The IPCC has released a very snazzy video that summarizes the fifth assessment report.
The IPCC has released a very snazzy video that summarizes the fifth assessment report.
Real Climate gives the recent methane news some proper context. The bottom line is that since methane is a short lived GHG it would take a very sudden and very massive release of methane for it to have a large effect on the climate. And that is unlikely.
Methane is a short-lived gas in the atmosphere, so to make it rise, the emission flux has to continually increase. This is in contrast to CO2, which accumulates in the atmosphere / ocean system, meaning that steady (non-rising) emissions still lead to a rising atmospheric concentration…
The Siberian Arctic, and the Americans, each emit a few percent of global emissions. Significant, but not bombs, more like large firecrackers.
Read the whole thing for an abundance of detail.
Vancouver has banned the classic round door knob for new buildings because it has accessibility issues. Door levers are easier to open especially if your hands are full or if you have mobility issues. The debate surrounding this idea has been fierce, but off the mark.
The real issue issue is that round door knobs are a critical safety issue that protects us against a very serious threat: Velociraptors.
To help drive home the point climate change hasn’t stopped, or paused, but has continued unabated the friendly robots over at Skeptical Science have created this widget showing just how quickly the earth is accumulating energy.
Developed nations promised in 2009 to increase their aid to poorer countries to help them cope with climate change to $100 billion a year after 2020, from $10 billion a year in 2010-12. But in Warsaw they rejected calls to set targets for 2013-19.
A draft text merely urged developed nations to set “increasing levels” of aid, to be reviewed every two years.
LOSS AND DAMAGE
The talks agreed a new “Warsaw International Mechanism” to provide expertise, and possibly aid, to help developing nations cope with losses from extreme events related to climate change. The exact form of the mechanism will be reviewed in 2016.
PATH TO A 2015 DEAL
Countries agreed to announce plans for curbs on greenhouse gases beyond 2020 “well in advance” of a summit in Paris in December 2015 and “by the first quarter of 2015 for those in a position to do so”.
It called the submissions “intended nationally determined contributions” – the word “intended” hinting they are open to change. Many developed nations had wanted the word “commitments”.
The conference did not outline new targets for more near-term action to reduce emissions. Japan announced during the conference it had scaled back its 2020 target, aiming now for a 3.1-percent increase from 1990, compared to its previous promise of a 25-percent cut.
Talks on how to set up new market-based mechanisms to curb emissions failed because developing nations refused to advance the process unless rich countries take on tougher emissions targets. Talks will resume in the first half of next year.
Details were finalised on how countries’ emissions reductions will be monitored, reported and verified.
CLEAN DEVELOPMENT MECHANISM (CDM)
The conference agreed on a measure that could boost demand for the ailing mechanism, encouraging countries without legally binding emissions targets to use carbon credits called Certified Emission Reductions (CERs).
A proposal to implement a floor price for CERs was removed from a technical paper while a wider review of the CDM by a technical board was pushed to talks in Bonn in March 2014.
The conference agreed a multi-billion dollar framework to tackle deforestation. The fledgling Green Climate Fund will play a key role in channelling finance for projects to halt deforestation to host governments, who in turn must set up national agencies to oversee the money.
Between November 9–11, 2013, a large iceberg finally separated from the calving front of Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier. Scientists first detected a rift in the glacier in October 2011 during flights for NASA’s Operation IceBridge.By July 2013, infrared and radar images indicated that the crack had cut completely across the ice shelf to the southwestern edge. New images now show that Iceberg B-31 is finally moving away from the coast, with open water between the iceberg and the edge of Pine Island Glacier.
The Operational Land Imager on the Landsat 8 satellite acquired these natural-color images of the iceberg in Pine Island Bay on November 13 (top) and October 28, 2013. Clouds and fog make the November 13 image a bit hazy, but the open-water gap between the iceberg and the ice shelf is still apparent. Click here for a wider view of the iceberg from November 10, just after the separation.
Named B-31 by the U.S. National Ice Center, the new iceberg is estimated to be 35 kilometers by 20 kilometers (21 by 12 miles), roughly the size of Singapore. A team of scientists from Sheffield and Southampton universities will track the 700 square-kilometer chunk of ice and try to predict its path using satellite data.
“It is hard to predict with certainty where and when these things will drift,” said NASA glaciologist Kelly Brunt.“Icebergs move pretty slowly, and watching this iceberg will be a waiting game.”
The shelf of Pine Island Glacier has been moving forward at roughly 4 kilometers per year, so the calving of this iceberg is not necessarily a surprise, noted Tom Wagner, NASA’s cryosphere program manager. Such events happen about every five or six years, though Iceberg B-31 is about 50 percent larger than previous ones in this area. Scientists have been studying Pine Island Glacier closely because there is evidence that warmer seawater below the shelf will cause the ice grounding line to retreat and the glacier to thin and speed up.
