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We’ve discussed the flawed climate risk analysis presented by Dr. Roger Pielke Jr, the non-climate expert thrown up by climate deniers in recent congressional hearings.  Dr. Peilke’s ploy in his testimony was to provide a Fox and Limbaugh-friendly sound bite on video, while hiding qualifiers in his written footnotes to cover his pseudo-scientific butt.  The nub of his claims were that damages due to climate change are undetectable, and would not emerge, if at all, for decades to come.
His recent hire as “climate expert” for Nate Silver’s purportedly “data driven” 538 blog proved to be such a disaster on all sides, that a chastened Silver promised to find a qualified scientist to straighten things out, and rebut his own blog.
And so he has.

Dr. Kerry Emanuel  of MIT, one of the world’s best known hurricane experts, on 538:

..I’m not comfortable with Pielke’s assertion that climate change has played no role in the observed increase in damages from natural hazards; I don’t see how the data he cites support such a confident assertion. To begin with, it’s not necessarily appropriate to normalize damages by gross domestic product (GDP) if the intent is to detect an underlying climate trend. GDP increase does not translate in any obvious way to damage increase; in fact, wealthier countries can better afford to build stronger structures and to protect assets (for example, build seawalls and pass and enforce building regulations).1 A grass hut will be completely destroyed by a hurricane, but a modern steel office building will only be partially damaged; damage does not scale linearly with the value of the asset.

More seriously, a casual inspection of both graphs (normalized and non-normalized damage over time) presented by Pielke leads me to question the statistical significance of either. This is hardly surprising, since 23 years is not a very long time to detect trends in natural hazard damages, whether such trends are caused by demographics or by climate change. A 2012 study2 by London School of Economics researchers Fabian Barthel and Eric Neumayer looked at damage trends normalized by GDP, a measure they used because others are not universally available. For Germany and the United States, with 29 and 36 years of data, respectively, they detected “statistically significant upward trends in normalized insured losses from all non-geophysical disasters as well as from certain specific disaster types,” but for the globe as a whole, with 19 years of data available, they could find no significant trends.

Since the U.S. alone accounted for roughly half the insured losses over this period, the significance of the longer U.S. record and lack thereof in the shorter global record suggests that 20 years may be too short to detect significant trends. The increasing normalized trends in the U.S. were evident in convective storms, winter storms, flooding events and high temperature-related losses, and were almost statistically significant for hurricanes at the conventional 95 percent confidence level.3 In view of data like this, it’s very hard to accept Pielke’s confident assertion that “[n]o matter what President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron say, recent costly disasters are not part of a trend driven by climate change.”

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CBS on IPCC

March 31, 2014

Let me know what you think of this reporting.

From go100percent.org

No secret that Elon Musk is the new Thomas Alva Jobs Einstein.

ipccwg2

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group II report is now out.

BBC:

This is the second of a series from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) due out this year that outlines the causes, effects and solutions to global warming.

This latest Summary for Policymakers document highlights the fact that the amount of scientific evidence on the impacts of warming has almost doubled since the last report in 2007.

In the words of the report, “increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts”.

“Before this we thought we knew this was happening, but now we have overwhelming evidence that it is happening and it is real,” said Dr Saleemul huq, a convening lead author on one of the chapters.

Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, said that, previously, people could have damaged the Earth’s climate out of “ignorance”.

“Now, ignorance is no longer a good excuse,” he said.

The report details significant short-term impacts on natural systems in the next 20 to 30 years. It details five reasons for concern that would likely increase as a result of the warming the world is already committed to.

These include threats to unique systems such as Arctic sea ice and coral reefs, where risks are said to increase to “very high” with a 2C rise in temperatures.

ClimateProgress:

As grim as the Working Group 2 report on impacts is, it explicitly has very little to say about the catastrophic impacts and vulnerability in the business as usual case where the Earth warms 4°C to 5°C [7°F-9°F] — and it has nothing to say about even higher warming, which the latest science suggests we are headed toward.

The report states:
“Relatively few studies have considered impacts on cropping systems for scenarios where global mean temperatures increase by 4°C [7°F] or more.
“… few quantitative estimates [of global annual economic losses] have been completed for additional warming around 3°C [5.4°F] or above.”

