Annals of Global Warming: 2016 looks to be hottest year ever

November 19, 2016

Chart from Climate Central: The running average of global temperatures throughout 2016 compared to recent years. Each month shows the average of that month's temperature and each month before it

Chart from Climate Central: The running average of global temperatures throughout 2016 compared to recent years. Each month shows the average of that month’s temperature and each month before it

Earth is nearing the end of the the third record-breaking hot year in a row. 2014 was the hottest year ever, but was beaten by 2015. Now 2015’s heat takes second place to 2016’s heat.

2016’s record-breaking heat too fuel in part from an El Nino through the first nine months of the year; with a La Nina weather pattern developing now, there will be some cooling, but the cooling will not be enough to keep 2016 from being the warmest year ever recorded in human history.

Notes on this milestone can be found in several places; Climate Central’s explanation covers it succinctly.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its temperature data through the end of October on Thursday and found that for the year-to-date, the global average temperature is 1.75°F above the 20th century average of 57.4°F. That puts the year 0.18°F ahead of last year, the current hottest year titleholder, with just two months to go.

“It’s likely that we will end up as record warmest,” Jessica Blunden, a climate scientist with NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, said during a press teleconference.

October itself tied as the third warmest in 136 years of record-keeping, coming in at 1.31°F (0.73°C) above the 20th century average of 57.1°F, according to NOAA. (NASA, which uses a different baseline and slightly different methods, put October in second place.)

September was the first month of the year to not be record warm (it came in second place), as temperatures began to cool slightly with the demise of El Niño and the move toward La Niña. It ended a streak of 16 consecutive record-setting months, itself a record.

Maybe more shocking, it’s been 115 years since we had a record cold year, according to Climate Central.

In fact, global temperatures have been above-average for 382 months in a row by NOAA’s reckoning, going all the way back to the Reagan administration. To find a record cold month requires going all the way back to February 1929. The last record-cold year was even further back, in 1911.

382 months. Anyone under the age of 31 has never experienced a single month of temperatures as low as the 20th century average, in their lifetime. A generation has been raised with global warming climate change as the norm. How will that affect voting patterns and public opinion to change government policies?

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Caption from Discover Magazine's ImaGeo blog: A map of temperature anomalies during October 2016 shows that the Arctic region was much warmer than the 1951-1980 mean. The United States and North Africa were also particularly warm. The largest area of cooler than average temperatures stretched across Russia. (Source: NASA GISS)

Caption from Discover Magazine’s ImaGeo blog: A map of temperature anomalies during October 2016 shows that the Arctic region was much warmer than the 1951-1980 mean. The United States and North Africa were also particularly warm. The largest area of cooler than average temperatures stretched across Russia. (Source: NASA GISS)


Global Warming is on the ballot; Bill Nye urges voting wisely

November 2, 2016

Bill Nye told Business Insider voters in 2016 can make a huge change, just voting for a president who will work on climate change.

Bill Nye told Business Insider voters in 2016 can make a huge change, just voting for a president who will work on climate change.

No secret that Bill Nye wants governments to act to slow and stop global warming.

Nothing if not hopeful, Nye explained to Mother Jones earlier that electing a president dedicated to making change could push Congress off the dime:

Electing a climate-friendly president is key, Nye says, because it could inject new life into Congress’ long-stagnant climate debate. “There are…many very reasonable people in Congress who are playing the hand they are dealt with these gerrymandered congressional districts,” he adds. “They have to please an extraordinary minority.” With the right leadership and timing, he says, the politicians just might take action.

A candidate rational about science and climate change is likely to be rational on other issues, too.

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Annals of Global Warming: XKCD explains warming over the eons

September 13, 2016

XKCD often makes us think; the strip’s forays into science and social policy often rank near the top of my personal list of salient and clear educational devices on tough issues.

Here’s a timeline of Earth’s average atmospheric temperature, going back a few years before your mother was born (though she was born a long, long time ago!).

See where this is headed? No one else has done it much better.