If Pine Island Bay clears of ice by the annual sea ice minimum in February–March, then Iceberg B-31 could move out into the Southern Ocean. (Click here for a wider view of Antarctica and the sea ice blocking the path.) Once it leaves the bay, the iceberg is likely to get caught up in the flow of the “coastal counter current”—which flows counterclockwise around Antarctica—or the “circumpolar current,” which is larger, wider, and flows clockwise.
Which way it goes depends on the vertical shape and depth of the iceberg, according to NASA scientist emeritusRobert Bindschadler. “Where it is going depends on the deeper currents into which its keel extends,” he said. Researchers have found that larger icebergs with deeper keels tend to drift with the deeper, cyclonic circumpolar current, while sea ice and smaller bergs with shallower keels tend to drift with the coastal counter current.
“If you ever throw a stick into a mountain stream, you would see an erratic flow as it spins, accelerates, and decelerates,” Bindschadler said. “I imagine a similarly variable current field working on the iceberg’s keel. This iceberg is like a very, very big stick.”
But before any of that drifting occurs, Iceberg B-31 has to get out of Pine Island Bay. “It takes a bit of energy and time to move these guys into the Southern Ocean,” Brunt added. “Many icebergs in Pine Island Bay have persisted for years before exiting, so this could be a long waiting game.”
NASA Earth Observatory images by Holli Riebeek, using Landsat 8 data from the USGS Earth Explorer. Caption by Michael Carlowicz.
Instrument: Landsat 8 – OLI
A summary of the IPCC report in 4 minutes
The climate crisis of the 21st century has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age, new research suggests.
Fossil fuel produces deserve a lot of blame for for the current state of the debate on climate change. Many of them distorted the debate by funding the spread of misinformation and outright falsehoods. We, rightly, should be very angry at them for this. But when they dig up and sell fossil fuels they are only doing what we pay them to do. If it weren’t for us wanting things like electricity and the ability to move quickly from point a to point b, fossil fuel producers would have happily left all that carbon in the ground.
Ultimately we must shoulder much of the blame.
UPDATE: The Onion brings the satire:
WASHINGTON—In a landmark report experts say fundamentally reshapes our understanding of the global warming crisis, new data published this week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found that the phenomenon is caused primarily by the actions of 7 billion key individuals.
These several billion individuals, who IPCC officials confirmed are currently operating in 195 countries worldwide, are together responsible for what experts called the “lion’s share” of the devastating consequences of global warming affecting the entire planet.
“We’re actually looking at a situation where a select group of individuals—7,125,985,886 of them, to be exact—are singlehandedly responsible for global warming and are refusing to do anything about it,” author and activist Dan Cregmann told reporters, noting that these culprits have a horrible track record of following recommended environmental guidelines and disclosing their total energy consumption. “Many of these offenders have of course pledged goals for fighting climate change and going green in their daily operations, but statistics show these proclamations have been largely ineffective and halfhearted at best.”
This video taken at 6am on Friday 8 November as Typhoon Hayian hit Hernani in Eastern Samar shows how quickly and intensely the storm surge hit.
Michael Mann echoing Keven Trenberth’s position that all weather now has a climate change component since it is occurring in an altered atmosphere (one with more GHGs, heat and water vapour amongst many other factors).
But herein lies the crux—we no longer live in a world without warming. Given that 1985 was the last year with temperatures below the 20th century average, and 2000-2010 was the hottest decade on record, it has become impossible to say for certain that any given storm is free from the influence of our warmed world.
While contrarians may dislike it when activists or actors like George Clooney point out the linkage between climate change and extreme weather, the bottom line is this: climate change makes tropical storms more damaging. Not only through increased wind speed and rainfall, but most notably through rising sea levels. This means greater damage and loss of property and life.
I think the last paragraph is the most important and where the focus should be. One can make credible arguments and dive deep into technical arguments arguing whether or not Haiyan was caused or intensified by climate change. These arguments may be scientifically important but they send a message to the public that scientists are still debating and that therefore us lay people can’t drawn any conclusions or lessons from Haiyan. Though obviously we can. As Mann says “climate change makes tropical storms more damaging. Not only through increased wind speed and rainfall, but most notably through rising sea levels. This means greater damage and loss of property and life.“. This is true whether or nor Haiyan was caused by climate change. And this is where I think the focus should to be.
The vast majority of Americans in each of 40-plus states surveyed say global warming is real, serious and man-made, and the concerns tend to be slightly higher in coastal or drought-stricken areas, says an analysis out today.
At least 75% of U.S. adults say global warming has been happening, but the Stanford University research found that 84% or more took that view in states recently hit by drought — Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas — or vulnerable to sea-level rise: Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island.
Despite intense debate in Congress on global warming, the research found broad public agreement on the issue and its remedies. Most say past warming has been caused largely by human activities — ranging from a low of 65% in Utah to a high of 92% in Rhode Island. Most also back government curbs on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants — from 62% in Utah to 90% in New Hampshire.
Canada has dropped any remaining pretences of supporting global action on climate change by urging other countries to follow Australia’s example in gutting its climate plan.
In a formal statement, the Canadian government said it “applauds” the move by Australia this week to repeal a carbon tax on the country’s 300 biggest polluters.
