Here, right wing commentator and blowhard Bill O’Reilly concedes the science on climate change – then goes on to explain why we can do nothing about it – because Al Gore.

New York Magazine:

The debate will also reinvigorate a semi-dormant political liability for the Republican Party: a reputation for hostility to science. The first leak to spring open in the Nixon-Reagan-Bush electoral coalition was in 2000, with the defection of college-­educated white voters who recoiled from the party’s deepening social populism. Democrats drew some blood starting in the 2004 election by assailing the Bush administration’s indifference to science. (This was also, perhaps, a polite way of expressing the widespread belief that the incumbent president was not a bright man.)

The run-up to Obama’s climate offensive has revived right-wing anti-scientism, which has grown more virulent in the ­intervening years. The legitimacy of climate science had taken root enough within the Republican Party that John McCain could advocate a cap-and-trade plan during his 2008 campaign. But polls have found that, even as scientists have become more certain of anthropogenic climate change, Republican skepticism has swelled. Even the most respectable conservative intellectuals talk about climate science the way John Birch enthusiasts railed against fluoridated water in the ’50s. Climate scientists further the hoax, George Will solemnly explained on a recent Fox News All-Star panel, because they “want money from the biggest source of direct research in this country, the federal government.” Fellow panelist Charles Krauthammer went further, painting the theory connecting the emission of heat-trapping molecules into the atmosphere with higher levels of heat as baseless faith. “It’s the oldest superstition around,” he observed. “It was in the Old Testament. It’s in the rain dance of the Native Americans.”

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I just got an email inquiry to speak to a faith group – I am sure not coincidental to the recent news from the Antarctic.  The faith community, a sleeping giant on the climate issue, is stirring once again.  A new editorial in the National Catholic Reporter calls it the “number one pro-life issue”.

National Catholic Reporter:

While the church has taken it on the chin for centuries-old condemnations of scientific truths, the reality today is that it stands uniquely in a position to not only aid the science but also to engage in the ethical discussions essential to any consideration of global warming.

If there is a certain wisdom in the pro-life assertion that other rights become meaningless if the right to life is not upheld, then it is reasonable to assert that the right to life has little meaning if the earth is destroyed to the point where life becomes unsustainable.

Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodríguez Maradiaga described the problem during a talk opening the Vatican conference. He described nature as neither separate from nor against humanity, but rather existing with humans. “No sin is more heartless than our blindness to the value of all that surrounds us and our persistence in using it at the wrong time and abusing it at all times.”

Humans, he said, have become technological giants while remaining ethical children.

Humans have been driven to a point of decision by the consequences — good and bad — of two centuries of technological development. In his closing remarks at the Rome meeting, NewYork Times writer Andrew C. Revkin stated, “Scientific knowledge reveals options. Values determine choices.

“That is why the Roman Catholic church — with its global reach, the ethical framework in its social justice teachings and, as with all great religions, the ability to reach hearts as well as minds — can play a valuable role in this consequential century.”

The problem is enormous, but so is the opportunity for the church to use its resources, its access to some of the best experts in its academies and the attention of those in its parochial structures to begin to educate. This is a human life issue of enormous proportions, and one in which the young should be fully engaged. The Climate Assessment document as well as the recent discussion at the Vatican are excellent starting points for developing curricula materials for education programs in parishes and schools.

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Jason Box at Darksnow.org:

A new study, independent of the Dark Snow Project, validates our hypothesis, that black carbon can accelerate Greenland Ice sheet melt.

The study, in Proceedings to the National Academy of Sciences (Keegan et al. 2014) finds that black carbon from wildfires facilitated widespread Greenland ice sheet surface melting in just two years since the end of the 19th century: 1889 and 2012. They argue convincingly that not just warm temperatures, but the positive feedback with black carbon and surface solar heating can push the surface energy balance into net heating and ice melt. Further, the likelihood for future increases in air temperature and wildfire boosts the probability of high altitude former “dry snow area” surface melting by end of century to every few years, if not even more frequently, they conclude.