I did wonder when I saw this earlier, on September 12: Did the creator of XKCD learn this stuff in Edward Tufte’s course?

Earth Temperature Timeline, From XKCD, September 2016

Earth Temperature Timeline, From XKCD, September 2016

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40 years since the Big Thompson River disaster; do not forget

August 1, 2016

With 1000-year flooding having killed two in Ellicott City, Maryland, over the weekend, we should be reminded that delugic rains may increase with global warming.

And we should remember the Big Thompson River flood of July 31, 1976, and its victims.http://www.startribune.com/heating-up-this-week-raging-case-of-weather-amnesia/388762331/

Via the Paul Douglas on Weather blog at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (one of America’s great newspapers):

[Thunderhead that produced a slow-moving, and consquently more catastrophic deluge in the headwaters of the Big Thompson River, Colorado, on July 31, 1976.]

[Thunderhead that produced a slow-moving, and consquently more catastrophic deluge in the headwaters of the Big Thompson River, Colorado, on July 31, 1976.]

The Big Thompson Disaster: Reverberations of a Flash Flood, 40 Years Later. Dr. Jeff Masters has the post at WunderBlog: “What began as a celebratory Saturday in the mountains ended in tragedy 40 years ago this weekend, when a catastrophic flash flood ripped through the narrow Big Thompson Canyon of Colorado’s Front Range. A total of 144 people were killed on that Saturday evening, July 31, 1976–the eve of the 100th anniversary of Colorado’s statehood. On just about any summer weekend, the canyons northwest of Denver are packed with vacationers and day-trippers. With the state’s centennial falling on this particular weekend, the mood was especially festive, and the weather seemed no more threatening than on many other summer days. Forecasts through the day called for a 40% to 50% chance of showers and thunderstorms, but there was no particular concern about flood risk. Only a few hours later, critical gaps in weather data, communication, and public awareness had teamed up with a slow-moving deluge to create a true disaster–one that’s had a noteworthy influence on how we deal with flash floods today….”

Image credit: NOAA.

Hiking in the area recently, in a different canyon, I reflected on the tremendous changes in weather forecasting in the past 40 years. A lot of warnings about flash floods, and paths to climb up the canyon in emergencies. Plus, we had constant weather updates. Big Thompson was just one of several flood disasters in the 1970s, Masters notes. It’s worth reading his full post.

139 bodies were recovered from the flood, but many other bodies were never recovered. People died from injuries of being tossed about by the flood, and colliding with rocks and trees. Few died of drowning.

How do we prepare to survive and avoid such disasters in the future?

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Global warming changes local bird populations, matching scientists’ predictions

April 3, 2016

Phys.org caption: The American robin, a familiar species across much of continental USA, has declined in some southern states such as Mississippi and Louisiana, but increased in north-central states, such as the Dakotas. Credit: US Fish & Wildlife Service

Phys.org caption: The American robin, a familiar species across much of continental USA, has declined in some southern states such as Mississippi and Louisiana, but increased in north-central states, such as the Dakotas. Credit: US Fish & Wildlife Service Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-03-strong-effects-climate-common-bird.html#jCp

Most serious birdwatchers can tell you about global warming and climate change, just from watching the birds at their feeders, and when those birds migrate.

Now comes a study to confirm with data and controlled observation what the birders have been saying all along. Phys.org reported:

Scientists have shown for the first time that common bird populations are responding to climate change in a similar pronounced way in both Europe and the USA.

An international team of researchers led by Durham University, UK, found that populations of bird species expected to do well due to climate change had substantially outperformed those expected to do badly over a 30 year period from 1980 to 2010.

The research, conducted in collaboration with the RSPB and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), is published in the journal Science.

It is the first real demonstration that climate is having a similar, large-scale influence on the abundance of common birds in widely separated parts of the world, the researchers said.

Among the species showing pronounced effects of climate change are common woodland and garden birds such as the wren, in Europe, and the American robin in the USA.

(Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-03-strong-effects-climate-common-bird.html#jCp)

Biologists especially work to predict effects of warming on plants and animals, both to help plan changes in activities such as farming and hunting, and to protect species that are endangered now, or are likely to become so due to changing climate factors.

This study shows scientists can predict with accuracy some of the wildlife effects.

These changes are consistent with changing climate suitability within those areas, the researchers said.

Other factors, such as the size of the birds, the habitats they live in and their migratory behaviour, all affect , but did not differ systematically between groups advantaged or disadvantaged by climate change.

Therefore, only climate change could explain the differences between average population trends in advantaged and disadvantaged groups, the researchers said.

The study’s lead authors, Dr Stephen Willis and Dr Philip Stephens, of Durham University’s School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, said the findings showed there was a large-scale, consistent response by bird populations to climate change on two continents.

The study was published in the April 1, 2016 issue of Science, “Consistent response of bird populations to climate change on two continents.

Science  01 Apr 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6281, pp. 84-87
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac4858

Tip of the old scrub brush to Svein T veitdal:


What is global warming? Great explanation, in 3 minutes

December 24, 2015

Katharine Hayhoe, climate scientist, image from NOVA's "Secret Life of Scientists"

Katharine Hayhoe, climate scientist, image from NOVA’s “Secret Life of Scientists”

Katharine Hayhoe, the evangelical Christian who studies climate change, explained global warming at Facebook, in an Earth video she made with Lazy Chief:

 

 


Why not a price on carbon, a tax with cap-and-trade capabilities?

October 29, 2015

Tax on air pollutants with a cap-and-trade process worked wonders cleaning up acid rain in the U.S.  Is there any rational reason to oppose such a plan, in the U.S. or anywhere else, to help clean up carbon air pollution to slow or stop global warming?

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a call for a carbon pricing system. Who will listen?

It’s a feature story from World Bank, who seems to have figured out that global warming poses great threats to commerce and growing the world’s economies.

Heads of State, City, Regional and Business Leaders Unite to Call for Price on Carbon

October 19, 2015

For the first time Heads of State, city and provincial leaders have come together with the support of leading companies to urge countries and companies around the world to put a price on carbon pollution.

For the first time Heads of State, city and provincial leaders have come together with the support of leading companies to urge countries and companies around the world to put a price on carbon pollution.


STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Carbon pricing is a key building block to tackle climate change and drive investment in a low carbon future.
  • Launched today, the Carbon Pricing Panel is an unprecedented alliance of Global Leaders united to put a price on carbon pollution.
  • The number of implemented or scheduled carbon pricing instruments has nearly doubled since 2012, reaching an aggregate market value of about $50 billion.

What can be done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect our environment, and help support people most vulnerable to climate change?

The answer is simple: A key element for any strategy to tackle climate change must be to put a price on carbon pollution. The transition to a cleaner future requires government action and the right incentives. Carbon pricing is a key building block to help cut pollution and drive investment in a low carbon future.

It’s a point recognized by leaders from Europe, across to Africa and Asia, who have today – for the first time – come together with the support of leading private companies to urge countries and businesses around the world to put a price on carbon.

Convened by World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and the International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director Christine Lagarde, the high-level Carbon Pricing Panel is calling on their peers to follow their lead and put a price on carbon. They are joined in this effort by OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria.

The call by the leaders comes on the first day of the last round of negotiations ahead of the Paris climate talks in December. The leaders aim to seize the momentum generated by the Paris talks to spur further, faster action towards carbon pricing, as a necessary path to a low carbon, productive, competitive economy of the future.

Members of the Carbon Pricing Panel include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, French President François Hollande, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Philippines President Benigno Aquino III, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Governor Jerry Brown of California, and Mayor Eduardo Paes of Rio de Janeiro.

Private sector support is spearheaded by Anne Stausboll, CEO of US Institutional Investor CalPERS, Gérard Mestrallet, CEO of ENGIE of France, Anand Mahindra, Chairman and Managing Director of Mahindra Group of India, and Feike Sijbesma, Chairman and CEO of Netherlands-based Royal DSM.


