climate change

Thu, 2014-06-19 17:41Chris Rose
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Lord Stern: We’ve Underestimated Economic Costs of Global Warming

Nicholas Stern

Nicholas Stern, one of the world’s most influential economists, has come out with a new report showing that the future costs of climate change have been incredibly underestimated.

The report, Endogenous growth, convexity of damages and climate risk, indicates it is even more important than previously thought that politicians quickly and aggressively stop unchecked climate change caused by man-made carbon dioxide emissions.

Stern, a professor at the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics, and his co-author Simon Dietz found that the current economic models used to calculate the cost of climate change are vastly inadequate and need to be updated so that proper decisions can be made about risks associated with global warming.

They said that even the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has cited the existing economic models and, as a result, has arrived at severely limited assumptions about the costs of global warming.

It is extremely important to understand the severe limitations of standard economic models, such as those cited in the IPCC report, which have made assumptions that simply do not reflect current knowledge about climate change and its potential impacts on the economy,” Stern, a former chief economist with the World Bank, said in a media release.

Thu, 2014-06-12 07:50Graham Readfearn
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Australian MP George Christensen Heading To Las Vegas For Heartland Institute Climate Denial Conference

AN Australian Federal MP is planning to join some of the world’s noisiest deniers of the science of climate change at a conference in Las Vegas in a few weeks time.

George Christensen, the National Party member for Dawson in the coal-friendly state of Queensland, will be hanging around the Mandelay Bay Resort with a rag-tag bunch of mostly long-retired academics and well paid think-tank associates for the Heartland Institute conference, starting on 7 July.

The Heartland Institute, funded over the years by fossil fuel corporations and conservative philanthropists, is itself one of America’s loudest climate science denial organisations. This will be the organisation’s ninth gathering of climate sceptics, denialists and fossil fuel apologists.

Before its 2012 conference, Heartland took out a billboard advertisement with a picture of terrorist and triple murderer Ted “unabomber” Kaczynski next to the words: “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?”

Just to push the envelope further, the institute issued a press release stating: “Of course, not all global warming alarmists are murderers and tyrants.”

Glad we got that one cleared up.

Christensen has put his own “sceptical” views on climate change on the record in the past.  He is not sure that humans can cause climate change.

In his maiden speech to Australia’s Parliament, Christensen said: “Despite what the political and media elite tell us to think, the truth is the science on climate change is not settled.”

In November 2013, Christensen told Parliament that his doubts about climate change came from “the well-publicised antics” of climate scientists when thousands of private emails were illegally hacked from Britain’s the University of East Anglia and then published. 

Numerous investigations into the so-called “climategate” affair found there had been no scientific misconduct, but this news obviously had not reached Christensen.

Christensen also promoted Heartland's climate change reports which he said were from “real climate scientists” and showed “the science is nowhere near to being settled”.

In Parliament in February, he downplayed a spate of “so-called record heat waves” by saying other parts of the globe had experienced “record cold”. In fact, according to the US National Climate Data Center, January 2014 was the globe’s fourth hottest since records began in 1880 and was the “347th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average”.

I wanted to know more about Christensen’s trip to the Heartland conference and his views on climate change, so I emailed his press officer. Here’s what I asked.

Mon, 2014-06-09 09:54Guest
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Years of Living Dangerously Concludes with Obama Slamming Climate Deniers

This is a guest post by Brandon Baker, originally published on EcoWatch.

You’re not the only one who gets frustrated when John BoehnerMarco Rubio and others in Congress turn a blind eye to devastating, scientific evidence regarding climate change.

In an interview with Thomas L. Friedman scheduled to air tonight as part of the final episode of Years of Living Dangerously, President Barack Obama revealed that he’s really no different than many of us when it comes to climate deniers.

Does he ever just want to “go off” on those who ignore extreme weatherrainforests getting steadily less green and more, Friedman, an author and New York Times columnist, asked. Does he ever feel like asking, “What is wrong with you people?”

Absolutely,” Obama said with a smile. “Look, it’s frustrating when the science is right in front of us.” 

