Articles from 2008–2011
2011 Dec 14. COP17: U.S and Canadian Youth Demand Generational Justice. By Martha Shaw. Posted on Corporate Social Responsibility Newswire. Excerpt: Claiming that she was speaking on behalf of her country, [Abigail] Borah said that the negotiators themselves “cannot speak on behalf of the United States of America” because “the obstructionist Congress has shackled a just agreement and delayed ambition for far too long.”
Borah was ejected after completing her speech to voracious rounds of applause from the entire plenary of global leaders.
…Her actions, however aggressive, reflect the growing feeling of injustice among educated American youth who feel that their leaders have turned a blind eye to the facts at the expense of their own future on this planet. Afraid that each step of inaction will force them to suffer the worsening climate challenges that previous generations have been unable or unwilling to address, they are resorting to disruption.
…They also hold the U.S. responsible for foul play and claim that a few outspoken and misdirected Congress members, who continue to successfully hijack negotiations, are blocking progress. This has put off urgent pollution reduction targets until the year 2020, jeopardizing billions.
2011 October. Communicating the science of climate change. By Richard C. J. Somerville and Susan Joy Hassol. Physics Today / Volume 64 / Issue 10.
Excerpt: …Climate researchers know that the case for human-induced climate change has become stronger, more compelling, and increasingly urgent with each passing year. Yet in some countries, notably the US, the proportion of the public and policymakers who reject the science has grown. … as of May 2011, only 64% of Americans think the world is warming (down from a high of 71% percent in November 2008). And only 47% of all respondents believe that global warming, if it exists, is caused mostly by human activity.
…If wise climate policy is to be informed by the best and most up-to-date climate science, scientists have a critical role to play in communicating their findings to the wider world. But scientists are used to communicating with their peers in a certain format, beginning with background information, moving to supporting details, and finally coming to their results and conclusions.
…Scientists often fail to put new findings into context. … it’s… important to repeat what is scientifically well understood to a public for whom the well-established older findings may still be mysterious. Another common mistake made by scientists is leading with what they do not know instead of what they do know. …they are often asked if a particular heat wave, heavy downpour, drought, wildfire, or flood was caused by climate change. Instead of repeating the common mantra that “we cannot blame any particular event on climate change,” they should explain the connections: … a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, so any given storm system can produce more rain. Scientists have …measured an increase in the amount of rain falling in the heaviest downpours, a change that climate models have long projected.
…When climate scientists say that warming is “inevitable,” it can give the impression that nothing can be done. … they should be careful to make clear that society faces choices. Although it is true that some additional warming cannot be avoided, the amount of future warming is still largely in our hands. Lower emissions of greenhouse gases will lead to less warming and less severe impacts…. [See also: http://climatecommunication.org/news/physics-today-article/]
2011 August 18. Communicating climate change risks in a skeptical world. (PDF file) By John D. Sterman. Abstract excerpt: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been extraordinarily successful in the task of knowledge synthesis and risk assessment. However, the strong scientific consensus on the detection, attribution, and risks of climate change stands in stark contrast to widespread confusion, complacency and denial among policymakers and the public. Risk communication is now a major bottleneck preventing science from playing an appropriate role in climate policy. …Where the consequences of our actions spill out across space and time, our mental models have narrow boundaries and focus on the short term. [From journal: Climatic Change (2011) 108:811–826 DOI 10.1007/s10584-011-0189-3.]
2011 Sept 7. Climate Communication website–a Quicktime recording of a September 7 press teleconference on extreme weather and climate change–very informative.
2011 July. Talk by Scott Denning, an atmospheric scientist at CSU, to attendees at the Heartland Institute’s climate change conference. 16 minutes.
2011 July 11. Drought Spreads Pain From Florida to Arizona. By Kim Severson and Kirk Johnson, The NY Times. From a meteorological standpoint, the answer is fairly simple. “A strong La Niña shut off the southern pipeline of moisture,” said David Miskus, who monitors drought for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration…
…But this time, things are different in the drought belt. With states and towns short on cash and unemployment still high, the stress on the land and the people who rely on it for a living is being amplified by political and economic forces, state and local officials say. As a result, this drought is likely to have the cultural impact of the great 1930s drought, which hammered an already weakened nation….
[Editor’s note: There is no mention of climate change in this article, but a relevant question would be “Is drought in southern US consistent with global warming climate change models?”]
