climate change science

New NASA Study Solves Climate Mystery, Confirms Methane Spike Tied to Oil and Gas

Global map of percent changes in acres burning

Over the past few years, natural gas has become the primary fuel that America uses to generate electricity, displacing the long-time king of fossil fuels, coal. In 2019, more than a third of America's electrical supply will come from natural gas, with coal falling to a second-ranked 28 percent, the Energy Information Administration predicted this month, marking the growing ascendency of gas in the American power market.

But new peer-reviewed research adds to the growing evidence that the shift from coal to gas isn't necessarily good news for the climate.

A team led by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirmed that the oil and gas industry is responsible for the largest share of the world's rising methane emissions, which are a major factor in climate change — and in the process the researchers resolved one of the mysteries that has plagued climate scientists over the past several years.

2017 Weather and Climate Disasters Cost US Record $306 Billion

LA Firefighting helicopter drops water on a burning home near Burbank, CA in 2017

By Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch. Reposted with permission from EcoWatch.

2017, one of the hottest years in modern history, was also an extremely costly year. According to a new reportfrom the National Centers for Environmental Information, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “the U.S. experienced 16 weather and climate disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion, with total costs of approximately $306 billion—a new U.S. annual record.”

The federal agency listed several noteworthy events, including the wildfires in the west, with total costs of $18 billion, tripling the previous U.S. annual wildfire cost record.

Pruitt’s Plan to Debate Climate Science Paused as Science Confirms Human Link to Extreme Weather

Chairs floating in Hurricane Harvey floodwaters in Houston, Texas

The same week that a slew of new scientific reports confirmed just how much humans are changing the climate, and in turn, the rest of the planet, Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt’s plans for a “Red Team, Blue Team” debate of this very same science were put on hold.

The military-style exercise that would falsely pit the overwhelming majority of climate scientists against a handful of non-experts is an eight-year-old talking point of the notorious climate-denying think tank the Heartland Institute (which is likely not surprised by this development). Meanwhile, last week in New Orleans, several groups of prominent climate scientists shared their latest findings at the world's largest gathering of Earth and planetary scientists. The roughly 25,000 attendees of the American Geophysical Union annual meeting included scientific leaders from academia, government, and the private sector.

Curbing Climate Change: Why It's so Hard to Act in Time

Climate change action sign in front of Capitol at March for Science

By Timothy H. Dixon, University of South Florida

This summer I worked on the Greenland ice sheet, part of a scientific experiment to study surface melting and its contribution to Greenland’s accelerating ice losses. By virtue of its size, elevation and currently frozen state, Greenland has the potential to cause large and rapid increases to sea level as it melts.

When I returned, a nonscientist friend asked me what the research showed about future sea level rise. He was disappointed that I couldn’t say anything definite, since it will take several years to analyze the data. This kind of time lag is common in science, but it can make communicating the issues difficult. That’s especially true for climate change, where decades of data collection may be required to see trends.

A recent draft report on climate change by federal scientists exploits data captured over many decades to assess recent changes, and warns of a dire future if we don’t change our ways. Yet few countries are aggressively reducing their emissions in a way scientists say are needed to avoid the dangers of climate change.

While this lack of progress dismays people, it’s actually understandable.

Facts Versus Feelings Isn't the Way to Think About Communicating Science

Army Corps scientist teaching university students about wetlands

By John Cook, George Mason University and Sander van der Linden, University of Cambridge

In a world where “post-truth” was 2016’s word of the year, many people are starting to doubt the efficacy of facts. Can science make sense of anti-science and post-truthism? More generally, how can we understand what drives people’s beliefs, decisions and behaviors?

How Sea Ice Can Still Be Thick in Places in a Warming Arctic

Arctic researchers taking an ice core

This post originally appeared on Climate Feedback.

A June 12 Winnipeg Free Press story titled “U of M climate change study postponed due to climate change” describes a climate study delayed by unusual sea ice conditions around Newfoundland that necessitated the reassignment of an icebreaker vessel. (Similar stories were run by CBC NewsThe Guardian, and others.)

It might seem to you that unusually thick local sea ice contradicts scientists’ predictions of declining Arctic sea ice cover, but that would be an overly simplistic and incorrect assumption. That misconception of both climate science and the behavior of sea ice has surfaced in the past when polar research vessels encountered difficulties with sea ice, and this time is (sadly) no exception.

March for Science Organizer: 'Titans' Like Einstein, Galileo, Carson Engaged With Politics

Scientists and supporters carry a banner leading the DC March for Science

On Earth Day, tens of thousands turned out for the March for Science in Washington, D.C., despite the rain, celebrating ideas, facts, and empirical data while chastising climate science deniers.

Celebrity science educator Bill Nye, honorary co-chair of the March for Science, told the crowd, “We are marching today to remind people everywhere, our lawmakers especially, of the significance of science for our health and our prosperity.” The crowd roared their approval when he said they “could change the world.” 

US Business Schools Failing on Climate Change

Laptop computer on a tree stump

By Nancy E. Landrum, Loyola University Chicago

Coca-Cola and Nestlé have recently closed facilities, and Starbucks is bracing for a global shortage of coffee — all due to effects from climate change. Climate change impacts every resource used by businesses: from agriculture, water, land and energy to workers and the economy. No business will be untouched. The Conversation

As a researcher and professor of business management, I have found that sustainable business courses across the U.S. do not align with the scientific consensus that we need radical change to avert disastrous consequences of climate change.

These future business leaders are not being prepared for the climate change challenges their companies are certain to face.

Climate Scientists React to Bizarre Climate Commentary by Robert Laughlin

Andy Revkin has posted several reactions from climate scientists to Nobel physicist Robert Laughlin’s essay in The American Scholar in which he asserts that the climate system is “beyond our power to control,” and humanity cannot and should not do anything to respond to climate change.  

Needless to say, Laughlin’s piece - and George Will’s Newsweek commentary about it - have drawn swift and severe criticism from scientists who specialize in studying climate change.

For example, Matthew Huber of Purdue University’s Climate Dynamics Prediction Laboratory takes Laughlin to task, suggesting that:

He needs to take some courses in paleoclimate — I suggest he start at the undergraduate level. I hear there might be something appropriate being taught on his campus. His know-nothing approach hearkens back to the pre-scientific era of the flat earth, vapors and phlogiston.”

Huber points out that the fundamentals of climate change are sound:

…raise greenhouse gases and the climate will warm substantially. There is no great mystery here, other than perhaps why a Nobel prize winner is either ignorant of the major results of the field of paleoclimatology over the past two decades or simply chooses to ignore the science for the sake of some sound bytes.

“Our understanding of the climate system is still rudimentary but ultimately we know what the big knobs are that turn up the heat and those are the same knobs we are cranking on right now. We know this absolutely and have known at least since Arrhenius and he got the Nobel (in 1903)!”

Check out the rest of the scientists’ reactions over at Revkin’s Dot Earth blog.

Scientists losing war of words over climate change

In the conservative world of science, conclusions are couched in caveats and statements are chosen carefully to not seem overwrought. And in the world of climate science that’s no different. For example, in their 2007 report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a series of defined levels of certainty about their conclusions that looked like this:

• “Virtually certain” (considered more than 99% likely to be correct)

• “Very likely” (more than 90%)

• “Likely” (more than 66%)

• “More likely than not” (more than 50%)

• “Unlikely” (less than 33%)

• “Very unlikely” (less than 10%)

• “Exceptionally unlikely” (less than 5%)

So in the IPCC’s final report they made statements like, “Global climate change is “very likely” to have a human cause.”

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