” There has never been a global movement to put a price on carbon at this level and with this degree of unison. It marks a turning point from the debate on the economic systems needed for low carbon growth to the implementation of policies and pricing mechanisms to deliver jobs, clean growth and prosperity. The science is clear, the economics compelling and we now see political leadership emerging to take green investment to scale at a speed commensurate with the climate challenge. “

ImageJim Yong Kim
World Bank Group President

Summary map of existing, emerging and potential regional, national and sub-national carbon pricing instruments (ETS and tax)

Summary map of existing, emerging and potential regional, national and sub-national carbon pricing instruments (ETS and tax)


Around the world, about 40 nations and 23 cities, states and regions have implemented or are putting a price on carbon with programs and mechanisms covering about 12 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The number of implemented or scheduled carbon pricing instruments has nearly doubled since 2012, reaching an aggregate market value of about $50 billion.

And already more than 400 businesses around the world are using a voluntary, internal price on carbon as part of their investment strategies, with prices ranging from US$4 to over US$100 per ton of CO2. This is a tripling in the number of companies compared with last year reporting that they price their emissions.

Carbon pricing delivers a triple dividend.

Firstly, it is good for the environment and it reduces emissions – lowering social costs of health impacts on people, as well as tackling the global warming.  A price on carbon can help alleviate health and environmental problems like premature deaths from exposure to outdoor air pollution. According to the World health Organization, an estimated 3.7 million people die prematurely from outdoor air pollution.

Secondly, carbon pricing is an essential part of getting prices right for the move to a low carbon more resilient growth. It raises revenue efficiently, making it possible to reduce more distortionary taxes, and it allows for targeted support for clean energy solutions rather than harmful subsidies that do little for poor people or the environment.

And thirdly, it drives innovation and critically needed investments in low-carbon solutions, boosting private sector investment in clean tech research and development, and offering the prospect of job creation in the sectors of the future.

Why is is it important to act now on carbon pricing? Because strong public policy gives the private sector the certainty and predictability to make the necessary long-term investments in climate-smart development and prevent catastrophic impacts from climate change. Carbon pricing is the cornerstone of a package of policy measures designed to achieve emission reductions at lowest cost.

Today, countries and regions are learning from one another and creating a set of successful approaches to pricing carbon. Some early lessons are described in the World Bank Group publication The FASTER Principles for Successful Carbon Pricing – which lays out principles for effective, efficient and fair pricing of carbon.

Some examples include:

  • The Canadian province of British Columbia was an early mover on carbon pricing, with the creation of a carbon tax in 2008, with the tax used to cut income taxes and fund tax credits. Also, British Columbia is home to a growing clean technology sector, with more than 150 firms in 2013, accounting for 22% of Canada’s clean tech presence in a province with only 12% of Canada’s GDP. Several experts attribute this growth to the carbon tax.
  • California, Quebec and the European Union allocate a portion of their emissions trading scheme (ETS) auction revenues to designated green technology funds and innovation, to support sectors affected directly or indirectly by higher carbon costs.
  • In Chile, the government has passed legislation on a carbon tax – effective as of 2017 – as part of a much larger tax reform package with the explicit aim of providing additional resources for education and other social protection programs.
  • In Northeastern United States, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is expected to save people money on energy bills. The RGGI states have invested over $1 billion from ETS proceeds in energy-efficiency program, which are expected to return more than $2.3 billion in lifetime energy bills savings to 1.2 million participating households. Also, from 2008-2012, RGGI invested more than $130 million to help energy and electricity customers in need.

The high level panel provides political momentum to complement the voices of government and industry leaders in the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (CPLC), a working coalition that is being formed on the back of support for carbon pricing from 74 countries and 1,000 companies, at the 20014 UN summit on climate change.

Putting a price on carbon can be done in many ways: using an emissions trading system (ETS), like the one in Europe, or introducing carbon taxes and fees, like in Sweden and Norway. Most importantly, the “polluter pays” principle applies – those who are responsible for the pollution face the cost of it.


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