“One of the warning signs that a dangerous warming trend is under way in Antarctica will be the breakup of ice shelves on both coasts of the Antarctic Peninsula, starting with the northernmost and extending gradually southward.”
John Mercer – 1978

Very good piece in the Christian Science Monitor explaining a new study of mass loss from a southern region of the Antarctic peninsula.  We’ve been hit with a volley of devastating studies showing that “stable” Antarctic ice is much more sensitive to warming than most scientists thought a few decades ago.

Christian Science Monitor:

The losses began suddenly in 2009 and come in addition to losses from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which is shedding 80 billion to 110 billion tons of ice a year, according to the study. Some losses from nearby ice shelves have been underway for decades. But the seemingly abrupt onset of significant ice losses along the southern coast of the Antarctic Peninsula is an eye-opener, suggests Dr. Gardner of JPL. Recent studies have shown that Antarctica’s two continental ice sheets are more sensitive to changes in ocean and air temperatures than previously thought, he notes. But as relatively warm water from deep reaches of the Southern Ocean moved onto the continental shelf, the thinning sped up, melting the ice shelves from underneath, the researchers of the new study concluded. – “It’s like a switch was flipped for a pretty extensive region of the peninsula,” adds Jonathan Bamber, a glaciologist at the University of Bristol in Britain and a member of the team conducting the study. “That isn’t something that you would necessarily expect based on the modeling studies that people have done.”

Carbon Brief:

For most of the 2000s, satellite data shows the glaciers lost about as much ice as they gained, meaning they stayed roughly stable. But around 2009 there was “a remarkable rate of acceleration” in ice loss, the study says.

The red and orange areas in the figure below show thinning of glaciers along the Bellinghausen Sea coast.  You can see the melting is much more rapid between 2010 and 2014 (right-hand image) than between 2003 and 2009 (left-hand image).

Coastline

Change in glacier thickness between A) 2003 and 2009  and B) 2010 and 2014 in the Southern Antarctic Peninsula. Oranges and reds show areas of greatest thinning. Source: Wouters et al. ( 2015) Read the rest of this entry »


I’ll apologize for posting the numbingly stupid lowlights of a recent congressional show-hearing which featured several of DC’s most abysmally ignorant climate trolls expounding on the joys of carbon pollution.

Many of those unlucky ones who watched complained of pounding migraines, blurred vision, and headvice failures. I wish I’d had Dana Nuccitelli’s review of that proceeding at the time, as an antidote – but I do have it now.

headviseDana Nuccitelli in the Guardian:

Given that the hearing was ostensibly about environmental policy, most of the witnesses were policy experts. John Christy was the lone climate scientist invited to testify. His testimony focused on manufacturing doubt about the accuracy of climate models, climate change impacts, and about individual American projects’ contributions to global warming. On the accuracy of climate models, Christy played rather fast and loose with the facts, saying in his written testimony (emphasis added),

Do we understand how greenhouse gases affect the climate, i.e. the link between emissions and climate effects? A very basic metric for climate studies is the temperature of the bulk atmospheric layer known as the troposphere, roughly from the surface to 50,000 ft altitude. This is the layer that, according to models, should warm significantly as CO2 increases … I was able to access 102 CMIP-5 rcp4.5 (representative concentration pathways) climate model simulations of the atmospheric temperatures for the tropospheric layer and generate bulk temperatures from the models for an apples-to-apples comparison with the observations from satellites and balloons … On average the models warm the global atmosphere at a rate three times that of the real world … As such, they would be of highly questionable value in determining policy that should depend on a very confident understanding of how the climate system works. 

Christy’s oral testimony referred only to the temperatures of the “atmosphere” and “planet.” As shown in the above quote, in his written testimony, Christy twice referenced the troposphere – the lowest layer of the atmosphere from the surface to 50,000 feet (15km) in altitude. However, to argue that climate models have been inaccurate, Christy showed a graph of only mid-troposphere temperatures. The mid-troposphere is the atmospheric layer from about 25,000–50,000 feet, or about 8–15km in altitude. One might reasonably ask why Christy only showed data for such high altitudes. For perspective, the highest point on the Earth’s surface is on Mount Everest at 29,000 feet (8.8km), and the highest elevation city in the world is La Rinconada, Peru at 16,700 feet (5.1km). Humans live in the lower troposphere, not the mid-troposphere. As weather balloon data show, the mid-troposphere is warming significantly more slowly than the lower troposphere, where the increasing greenhouse effect has more of an impact on temperature changes. It’s possible that climate models aren’t quite getting the vertical profile of atmospheric temperature changes quite right. It’s also possible that the measurements themselves aren’t accurate – different scientific groups have significantly different estimates of the rates of warming in the low and mid-troposphere. Some combination of both is undoubtedly true. However, climate models have done a good job matching the observed temperature change at the surface and in the lower troposphere, where humans live. We understand the workings of the Earth’s climate much better than Christy suggests, especially where it matters most to humans. This is a key focus of my book and one of my Denial101x course lectures.

More sweet, healing reasonableness at the link.

indiancoal2

Suzanne Goldenberg has some useful articles recently in the Guardian about Big Coal’s attempt to recast itself as a positive force for lifting millions out of poverty.  In magazine ads, posters and youtube videos, Peabody Coal – the world’s largest privately held coal company, is portraying coal as a friendly neighbor bringing prosperity, modernity, and education to struggling families in the developing world.