D’oh! You may wonder why hundreds of the world leading climate experts spend years and years doing climate science and climate projections, but don’t bother actually looking at the impacts of merely staying on our current carbon pollution emissions path — let alone looking at the plausible worst-case scenario (which is typically the basis for risk-reducing public policy, such as military spending).

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A Carbon Tax that Works

March 30, 2014

Chris Mooney in The Atlantic:

A carbon tax is just what it sounds like: The BC government levies a fee, currently 30 Canadian dollars, for every metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions resulting from the burning of various fuels, including gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and, of course, coal. That amount is then included in the price you pay at the pump—for gasoline, it’s 6.67 cents per liter (about 25 cents per gallon)—or on your home heating bill, or wherever else the tax applies. (Canadian dollars are currently worth about 89 American cents).

If the goal was to reduce global warming pollution, then the BC carbon tax totally works. Since its passage, gasoline use in British Columbia has plummeted, declining seven times as much as might be expected from an equivalent rise in the market price of gas, according to a recent study by two researchers at the University of Ottawa. That’s apparently because the tax hasn’t just had an economic effect: It has also helped change the culture of energy use in BC. “I think it really increased the awareness about climate change and the need for carbon reduction, just because it was a daily, weekly thing that you saw,” says Merran Smith, the head of Clean Energy Canada. “It made climate action real to people.”
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Car company dilemma: For Millenials, you are more likely to get lucky due to your networking ability online than your sweet ride.

FastCoExist:

Auto manufacturers today are scratching their heads, trying to figure out why the millennial generation has little-to-no interest in owning a car. What car makers are failing to see is that this generation’s interests and priorities have been redefined in the last two decades, pushing cars to the side while must-have personal technology products take up the fast lane.

It’s no secret the percentage of new vehicles sold to 18- to 34-year-olds has significantly dropped over the past few years. Many argue this is the result of a weak economy, that the idea of making a large car investment and getting into more debt on top of college loans is too daunting for them. But that’s not the “driving” factor, especially considering that owning a smartphone or other mobile device, with its monthly fees of network access, data plan, insurance, and app services, is almost comparable to the monthly payments required when leasing a Honda Civic.

With recent studies showing a huge decline in auto sales among the millennial marketplace, it’s no wonder auto manufacturers are in a mild state of panic, realizing they’re missing out on a generation that wields $200 billion in purchasing power. Numbers don’t lie, and over the last few years statistics have shown a significant drop in young people who own cars, as well as those with driver’s licenses–and that decline continues among the youngest millennials, meaning this is not a trend that’s going away anytime soon. From 2007 to 2011, the number of cars purchased by people aged 18 to 34, fell almost 30%, and according to a study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, only 44% of teens obtain a driver’s license within the first year of becoming eligible and just half, 54% are licensed before turning 18. This is a major break with the past, considering how most teens of the two previous generations would race to the DMV for their license or permit on the day of their 16th birthday.

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British Medical Journal:

This is an emergency. Immediate and transformative action is needed at every level: individual, local, and national; personal, political, and financial. Countries must set aside differences and work together as a global community for the common good, and in a way that is equitable and sensitive to particular challenges of the poorest countries and most vulnerable communities.

What we all do matters, not least in how it influences others. Those who profess to care for the health of people perhaps have the greatest responsibility to act. And there are signs of action being taken. Within the health system, organisations and health facilities are reducing their carbon footprint. Barts Health NHS Trust has, for example, reduced its energy bill by 43% since 2009. The president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, himself a public health physician, has called for divestment from fossil fuels and investment in green energy.7 We should all respond.

Such action not only limits the threats of climate change, but could offer a health dividend, including potentially large financial savings for health systems. More active forms of transport and the consumption of less red meat will cut death and illness from cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Less air pollution will cut the global burden of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer, and heart disease.3 The IPCC has incorporated this new understanding into its latest report on impacts, and we can expect to see this message flowing into the World Health Organization’s plans for action, to be discussed at its climate conference in August.

