower end of projections, a conclusion one reviewer of the paper said “substantially underestimated the committed [global] warming”.

As DeSmogBlog and several others have written, as mainstream media outlets were following-up on The Times the story’s two main actors – Bengtsson and the journal’s publisher IOP – were making it clear that the story was highly questionable. After publishing one of the reports from the reviewer of Bengtsson's paper, now IOP has released the second reviewer's report which described the manuscript as showing “troubling shallowness in the arguments”.

The UK’s Science Media Centre (UK SMC), a service for journalists, issued a bulletin of statements from experts responding to the story.  One of those was from Bengtsson, who amongst other things said:

I do not believe there is any systematic “cover up” of scientific evidence on climate change or that academics’ work is being “deliberately suppressed”, as The Times front page suggests. I am worried by a wider trend that science is gradually being influenced by political views. Policy decisions need to be based on solid fact.

The Times followed-up their story and included a quote from Bengtsson, but left out the bit where he said he didn’t believe the main thrust of The Times’ story. Funny that.

The statement from IOP Publishing included the full report from the reviewer of Bengtsson’s manuscript.  The statement made it clear that Bengtsson’s work had been rejected on scientific grounds.

In the Mail on Sunday, climate skeptic reporter David Rose wrote as a statement of fact that “Environmental Research Letters had rejected his paper because it would be seized on by climate ‘sceptics’ in the media” even after this had been demonstrated to be false.

I asked Environmental Research Letters’ Editor-in-Chief Professor Daniel Kammen, of the University of California, about the saga.

Wed, 2014-05-14 13:50Kevin Grandia
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Republican Senator Inhofe Dismisses Top US Military Strategists on Climate Change Concerns

Republican Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), is dismissing a report out yesterday on the human security threats of climate change, authored by 11 three and four-star US Admirals and Generals, saying the group is desperate for “publicity.” 

The report, National Security and the Threat of Climate Change, issued by the non-profit group CNA Corporation, concludes that:

~ Projected climate change poses a serious threat to America's national security. 

~ Climate change acts as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world.

~ Projected climate change will add to tensions even in stable regions of the world.

~ Climate change, national security and energy dependence are a related set of global challenges.

One of the reports authors, Gen. Charles F. Wald told the New York Times that:

In the past, the thinking was that climate change multiplied the significance of a situation. Now we’re saying it’s going to be a direct cause of instability.”

The report authors are all retired high-ranking US military — eleven retired three-star and four-star Admirals and Generals.

Senator Inhofe is dismissing the collective wisdom of this group, telling the New York Times that:

There is no one in more pursuit of publicity than a retired military officer. I look back wistfully at the days of the Cold War. Now you have people who are mentally imbalanced, with the ability to deploy a nuclear weapon. For anyone to say that any type of global warming is anywhere close to the threat that we have with crazy people running around with nuclear weapons, it shows how desperate they are to get the public to buy this.”

Over the years Senator Inhofe has made his delusion around the realities of climate change famous by making public proclamations like “global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” 

Wed, 2014-05-14 09:18Farron Cousins
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Marco Rubio Wants To Let The Planet Burn

Republican Senator Marco Rubio isn’t convinced that human beings are responsible for climate change.  But don’t get him wrong. Marco Rubio firmly believes that climate change is happening.  In fact, as he said in two separate interviews this past week, the climate “is always changing.” 

Rubio, who represents the climate change-imperiled state of Florida in the U.S. Senate, has taken a lot of heat for denying the role that humans are playing in climate change, but at the same time, he has received partial credit for acknowledging that the climate is changing.  Rubio’s semantic trickery is not an admission that he believes in climate change.  It is simply a tool that allows him to play both sides.  He can construe his statement to “prove” that he accepts the reality of climate change, or he can downplay its meaning and say that he was referring to something as simple as weather patterns. 

In either scenario, Rubio comes out the winner.  His denial of the role of human beings will be forgotten quickly, and all that will remain on the record is his statement that the climate is always changing. 

Rubio’s assertion that human beings don’t play a role in climate change has already been thoroughly debunked.  But what’s even more alarming is the fact that Rubio’s denial is putting his constituents at risk.

Reports show that Florida, the state Rubio represents in the Senate, is going to experience the impacts of climate change, possibly more so than any other state in the country.  As the NRDC points out, everything from real estate, health, and tourism will be destroyed as climate change becomes worse:

Tue, 2014-05-13 16:58Graham Readfearn
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Is Hector the Lump of Coal The World's Most Inappropriate Mascot For Kids?

With his thumbs pointing almost permanently skywards, the copyrighted mascot Hector the Lump of Coal wants to talk to kids about the arts, dental hygiene, bullying, sun safety and pretty much anything else the PR people at one of the world’s biggest coal export facilities can think of.

In one segment of his own mini-TV series, Hector’s sidekick presenter tells kids* how to save energy at home to “save the environment” and how you shouldn’t leave the tap running when you’re cleaning your teeth because “water is precious.”

His TV slots are screened on the popular Seven free-to-air Australian television network in the Mackay region of Queensland where kids have been served The Hector Show sandwiched between segments of Saturday Disney.

There is not a sliver of irony or sarcasm in sight but, then again, this is the state of Queensland that — according to its Premier Campbell Newman — is “in the coal business.”

Hector is the property of Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal (DBCT) which last year enabled the export of more than 60 million tonnes of coal used for energy and making steel.

DBCT is one of two facilities at Hay Point, one of the world’s biggest coal ports. Coal combustion, as if this needs pointing out, is the world’s biggest single contributor to climate change.

Not only did the state export 192 million tonnes of coal last year, but it has been revealed that a coal company employee is actually writing the environment policy for Newman’s Liberal National party.

Perhaps this is why Hector sports a permanent grin on his Facebook page where he is pictured at community events, sports games, schools, libraries and inside any building with a door wide enough to fit his considerable girth. It seems wherever there are children and families, there's a grinning six foot lump of coal in a high-visibility vest. 

Tue, 2014-05-13 11:14Chris Rose
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Scientists Fear Massive Sea Level Rise from "Unstoppable" Melt of West Antarctica Ice Sheet

thwaites glacier, west antarctic ice melt, nasa, climate change

Two new academic studies released Monday reveal that the crucial West Antarctic ice sheet is now melting, a seemingly unstoppable disaster that could eventually trigger sea levels to rise by more than 14 feet (4.3 metres).

The studies could finally make politicians rethink how climate change is affecting humankind and how society is going to deal with the increasingly expensive cost of mitigating climate change caused by burning fossil fuels overheating our atmosphere.

One of the studies indicates the glaciers in the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica “have passed the point of no return,” according to glaciologist and lead author Eric Rignot, of UC Irvine and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. The new study has been accepted for publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

NASA says the glaciers already contribute significantly to sea level rise, releasing almost as much ice into the ocean annually as the entire Greenland ice sheet. “They contain enough ice to raise global sea level by four feet (1.2 metres) and are melting faster than most scientists had expected,” according to a press release.

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