In the debate over climate change one of the most misunderstood and misused terms is sensitivity. Climate sensitivity is usually defined as the change in global mean surface temperature following a doubling of atmospheric CO2 once equilibrium is reached. The concept seems simple but there is a catch: the definition of 'equilibrium', which depends on the timescale employed. As it turns out, the timescales that nature uses—which can encompass thousands and even millions of years—cannot be compared with the century long timescale used in climate models. A recent online article, published by Nature Geoscience, states that accurate prediction of Earth's future warming hinges on our understanding of climate sensitivity. Moreover, only by studying climate change in the past, the paleoclimate, identifying all the factors involved and how they interacted can our understanding of climate sensitivity be improved.
Recently, a US Federal Court ruled that placing polar bears on the endangered species list in 2008 was justified because it was based on the science available at the time and thus met the letter of the law. Yet the Polar Bear Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has issued a report indicating that there was no change in the overall global polar bear population in the most recent four-year period. Nonetheless, a Federal Judge ruled that, even though the EPA's action was based on bad science, the misclasification was justified. As Dickens' put it in Oliver Twist: “If the law supposes that, the law is a ass — a idiot.”
Much fanfare was associated with the reappearance of sunspots earlier this year, marking the beginning of a new period of high solar activity. Now come a number of reports saying the Sun is most likely headed for a prolonged period of low activity, possibly rivaling the Maunder minimum. Three independent studies of the Sun's dynamics all predict that the next solar cycle will be significantly delayed and might even be skipped. The Maunder minimum is associated with a prolonged period of climate cooling known as the Little Ice Age. Whether Earth's climate is headed for a significant cooling trend has become a matter of heated debate, while at the same time NASA is warning that a quite Sun can also be a deadly Sun. In the 1850s, following a period of low sunspot activity, the largest coronal ejection event ever witnessed caused havoc with telegraphs and ship's compasses around the world. Such an ejection today could cause widespread power outages and failure of electronic equipment. Will our star turn both quiet and deadly?
After decades of trying to argue the case for catastrophic human caused climate change, aka global warming, based on its scientific merits, AGW proponents are now shifting their focus to a more abstract argument. Instead of trying to establish a causal relationship between human CO2 emissions and the planet's modest warming trend, the new tactic is to re-brand global warming as a moral dilemma. Because the perceived problem is global in scope and the science so tentative, the result of the debate so far has been distributed blame and inequitable impact on the world's poor. According to a new book, this leads to a kind of moral corruption where we let ourselves be persuaded by weak or deceptive arguments, with disastrous consequences for our ability to act on climate change. Can not acting in response to wild speculation based on incomplete science be immoral? Can actions based on a lie be moral?
Recent announcements about failing green companies have mostly flown under the major media radar. After all, when President Obama hops in Air Force One for a quick trip to a green business to make a speech about his administration's nonexistent energy policy that's worth covering—when that green business shutters its doors (after absconding with millions in tax credits) that's embarrassing, to green cheerleaders and the liberal media in general. Sadly, failure to revive the economy not withstanding, many actually believe that, if only we could provide more billions in subsidies, good green jobs would spring up like weeds. The reality is that green business cannot exists without government largess and that green economy we have heard so much about was stillborn—killed in its government funded womb by economic reality.
The glaciers of Alaska and northwestern Canada are a major contributor of fresh water to the world's oceans. They have long been considered important contributors to global sea level, but their remoteness has complicated efforts to measure changes in ice mass. As described in a new perspective article, published in the May 27 issue of Science, satellite measurements of Earth's gravitational field and improved on-site measurements have been used to generate global maps of water-mass variation, confirming the large role Alaska glaciers play in global sea-level regulation. Climate change advocates would claim that global warming will melt Alaska's glaciers, flooding low lying countries, but determining the rate at which the glaciers are melting is not a simple thing. Far from solving the puzzle, the new observations are revealing unexpected complexities in the magnitude and rate at which Alaska glaciers respond to climate.
That old stodgy, conservative English newspaper, The Economist, has been veering into the weeds recently with its stand on global warming and the environment. With the May 28 – June 3 issue it has left the road entirely and plunged into the eco-activist, climate change alarmist swamp. The cover of the US edition is emblazoned with the words “Welcome to the Anthropocene,” the same title used on this blog a year and a half ago. Too bad they didn't read the Resilient Earth article, it might have prevented them making such a hash of their own report. Moreover, dredging up discredited tripe from more than a decade ago and plastering it on your cover like it's news is the height of lazy journalism—that or climate alarmist propaganda.
Recently, the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium decided to hold a trial, charging humanity with ruining the planet. Based on the so called 9 Planetary Boundaries, a jury of 20 Nobel Laureates sat in judgment while “compelling evidence” was presented showing that “humanity may now be capable of radically altering the remarkable conditions for life on Earth.” The Planetary Boundaries approach was developed by 28 scientists, who estimated that three of the boundaries, climate change, the nitrogen cycle and biodiversity loss, have already been crossed and that several others are all ready in dangerous territory. We have all been charged with transgressing boundaries laid down by a group of scientists most people have never heard of, judged and found guilty by a gaggle of Nobel Prize winners, and been remanded to the UN for punishment. This sham trial does not represent justice but an attempt to place humanity in ecological bondage.