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change working group 2, (IPCC WGII) is finalizing its report in Yokohama, to be released March 31. There has been a lot of noise and several purported leaks on what the document will say.  Per IPCC – “The Working Group II contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report considers the vulnerability and exposure of human and natural systems, the observed impacts and future risks of climate change, and the potential for and limits to adaptation. The chapters of the report assess risks and opportunities for societies, economies, and ecosystems around the world.”

Above, useful summary by the increasingly impressive Al Jazeera. (the video also contains other reports, the IPCC stuff is front loaded..)

Guardian:

This will be the second of three reports on the causes, consequences of and solutions to climate change, drawing on researchers from around the world.

The first report, released last September in Stockholm, found humans were the “dominant cause” of climate change, and warned that much of the world’s fossil fuel reserves would have to stay in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change.

This report will, for the first time, look at the effects of climate change as a series of risks – with those risks multiplying as temperatures warm.

The thinking behind the decision was to encourage governments to prepare for the full range of potential consequences under climate change.

Nearly 500 people must sign off on the exact wording of the summary, including the 66 expert authors, 271 officials from 115 countries, and 57 observers.

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I’ve posted on the misleading methods of Dr. Roger Pielke, the GOP congress’ replacement for crank “Lord” Monckton.
Normally I stay away from the “inside baseball” sniping that goes on between scientists and climate denial types, but this is above and beyond.

After a catastrophic debut essay that may have ruined Nate Silver’s new “538” Blog’s credibility right at the start, Pielke has not only been called out by leading climate scientists, he has now been very publicly thrown under a bus by his employer, Mr. Silver, in a Huffington Post interview.
Mr. Silver felt compelled to apologize for the thinly veiled threats (another Monckton touch) that Pielke issued to climate scientists mentioned in a critical blog posting at ClimateProgress.

This comes one day after Silver, in a “Daily Show” interview with Jon Stewart, where Silver was asked about the piece that leading scientists called misleading and inaccurate. Incredibly, Silver admitted that Pielke’s piece provoked so much justified outrage, that the blog would print a rebuttal of their own columnist.
““That’s a piece where we did have a lot of concern from our readers,” Silver admitted. “We don’t pay much attention to what media critics say, but that was a piece where we had, you know, 80 percent of our commentators weigh in negatively, so we’re commissioning a rebuttal for that piece.”

Huffington Post:

NEW YORK — Two prominent climate scientists say Roger Pielke Jr., a controversial writer at Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site, sent emails threatening possible legal action in response to their criticism of his findings for the data-driven news site.

Pielke says it’s “ridiculous” to characterize the emails as threats against Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, and Dr. Kevin Trenberth, a distinguished senior climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. FiveThirtyEight, however, apologized to both men.

“Roger is a freelance contributor and his private communications do not represent FiveThirtyEight,” Silver said in a statement to HuffPost. “We had candid conversations with Michael Mann and Kevin Trenberth. We made clear that Roger’s conversations with them did not reflect FiveThirtyEight’s editorial values.”

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Above, NASA video discussing increased mass loss from Pine Island Glacier, the soft underbelly of the West Antarctic ice sheet.

More evidence that the Antarctic Sheet is waking up.

American Geophysical Union:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Six massive glaciers in West Antarctica are moving faster than they did 40 years ago, causing more ice to discharge into the ocean and global sea level to rise, according to new research.

The amount of ice draining collectively from those half-dozen glaciers increased by 77 percent from 1973 to 2013, scientists report this month in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. Pine Island Glacier, the most active of the studied glaciers, has accelerated by 75 percent in 40 years, according to the paper. Thwaites Glacier, the widest glacier, started to accelerate in 2006, following a decade of stability.

Here, video from December with several scientist’s views on accelerating ice sheets, and what the Earth’s history says about ice.

The study is the first to look at the ice coming off the six most active West Antarctic glaciers over such an extended time period, said Jeremie Mouginot, a glaciologist at University of California-Irvine (UC-Irvine) who co-authored the paper. Almost 10 percent of the world’s sea-level rise per year comes from just these six glaciers, he said.

“What we found was a sustained increase in ice discharge—which has a significant impact on sea level rise,” he said.

The researchers studied the Pine Island, Thwaites, Haynes, Smith, Pope and Kohler glaciers, all of which discharge ice into a vast bay known as the Amundsen Sea Embayment in West Antarctica.

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