“Canada applauds the decision by prime minister Abbott to introduce legislation to repeal Australia’s carbon tax. The Australian prime minister’s decision will be noticed around the world and sends an important message,” the formal statement from Paul Calandra, parliamentary secretary to Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, said.
It is inevitable. After every extreme weather event the question: “Was it caused by climate change?” is never far behind. Not only that, but often the question is asked with the implication that there is a desire for a simple yes or no answer. But reality is more complex than this and requires a more detailed answer.
So what can we say about Typhoon Haiyan? First Haiyan was the strongest tropical cyclone on record to make land fall with sustained winds of 315 km/h (195mph) and gusts up to 378 km/h (235mph). This was no ordinary Typhoon; wind speeds that high are more commonly associated with tornadoes, not massive storms that are hundreds of miles wide. Having been in a F3 Tornado 13 years ago with wind gusts up to 300 km/h (186mph), I have some idea of what devastation such wind speeds can cause. Of course during the tornado, the damage was contained to a small swath, the winds were only blowing for a short period of time further limiting the damage, and most importantly there was no storm surge.
People in the Philippines facing Typhoon Haiyan were not so lucky. The winds lasted for hours, the swath of devastation was enormous and the storm brought with it a massively destructive storm surge that was over 5 meters high in places. The storm surge came like a tsunami and left devastation that is beyond words.
But what about climate change? How did it affect the storm?
Well, we know for a fact that Hurricanes feed off warm ocean temperatures. We also know for a fact that our GHG emissions have resulted in large amounts of heat being stored in the ocean. We also know that while the ocean surface wasn’t anomalously warm (it was still about 30°C which is fairly normal for that part of the planet) , the water up to at least 100 meters bellow the surface was 4 – 5°C (7 – 9°F) warmer than average. This means that Haiyan had warm water extending at least 100 meters deep to use as fuel; this was a major factor that increased the intensity of the hurricane.
And there is good evidence that the strongest storms are getting stronger in response to the warming oceans thanks to, amongst other things a paper published in Nature in 2008 titled The increasing intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones which is nicely summarized by Phil Plait:
They found that in the strongest cyclones, the maximum wind speeds have risen by about 29 kilometers per hour (18 mph) over the period of 1981 – 2006, a substantial amount. They found this was true of cyclones that occur nearly all over the world, and they found that this trend of increasing maximum wind speed is correlated with surface sea temperatures. They also found that an increase of 1° C in surface sea temperatures corresponds to an increase in the number of strong cyclones by as much as 30 percent per year. Note that it doesn’t increase the total number of cyclones; it only makes the strongest ones stronger.
Kevin Trenberth and Jeff Masters also gave an excellent overview for PBS News Hour
All of this makes it pretty clear that climate change at least played a factor in increasing Haiyan’s intensity. Well, maybe. The phrase, oft-repeated after extreme weather events “no single weather event can be attributed to climate change” applies to Haiyan as it does to any extreme weather. Large storms and abnormally warm patches of ocean can happen even without anthropogenic climate change.
But ultimately this isn’t a helpful way to look at the situation. It doesn’t matter if typhoon Haiyan was caused or intensified by climate change. There is very good evidence to support the conclusion that continued unmitigated climate change will lead to more intense tropical cyclones, and there is even some evidence (see the Nature paper above) that on average cyclones are already getting stronger and more devastating.
This is what matters.
So perhaps Haiyan was intensified by our continued GHG emissions, or perhaps it wasn’t and the storm and destruction would have happened anyway, but one thing is clear: every year we continue emitting GHG into the atmosphere we increase the odds of creating extreme weather like Haiyan.
Importantly the devastation in the Philippines poses a very important question that often gets overlooked.
How do you adapt to storms like Haiyan? There are many things that can and should be done to minimize the damage and loss of life, but neither loss of life or damage to property and infrastructure can be eliminated. As Jim Prall mentioned on Twitter “This is an impact you ‘adapt’ to with body bags.”. Unfortunately this is the best we can do; this is the reality of adaptation.
So given that we know that our current emissions path will lead to more, and has likely already caused a fair amount of, destructive extreme weather, and given the fact that Haiyan clearly demonstrates that adaptation is not going to be enough, we need to actively work towards changing direction and reducing drastically, then altogether eliminating, our GHG emissions. World leaders are currently meeting in Warsaw, Poland to continue the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process and negotiate towards a global agreement to reduce emissions. Past negotiations haven’t lead to a comprehensive agreement to reduce our emissions, rather they have agreed in principle that emissions should be reduced at some point in the future and then kicked the can to the following year’s meeting. This has, depressingly, happened at every UNFCCC meeting since at least the Copenhagen meeting 5 years ago in 2009. Real progress has been non-existent.
Perhaps the devastation caused by Haiyan and the emotional plea by the Philippines’ Delegate Yeb Sano can spurn world leaders to finally go beyond agreeing in principle and start tackling the problem and making real progress towards a solution. The can has been kicked far enough.