2011 July 7. Climate change and disaster in Montana. By Naomi Klein, The Los Angeles Times .< Excerpt: …Everyone agrees that the two disasters — the flooding of the Yellowstone River and the oil spill in the riverbed — are connected….
…So the flooding may have caused the pipeline spill. But here is the really uncomfortable question: Did the pipeline cause the flooding? Not this one particular pipeline, of course, but all the pipelines, and all the coal trains, and all the refineries and the power plants they supply? Was the flooding that has made the oil spill so much worse caused by the burning of oil and other fossil fuels? Put bluntly, do these dual disasters have the same root?
This is an unanswerable question, since no one weather event can be traced to climate change. Still, in Montana, it’s hard to deny that global warming is happening. The state is home to Glacier National Park, which had 150 large glaciers in 1850 and now has just 25, according to the U.S. Geological Survey….
2011 Summer. The Signs Are Everywhere . By Nancy Cole, Union of Concerned Scientists. Excerpt: Global warming is already affecting locales all over the world. A new UCS website illustrates the need to combat climate change by putting Earth’s threatened places and ecosystems on the map….
…UCS and six other organizations launched the original Climate Hot Map in 1999; now we have completely redesigned the site to take advantage of the wealth of climate data—and useful online tools—available today. The Hot Map aims to:
- Share the widespread and compelling evidence demonstrating that global warming is affecting our physical and biological world
- Emphasize the fact that climate change is a problem with consequences the world over
- Motivate visitors to do something about the problem once they see how places they know and love are at risk of irreversible change…
[Visit the UCS Climate Hot Map at http://www.climatehotmap.org/]
2010 Sep 10. Polluter-Funded Evolution & Climate Exhibit at the Smithsonian. National Wildlife Federation. Joseph Romm, a physicist who runs the Web site ClimateProgress.org, is infuriated by the Smithsonian’s presentation. “The whole exhibit whitewashes the modern climate issue,” he said. “I think the Kochs wanted to be seen as some sort of high-minded company, associated with the greatest natural-history and science museum in the country. But the truth is, the exhibit is underwritten by big-time polluters, who are underground funders of action to stop efforts to deal with this threat to humanity. I think the Smithsonian should have drawn the line.”
Cristián Samper, the museum’s director, said that the exhibit is not about climate change, and described Koch as “one of the best donors we’ve had, in my tenure here, because he’s very interested in the content, but completely hands off.” He noted, ‘I don’t know all the details of his involvement in other issues.’…”
2010 July 15. Bad science: Global-warming deniers are a liability to the conservative cause. By Jonathan Kay, National Post. Excerpt: Have you heard about the “growing number” of eminent scientists who reject the theory that man-made greenhouse gases are increasing the earth’s temperature? It’s one of those factoids that, for years, has been casually dropped into the opening paragraphs of conservative manifestos against climate-change treaties and legislation.
…Fine-sounding rhetoric–but all of it nonsense. In a new article published in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, a group of scholars from Stanford University, the University of Toronto and elsewhere provide a statistical breakdown of the opinions of the world’s most prominent climate experts. Their conclusion: The group that is skeptical of the evidence of man-made global warming “comprises only 2% of the top 50 climate researchers as ranked by expertise (number of climate publications), 3% of researchers in the top 100, and 2.5% of the top 200, excluding researchers present in both groups …”
…Too many of us treat science as subjective — something we customize to reduce cognitive dissonance between what we think and how we live.
…The appropriate intellectual response to that challenge — finding a way to balance human consumption with responsible environmental stewardship — is complicated and difficult. It will require developing new technologies, balancing carbon-abatement programs against other (more cost-effective) life-saving projects such as disease-prevention, and — yes — possibly increasing the economic cost of carbon-fuel usage through some form of direct or indirect taxation. It is one of the most important debates of our time. Yet many conservatives have made themselves irrelevant in it by simply cupping their hands over their ears and screaming out imprecations against Al Gore.
2010 June 8. The Climate Majority. By Jon A. Krosnick, The NY Times. Excerpt: Stanford, CA — …National surveys released during the last eight months have been interpreted as showing that fewer and fewer Americans believe that climate change is real, human-caused and threatening to people. But a closer look at these polls and a new survey by my Political Psychology Research Group show just the opposite: huge majorities of Americans still believe the earth has been gradually warming as the result of human activity and want the government to institute regulations to stop it.
