From the series of interviews that now make up John Cook’s Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on understanding, and confronting, Climate Denial.
I’m on travel this week, so pinch hitting on posts where possible. These are some highlights:
500 Year Floods aren’t as unusual as they used to be.
In India, Spring Heat wave melts roads and claims lives.
Meanwhile, 2015 seems on track to erase 2014 as the hottest year in the modern record.
The uninterrupted continuation of the warming trend is no surprise. The 10 warmest years on record have occurred in the past 17 years.
And though the rise in the last 10 years has been gentle by comparison, since 1910, the clear trend has been up,according to NASA’s Global Land-Ocean Temperature Index.
In the latter two thirds of that time, warming and the effects on climate have been epochal, says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia.”
That new March record
March 2015 edged past the last record high March, which was in 2010, rising by 0.09 degrees Fahrenheit (0.05 C). Average global land and water temperatures for the first quarter of this year beat the last record first quarter, 2002, by the same margin.
Yet another broken record this March was more obvious to the eye. The expanse of Arctic sea ice shrunk to an absolute low for any March on record.
“The average Arctic sea ice extent for March was 430,000 square miles (7.2 percent) below the 1981–2010 average. This was the smallest March extent since records began in 1979,” NOAA said.
Small gains, large net loss
On the other end of the globe — in the Antarctic — sea ice has been on the gain, and this year, it hit a record March high.
But globally, the overall result is a big net loss. “The upward trend in the Antarctic … is only about a third of the magnitude of the rapid loss of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean,” according to NASA.
E&E Energy Wire (paywalled):
The record-breaking warm weather that has hit northern Alaska this spring is causing severe flooding on the 435-mile Dalton Highway, severing the profitable North Slope oil production fields from the rest of the state. Read the rest of this entry »
May 26, 2015
Since “Frankenstein”, a consistent theme in speculative fiction has been the technological leap that turns on mankind.
Since the advent of the nuclear age, that theme is not only credible, but obvious.
Two of this summer’s biggest movies so far are “The Age of Ultron”, where the villain is a runaway artificial intelligence, and the Mad Max sequel, “Fury Road”, set in a climate altered future. “Fury Road” has been particularly well reviewed, with a spectacular 98 percent rating on the “Rotten Tomatoes” website.
Deniers predictably uncomfortable.
While the original Mad Max, starring now-tarnished Hollywood megastar Mel Gibson, took place in an Australia ravaged by energy crisis and lawlessness, 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road deals with a not-too-distant future dealing with the effects of climate change. The film stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, who recently, at the film’s gala premier in Cannes, drew the connections between our current inaction on climate change and the horrific future of Fury Road:
It felt very grounded in real events. The idea of globalization and global warming and drought and the value of water, and leadership becoming completely out of hand.
. . . there are images on Google right now of Sahara desert sand being blown, in that state, all through Africa. And that’s frightening. The hair lifted up on the back of my neck. What makes [the film] even scarier is that it is something that is not far off if we don’t pull it together.
(The far right news site) Breitbart is alarmed about the cli-fi trend.
The recent election results in Alberta were a shock to the Canadian Oil patch, including bigwigs in charge of the planet-killing Tar Sands extraction projects underway there. Add in to that the Pope’s eminent “encyclical” letter that will make climate change a priority for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, and you understand why Oil giants are scrambling to find an alternative to stone walling on climate change solutions. I’ve posted on the recent declarations by executives at BP and Shell in regard to climate and a carbon tax. Last week, Steve William, CEO of Suncor, one of the biggest Tar Sands players, declared that climate change was real, could not be ignored, and invited the new Alberta Government to come up with a carbon tax plan. Belatedly, the Wall Street Journal has sniffed out a trend.
At the same time, some of these companies’ own shareholders are pushing them to scale back their dependence on carbon-based fuels, worried about the future financial impact of heightened global-warming regulation. The companies are also anticipating rules to limit emissions that would make oil and natural gas more expensive, potentially reducing demand for the fuels. This led to a change in behavior. Where in the past executives could be dismissive of the climate-change debate or leap to defend their companies, industry officials are now raising the issue themselves and proposing remedies such as the imposition of a carbon tax. “We have to stop being defensive,” Total SA Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanné told a major industry conference in Houston last month. “In the end, it won’t be solved by diplomacy only, but by private players, economic players like us.” Total, Saudi Aramco, Eni SpA, BG PLC, Royal Dutch Shell PLC and others have formed an industry group specifically to add their collective voice to the climate debate, and they are trying to bring other leading international oil and gas companies into the group. “Business is engaged in a way I’ve never seen before,” said Rachel Kyte, head of the climate-change division of the World Bank. – “The minute the word got out that the pope was working on this, we had a lot of people contributing,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, who heads the Vatican office tasked with drafting the encyclical. “We listened to everybody who had something to say: physicians, academicians, students; people in all walks of life, including people from the oil industry.”
Audio above from News Talk 770, Calgary, Alberta.
If the Oil barons are worried, should you be worried, too? Suncor is a huge player in the development of the planet killing Alberta Tar Sands project. Steve Williams is the President and CEO. Williams has now joined Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben Van Beurden, and British Petroleum CEO Bob Dudley, in acknowledging the seriousness of the climate issue, and calling for a carbon price.
Ok, guys, now how about messaging some key politicians and captive media outlets to adjust their behavior accordingly?l? Just a suggestion.
Suncor is the world’s largest producer of bitumen, and owns and operates an oil sands upgrading plant near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. Originally developed by Great Canadian Oil Sands, a majority-owned subsidiary of Sun Oil, it is now wholly owned by the independent Suncor. It was the first commercial development on the Athabasca oil sands, although small, earlier projects like that at Bitumount also played a role in development. The company holds a 36.75% interest in the Joslyn north oil sands project which was shelved pending an economic review by operator Total S.A. in May 2014. The company also produces conventional oil, heavy crude oil, and natural gas.
An energy industry heavyweight told a Friday morning Calgary forum on climate change a healthy environment is key to a health economy–and vice versa. Suncor President and CEO Steve Williams says even though we don’t have all the answers, the time for action is now, noting “climate change is happening. Doing nothing is not an option.” Western Financial Group chair and former provincial treasurer Jim Dinning told the forum “we need to put a real price on carbon and emissions so every single one of us pays a price.” Dinning says so far political leaders haven’t had the courage to say “we’re in this together.” Read the rest of this entry »
May 23, 2015
Official theme song for Dark Snow 2015.
We’ve finished the first lap of our trip, having spent two days participating in an Arctic Monitoring and Assessment conference in at Oslo Science Park in Norway. I had the opportunity to capture some valuable interviews with key researchers. More on that later.
Heading back to Copenhagen tomorrow, where I will, I hope have time to work on the next video, about the Pope’s upcoming encyclical.
“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.
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.”
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).
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 »