The campaign is run by the notorious  Burson Marsteller, a “..a public relations firm that worked with the Nigerian government and Argentina junta when they were accused of massacres and disappearances, and helped the nuclear, chemical and energy companies after environmental disasters.”

Suzanne Goldenberg in the Guardian:

But for all the stated concern about poverty in developing countries, Peabody, unlike Gates or indeed several other big coal companies, has no record of funding programmes to reduce energy poverty. “Global energy poverty requires a structural solution brought about by the wise choice of fuels and the wise choice of policies,” Svec said in an email. “The entire mission of Peabody and our activities is driven around increasing access to reliable, low-cost energy.”

Instead, the solution proposed by Advanced Energy for Life, when the campaign first launched, was blocking the new rules in the US putting limits on carbon pollution for power plants, due to be finalised this summer.

When the campaign launched, Peabody invited the public to “take action” by writing the EPA to oppose the clean power plant rules as a way of helping poor people in Africa. The “take action” option was later removed.

And Peabody has admitted the true measure of success of its Advanced Energy for Life campaign will not be measured in developing countries, but by the degree to which it has managed to lead the attention away from coal as a cause of climate change.

Certainly slimy and deceptive, and you can only marvel at the chutzpah – but, no matter – too little, too late. The end is coming for coal, and some additional current stories show why. Read the rest of this entry »

President Obama congratulates the United States Coast Guard Academy’s Class of 2015 in New London, Connecticut. May 20, 2015.

This is kind of a big deal.

The most lengthy, detailed, and powerful statement on the urgency of dealing with climate change yet heard from an American President.

First few minutes are introductory fluff. The red meat starts at 10:00 minutes in. Worth a look – he ticks all the boxes, really.

Eric Holthaus in Slate:

Speaking at the United States Coast Guard Academy commencement in New London, Connecticut, Obama made climate change the focus of his remarks, calling the country’s failure to act to combat global warming a “dereliction of duty.” In association with the speech, the White House also released an 11-page report summarizing the government’s findings and initiatives on national security and climate change.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dr. Jason Box, above, gives a quick update on where we are now with Dark Snow Project.

First, yes, we are going back to Greenland.
The most exciting news that we can only partially share is this – a well-known foundation has decided to fund the greatest part of Dark Snow’s needs this season.  We can’t say who it is until they are ready to make their own announcement.

What this means for those who have supported us in the previous two years, is that your support has been very worthwhile. Dark Snow Project has demonstrably moved the needle on press coverage of the Greenland Ice sheet, and the feedback effects from black carbon, wildfire soot, and biological activity that seem to be speeding up melt, and consequent sea level rise.

Dark Snow’s work has been covered in dozens if not hundreds of media outlets, including NBC News, Rolling Stone, PBS Nova, HBO and Vice News.  Below, see Dr. Box’s interview with Bill Maher from last summer.

Bottom line – although the majority of our goals are funded, we still have some items on our wishlist, and we hope those who have supported us in the past will understand how far we’ve been able to make that support go – and stay with us in this new, very ambitious season.  If you wish to help out, we hope you’ll make a tax deductible contribution thru the Dark Snow website here.

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One of the most loved Saints in the Catholic world, revered, in fact, by many traditions around the planet, is Saint Francis of Assisi.  In anticipating the Pontiff’s upcoming message on environment and climate change, bear in mind it’s not a small deal that this Pope is the first one in 700 years to take that Saint’s name as his own.

In preparing a new video which will look at the potential influence of the Pope on the climate debate, I’ve been told that significant Republican legislators have been more than a little interested in what Francis will say, and how to respond.

The 8 minute clip above is from Franco Zeffirelli‘s 1972 bio-pic “Brother Sun, Sister Moon”, a dramatization of the saint’s life which captures much of the legendary, ecstatic connection with the natural world that make Francis a favorite among so many.

PBS Religion and Ethics Newsweekly:

Finally, since Jesus’s time, one of the most revered figures in all Christianity has been Saint Francis of Assisi. For the new pope to have chosen Francis as his new name may say a lot about his priorities.

Saint Francis was born in central Italy in the 12th century. There’s a basilica there where Francis heard Jesus tell him to rebuild his church. The opulence of that church today is just the opposite of the poverty Saint Francis chose. He had been born rich but gave up everything he owned, even his clothes, in order to live as he believed Jesus wanted—in poverty, caring for those Jesus called “the least of these.” Catholics today still cite that standard, referring to “a preferential option for the poor.”

To Francis, every living being was holy and valuable. He once kissed the hands of lepers.

He loved nature and all living creatures. He preached to the birds and spoke of Brother Sun and Sister Moon. In his name many churches today bless the animals.

The Catholic Telegraph:

Pope Francis told thousands of journalists March 16 that he took to heart the words of his friend and chose to be called after St. Francis of Assisi, “the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation,” the same created world “with which we don’t have such a good relationship.”

Giotto - Saint Francis preaching to the Birds

Giotto – Saint Francis preaching to the Birds

CNN:

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, the new pope, is breaking historic ground by choosing the name Francis.

It’s the first time the name is being used by a pope, said CNN Vatican expert John Allen.

Pope Francis chose his name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi because he is a lover of the poor, said Vatican deputy spokesman Thomas Rosica.

“Cardinal Bergoglio had a special place in his heart and his ministry for the poor, for the disenfranchised, for those living on the fringes and facing injustice,” Rosica said.

St. Francis, one of the most venerated figures in the Roman Catholic Church, was known for connecting with fellow Christians, Rosica added.

Allen described the name selection as “the most stunning” choice and “precedent shattering.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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