Dark Snow Project

The Dark Snow Project’s first goal was sampling of the 2012 summer melt layer to answer if and by how much black carbon from wildfire and industrial sources played an important role in the widespread 2012 July surface melting of the Greenland ice sheet.

After a successful crowd funding campaign, on 8 July, 2013 at the southern Greenland ice sheet topographic divide, we extracted several snow/ice cores through the 2012 melt layer as part of ‘lean and mean’ helicopter mission. Frozen samples were then transported to the Snow Optic Laboratory at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory where McKenzie Skiles, present at the coring, painstakingly measured the black carbon concentrations.

at_saddle11

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With the news that sea level tipping points have been crossed, understanding Greenland’s dynamics become more important than ever to predict near term melting.

PBS picks up on the Dark Snow/Black carbon story.

PBS Nova:

During the summer of 2012, fires exploded across the drought-stricken Colorado Front Range—a heavily populated area where the Great Plains meets the Rockies. One evening in early June, lightning struck a tree in the foothills west of Fort Collins. It ignited a fire that burned quietly for a few days and then rocketed downslope, fueled by a windstorm and bone-dry trees, dead from a mountain pine beetle infestation, and engulfed 30 square miles of forest in a single day.

“This is the fire we always worried we might have,” Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith had said at a news conference that night. The High Park fire grew to 136 square miles—four times the size of Manhattan. It was, at the time, the second-largest fire recorded in Colorado history.

Jason Box, a glaciologist who grew up in Colorado, watched the disaster play out on television in the departure area at LaGuardia Airport in New York. “People were glued to the screens,” he says. Box, then a professor at the Ohio State University who now works for the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, was waiting for a flight that would take him to Greenland for the 2012 field season to study the dynamics and melting of the Greenland ice sheet. He suddenly had a thought: Could soot from the wildfires melt Greenland’s ice sheet?

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National Journal:

…the media is increasingly asking GOP candidates about their views on climate change.

At a Thursday night debate in South Dakota, for instance, Republicans running for the Senate were asked to weigh in on climate change. Earlier this week, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida caused a tremendous stir when he announced he doesn’t believe human activity makes a major contribution to the earth’s warming climate. (Rubio later told The Miami Herald’s Marc Caputo, “I think all science deserves skepticism.”)

Before that, Democratic Rep. Gary Peters, who is running for the Senate in Michigan, called on his Republican rival Terri Lynn Land to state for the record whether she believes the science behind man-made climate change. He even announced to The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent that he intends to make climate change a key issue in the race.

Other GOP candidates who have been questioned lately on climate include Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, who’s running for a Colorado Senate seat, rising Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst, and all four Republican candidates in the North Carolina Senate race. An editorial published Tuesday in the Concord Monitor called on Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire to keep pushing the GOP on climate. And a Thursday editorialin Kentucky’s The Courier-Journal criticized Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul’s climate-change denial. Read the rest of this entry »

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rignot

Eric Rignot gives some more background on last week’s “holy shit moment” – his new paper on accelerated melt of the Antarctic ice sheet  – and adds some new holy shit moments in the process.

Guardian:

Last Monday, we hosted a Nasa conference on the state of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which, it could be said, provoked something of a reaction. “This Is What a Holy Shit Moment for Global Warming Looks Like,” ran a headline in Mother Jones magazine.

We announced that we had collected enough observations to conclude that the retreat of ice in the Amundsen sea sector of West Antarctica was unstoppable, with major consequences – it will mean that sea levels will rise one metre worldwide. What’s more, its disappearance will likely trigger the collapse of the rest of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which comes with a sea level rise of between three and five metres. Such an event will displace millions of people worldwide.

Two centuries – if that is what it takes – may seem like a long time, but there is no red button to stop this process. Reversing the climate system to what it was in the 1970s seems unlikely; we can barely get a grip on emissions that have tripled since the Kyoto protocol, which was designed to hit reduction targets. Slowing down climate warming remains a good idea, however – the Antarctic system will at least take longer to get to this point.

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greenland_meltvalleys2014rignot-2

Illustration showing newly revealed topography of subsealevel glacial channels in Greenland, from the new Nature Geoscience paper by Morlighem, Rignot et al Note below sea level “bowl” in the interior.