The president went on to challenge the leadership of deniers because they overlook reality.

Sat, 2014-06-07 06:00Chris Rose
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Study Dismisses Geoengineering Quick Fix For Global Warming

Politicians should not look to science and engineering for a relatively quick fix to effectively deal with climate change caused by rising greenhouse gas emissions, a new academic study has determined.

The only solution to global warming is a massive rejection of toxic fossil fuels, vastly improved energy efficiency and substantially altered human behavior, found the recently released study — An interdisciplinary assessment of climate engineering strategies.

In light of their limitations and risks, climate engineering approaches would best serve as a complement to — rather than replacement for — abatement, and the latter should remain a focus of climate-change policy for the foreseeable future,” said the study written by six academics in the U.S. and Canada.

Tue, 2014-06-03 14:39Carol Linnitt
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Obama’s New Climate Plan Leaves Canada in the Dust

In the ongoing battle to win approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, Canada has repeatedly justified its climate inaction by pointing to the fact that it shares similar emission reductions targets to the U.S. In August of last year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper even wrote a letter to President Barack Obama inviting “joint action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector” if such efforts would help green-light the Keystone XL.

But this week’s announcement that Obama will use his executive authority to introduce a nationwide emissions reduction plan that targets more than 1,000 of the country’s most highly polluting power plants might leave Canada squarely in the dust.

Obama’s new plan — already being called the “most ambitious anti-global warming initiative of any U.S. president” — will introduce new standards by 2015 to decrease the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of power plants (responsible for 40 per cent of the country’s carbon pollution) by 30 per cent from their 2005 levels by 2030.

Mon, 2014-06-02 14:00Chris Rose
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Americans More Worried About Global Warming Than Climate Change: Yale Study

Report cover

Scientists, politicians, environmentalists and journalists have long been stymied by the difficult task of engaging people so that they will agree to begin curbing toxic greenhouse gas emissions.

Some people deny — out of fear or vested interests — that there are increased levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, some say if there is a problem it isn’t caused by humans and some just don’t seem to care.

A U.S. study, What’s in a name: Global warming versus climate change (PDF), released last week has found, however, that confusion over language is another reason for a lack of concerted action to deal with what United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says is the greatest threat to humankind.

There is a huge difference in how Americans regard the terms “global warming” and “climate change,” according to a 31-page report by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Centre for Climate Change Communications.

The report states that “global warming” and “climate change” also “activate different sets of beliefs, feelings, and behaviors, as well as different degrees of urgency about the need to respond.”

Fri, 2014-05-30 09:51Graham Readfearn
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Richard Tol's Attack On 97 Percent Climate Change Consensus Study Has 'Critical Errors'

Professor Richard Tol

One of the most consistent of all the attacks from climate science sceptics and deniers is the one which tries to convince the public that expert scientists are divided on the causes of climate change.

Those attacks have come from ideologically motivated think tanks and the fossil fuel industry, often working together. Only last week, the Wall Street Journal published a polemic to try and mislead the public that a consensus does not exist.

In 1998, the American Petroleum Institute was developing a campaign with the explicit aim of convincing the public that “uncertainties” existed in the science of climate change and its causes.

In 2002, Republican pollster Frank Luntz wrote that: “Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly.”

Several studies have surveyed the views of climate science experts or the scientific literature and have come to the same conclusions — the number of studies and the number of scientists who reject the fact that humans are causing climate change remains vanishingly small.

The latest and most high profile study to survey the scientific literature was led by John Cook, of the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute and founder of the Skeptical Science website, and published in the journal Environmental Research Letters in May 2013.

Cook et al analysed close to 12,000 global warming studies from 1991 to 2011 to see how many accepted or rejected the fact that human activities are causing climate change. The researchers also asked scientists themselves to look at their own papers and confirm whether they endorsed the scientific consensus.

The central finding, reported widely and even Tweeted by Barack Obama’s campaign team, was that 97 percent of the scientific papers on climate change found that humans were causing it.

Since that study was published, Professor Richard Tol, an economist from the University of Sussex, has been planning to attack Cook’s paper. 