Despite warnings to the contrary, and waning public support, the all purpose boogieman climate change is once again getting credit for the recent spate of natural disasters in the US. Whether its flooding on the Mississippi, rain soaked fields too wet to plant, or rampaging tornadoes laying waste to whole towns the villain behind our misfortune is anthropogenic global warming. Reports from the scenes of devastation are sure to include at least one reference to climate change, which is of course caused by people. In essence, the yammering news media—who always needs a culprit to blame when disaster befalls a group of innocents—has placed the blame squarely back on humanity. That's right, we are responsible for the tragic deaths of hundreds of people caused by storm, flood and tornadoes. The chattering class once again demonstrates that they have bought the IPCC climate change scam: hook, line and sinker. They would rather mindlessly repeat the discredited memes of climate alarmists than think critically themselves.
The ineffective and mostly ignored Kyoto agreement is due to expire in 2012. Climate change activists around the world are girding their loins in preparation for the battle over Kyoto 2, the follow on treaty. Their goal? New regulations for black carbon, methane and driving anthropogenic CO2 emissions to zero. Leaving no bad idea unused, there is talk of implementing a global cap & trade system where developed nations that are able to reduce emissions beyond their Kyoto targets can sell excess reduction credit to other developed nations through the Emissions Trading mechanism. Beyond that, rather than negotiating CO2 emission reduction targets on a nation-by-nation basis—as in the current Kyoto framework—a future level of maximum allowable global temperature increase can be chosen. It is clear that the warmists have made the transition from irrational to delusional.
According to a new report from the American Physical Society, Direct Air Capture (DAC) of CO2 using chemicals is not a viable solution for removing greenhouse gases from Earth's atmosphere. DAC involves a system in which ambient air flows over a chemical sorbent that selectively removes the CO2. It is one of a small number of strategies that advocates say could allow the reduction of atmospheric CO2. Prepared for the APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA), a collection of scientific experts, the report claims to be a technology assessment containing no policy or funding recommendations. Unfortunately for its advocates, the APS report finds the approach untenable for technical reasons.
Many people have been pushing natural gas as the fuel of the future. Less polluting than oil or coal, the only thing holding gas back has been supply, causing a scramble for new gas fields using the latest drilling techniques. The conclusion of a new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is that drilling for natural gas in shale formations, using the process known as fracking, has seriously contaminated shallow groundwater supplies beneath Pennsylvania. Duke University scientists sampled well water across 175 kilometers of far northeast Pennsylvania centered on the town of Dimock, made famous by the film Gasland. The analysis does not indicate how pervasive such contamination might be.
Methane is an important greenhouse gas, 30 times more potent than CO2, but our knowledge of the methane cycle is woefully inadequate. Sediments on the ocean's floor contain immense quantities of methane and there are enormous fluxes of methane into and out of these sediments. Trapped frozen in ice, there are some 10,000 gigatons of carbon stored under the sea—twice as much carbon as contained in conventional fossil fuel reserves. Some scientists consider the release of this methane the single worst environmental danger we face as a species. A massive release of ocean floor methane could cause real runaway global warming that would have dramatic impact on life. But methane continually leaks from seabeds around the world, contributing to the total amount of carbon injected into the ecosystem. A new report finds that ocean methane concentrations have been underestimated by a factor of 10 to 20 fold.
International negotiators at a recent UN climate conference held in Bangkok repeated the demand that global warming this century be limited to no more than 2˚C. But while those attending the UN boondoggle stuck to the climate alarmist party line, results from a newly published Canadian government climate study concluded that “it is unlikely that warming can be limited to the 2˚C target.” The modeling based paper found that reaching the stated IPCC goal would require that greenhouse emissions “ramp down to zero immediately,” which means shutting down the global economy and banning the automobile. Moreover, starting in 2050 scientists would need to actively remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, requiring a rush to implement controversial and possibly dangerous geoengineering programs. Why does the global warming lobby continue demanding the impossible? Perhaps it is because global warming isn't about climate change at all.
It is well known that water, H2O, is the single most important greenhouse gas. But water also plays a central role in determining the delicate balance of energy and mass that regulates the temperature of Earth. A wide range of predictions have been made regarding water in a warming climate, ranging from catastrophic droughts to increased monsoon rains and tropical storms. Conventional wisdom states that a warmer world is a wetter world. In a newly published paper in the journal Science, two researchers examine the Eocene (∼56 to 34 million years ago), looking for clues to the tropical climate–water relationship. Annual global temperatures during the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum (EECO) around 50 million years ago were as much as 12°C higher than modern values. The new results provide compelling evidence that the tropical engine of the water cycle was more active than predicted by current climate models.