Eric Rignot and his team strike again. This time Greenland.  More vulnerable to melt, more sea level rise likely.  Yadda Yadda.

Nature Geoscience:

The bed topography beneath the Greenland ice sheet controls the flow of ice and its discharge into the ocean. Outlet glaciers move through a set of narrow valleys whose detailed geometry is poorly known, especially along the southern coasts. As a result, the contribution of the Greenland ice sheet and its glaciers to sea-level change in the coming century is uncertain. Here, we combine sparse ice-thickness data derived from airborne radar soundings with satellite- derived high-resolution ice motion data through a mass conservation optimization scheme . We infer ice thickness and bed topography along the entire periphery of the Greenland ice sheet at an unprecedented level of spatial detail and precision. We detect widespread ice-covered valleys that extend significantly deeper below sea level and farther inland than previously thought. Our findings imply that the outlet glaciers of Greenland, and the ice sheet as a whole, are probably more vulnerable to ocean thermal forcing and peripheral thinning than inferred previously from existing numerical ice-sheet models. 

Basic issue – Greenland is essentially a ring of mountains surrounding a bowl of ice.  Where fingers of the sea can reach in beneath the ice and get to the soft underbelly, glacial outflow can proceed really quickly. New paper indicates there’s a lot more fingers than we thought, and longer.
This possibility was discussed in my video last year by the ever-prescient Dr.Mike MacCracken.

Phys.Org:

Greenland’s icy reaches are far more vulnerable to warm ocean waters from climate change than had been thought, according to new research by UC Irvine and NASA glaciologists. The work, published today in Nature Geoscience, shows previously uncharted deep valleys stretching for dozens of miles under the Greenland Ice Sheet.

The bedrock canyons sit well below sea level, meaning that as subtropical Atlantic waters hit the fronts of hundreds of glaciers, those edges will erode much further than had been assumed and release far greater amounts of water.

Ice melt from the subcontinent has already accelerated as warmer marine currents have migrated north, but older models predicted that once higher ground was reached in a few years, the ocean-induced melting would halt. Greenland’s frozen mass would stop shrinking, and its effect on higher sea waters would be curtailed.

“That turns out to be incorrect. The glaciers of Greenland are likely to retreat faster and farther inland than anticipated – and for much longer – according to this very different topography we’ve discovered beneath the ice,” said lead author Mathieu Morlighem, a UCI associate project scientist. “This has major implications, because the glacier melt will contribute much more to rising seas around the globe.”

To obtain the results, Morlighem developed a breakthrough method that for the first time offers a comprehensive view of Greenland’s entire periphery. It’s nearly impossible to accurately survey at ground level the subcontinent’s rugged, rocky subsurface, which descends as much as 3 miles beneath the thick ice cap.

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Washington Monthly:

Close followers of the climate change battle have been watching carefully for one major event that might serve as a bigger catalyst than other to mobilize legislative action. But that event has nothing to do with weather or natural disasters. It’s about money. Specifically, the big money behind the insurance industry.

You see, in the same way that net neutrality advocates benefit from having the support of companies like Google and Netflix, climate change advocates have been waiting for their own unlikely corporate allies in the insurance industry.

The reason is obvious in retrospect: rising sea levels and more frequent natural disasters will either make many areas uninsurable, or insurance companies will go bankrupt trying to insure them (and the same goes for insurance backed by the federal government.) Insurance companies have an existential need to get ahead of the curve on the climate question. It has just been a matter of when the battle would be joined.

That time is finally here, and that’s a very big deal.

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Christian Science Monitor:

Researchers looking for better ways to convert waste heat into electricity have stumbled across a simple material that is smashing records for making that conversion efficiently.

This new material – a semiconductor made by blending tin and selenium – promises to convert heat to energy more efficiently than current technologies and with relatively accessible, inexpensive elements.

More than 90 percent of the energy produced to generate electricity, propel vehicles, or dry bricks requires a heat source, researchers say. Yet only 30 to 40 percent of the heat produced actually does the work. Most of the heat is wasted.

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