Wed, 2014-05-28 00:06Guest
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Mounting Global Warming Evidence Underscores the Need to Act

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

Because we enjoy relatively pure air, clean water and healthy food systems, Canadians sometimes take the environment for granted. Many scarcely blink if oil from a pipeline spills into a river, a forest is cleared for tar sands operations or agricultural land is fracked for gas. If Arctic ice melts and part of the Antarctic ice sheet collapses, well… they’re far away.

Some see climate change as a distant threat, if they see it as a threat at all. But the scientific evidence is overwhelming: climate change is here, and unless we curb behaviours that contribute to it, it will get worse, putting our food, air, water and security at risk. A recent White House report confirms the findings of this year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment report, and concludes global warming is a clear and present danger to the U.S.

Climate change is not a distant threat, but is affecting the American people already,” says White House science adviser John Holdren in a video about the report. “Summers are longer and hotter, with longer periods of extended heat. Wildfires start earlier in the spring and continue later into the fall. Rain comes down in heavier downpours. People are experiencing changes in the length and severity of allergies. And climate disruptions to water resources and agriculture have been increasing.”

Recognizing the problem’s severity is a start, but whether the U.S. will actually do anything is another question. Action to curb climate change is constantly stalled — thanks to the powerful fossil fuel industry, political and media denial, extensive fossil fuel-based infrastructure and citizen complacency.

Tue, 2014-05-27 14:26Sharon Kelly
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“All of the Above” or “Action now?”: Obama’s Natural Gas Contradiction

At a talk in Vermont last week, the nation's top energy official offered up his thoughts on a problem the White House has said calls for “urgent action”: climate change.

“We need to mitigate the effects of climate change and need to adapt at the same time,” said Dr. Ernest Moniz, Secretary of Energy, as he described the findings of a White House report issued earlier this month outlining the dangers of global warming and the impacts already felt nationwide.

But Moniz's talk also highlighted a fundamental flaw in the approach that President Obama has taken to energy and the environment.

The president has begun sounding alarm bells about the hazards and costs of worsening climate disruption. At the same time, he has aggressively promoted the nation's ongoing shale gas rush. And yet, experts warn this drilling frenzy may have wiped out most of the gains made by slashing carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal.

It's a paradox that the Washington Post labeled “a jarring juxtapostion” and “the contradiction at the heart of President Obama's climate change policy.” 

Wed, 2014-05-21 09:31Chris Rose
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California Governor Brown Warns of Increasing Drought, Wildfire Costs, Decries Climate Denial

Alarmed by California’s intensifying wildfires and withering drought, Governor Jerry Brown has lashed out at Republicans and other politicians who continue to deny that destructive climate change is already occurring.

In a series of recent comments, Brown also said California is at “the epicenter of climate change” and urged other states and nations to work to halt the rising temperatures that are threatening the future of humankind.

We live in a world that is not just government or not just business, it’s natural, the natural systems. And as we send billions and billions of tons of heat-trapping gases, we get heat and we get fires and we get what we’re seeing,” Brown was quoted as saying on ABC News.

So we’ve got to gear up. We’re going to deal with nature as best we can, but humanity is on a collision course with nature and we’re just going to have to adapt to it in the best way we can.”

Brown added he believes California is taking steps to reduce greenhouse gases in a way that exceeds any other state in the nation.

A Democrat, Brown said it is difficult to create a consensus to act on climate change when Republicans deny global warming exists and that humans are largely responsible for temperature increases in the atmosphere.

That’s a challenge. It is true that there’s virtually no Republican who accepts the science that virtually is unanimous. I mean there is no scientific question. There’s just political denial for various reasons, best known to those people who are in denial.

Whatever the thoughts of the Republicans, we here in California are on the front lines. We’ve got to deal with it. We’ve already appropriated $600 million. We have 5,000 firefighters. We’re going to need thousands more. And in the years to come, we’re going to have to make very expensive investments and adjust. And the people are going to have to be careful of how they live, how they build their homes and what kind of vegetation is allowed to grow around them.”

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