…When respondents were asked if they thought that the earth’s temperature probably had been heating up over the last 100 years, 74 percent answered affirmatively. And 75 percent of respondents said that human behavior was substantially responsible for any warming that has occurred.
…Fully 86 percent of our respondents said they wanted the federal government to limit the amount of air pollution that businesses emit, and 76 percent favored government limiting business’s emissions of greenhouse gases in particular. Our findings might seem implausible in light of recent polls that purport to show that Americans are increasingly skeptical about the very existence of climate change.
…But the most publicized question from a 2009 Pew Research Center poll: “From what you’ve read and heard, is there solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades, or not?” This question measured perceptions of scientific evidence that the respondent has read or heard about, not the respondents’ personal opinions about whether the earth has been warming.
…88 percent of the climate change issue public in our survey believed that global warming has been happening; 88 percent attributed responsibility for it to human action; 92 percent wanted the federal government to limit the amount of greenhouse gases that businesses can emit. Put simply, the people whose votes are most powerfully shaped by this issue are sending a nearly unanimous signal to their elected representatives.
2010 May 6. Leading scientists condemn ‘political assaults’ on climate researchers. By Celia Cole, The Guardian. Excerpt: A group of 255 of the world’s top scientists today wrote an open letter aimed at restoring public faith in the integrity of climate science.
In a strongly worded condemnation of the recent escalation of political assaults on climatologists, the letter, published in the US Journal Science and signed by 11 Nobel laureates, attacks critics driven by “special interests or dogma” and “McCarthy-like” threats against researchers. It also attempts to set the record straight on the process of rigorous scientific research.
The letter is a response to negative publicity following the release of thousands of hacked emails from climate scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and two mistakes makes by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN climate body.
The letter sets out some basic features of the scientific method. “Like all human beings, scientists make mistakes, but the scientific process is designed to find and correct them. But when some conclusions have been thoroughly and deeply tested, questioned, and examined, they gain the status of ‘well-established theories’ and are often spoken of as ‘facts’,” it says….
2010 March 29. Among Weathercasters, Doubt on Warming. By Leslie Kaufman, NY Times. Excerpt: …Climatologists, who study weather patterns over time, almost universally endorse the view that the earth is warming and that humans have contributed to climate change. There is less of a consensus among meteorologists, who predict short-term weather patterns.
Joe Bastardi, for example, a senior forecaster and meteorologist with AccuWeather, maintains that it is more likely that the planet is cooling, and he distrusts the data put forward by climate scientists as evidence for rising global temperatures.
…Such skepticism appears to be widespread among TV forecasters, about half of whom have a degree in meteorology. A study released on Monday by researchers at George Mason University and the University of Texas at Austin found that only about half of the 571 television weathercasters surveyed believed that global warming was occurring and fewer than a third believed that climate change was “caused mostly by human activities.”
More than a quarter of the weathercasters in the survey agreed with the statement “Global warming is a scam,” the researchers found.
…A study released this year by researchers at Yale and George Mason found that 56 percent of Americans trusted weathercasters to tell them about global warming far more than they trusted other news media or public figures like former Vice President Al Gore or Sarah Palin, the former vice-presidential candidate….
2010 Feb 10. Climate-Change Debate Is Heating Up in Deep Freeze. By John M. Broder, NY Times. Excerpt: WASHINGTON — As millions of people along the East Coast hole up in their snowbound homes, the two sides in the climate-change debate are seizing on the mounting drifts to bolster their arguments.
Skeptics of global warming are using the record-setting snows to mock those who warn of dangerous human-driven climate change — this looks more like global cooling, they taunt.
Most climate scientists respond that the ferocious storms are consistent with forecasts that a heating planet will produce more frequent and more intense weather events.
But some independent climate experts say the blizzards in the Northeast no more prove that the planet is cooling than the lack of snow in Vancouver or the downpours in Southern California prove that it is warming….
2009 Dec 9. Science and Politics of Climate Change. New York Times. Interactive Feature. From Joseph Fourier to James Hansen, NOAA to I.P.C.C., and Kyoto to Copenhagen, a look at the history of climate study and diplomacy in the modern age of global warming.
2009 November 3. Religion’s Role in the Climate Challenge. By Andrew C. Revkin, The NY Times. Excerpt: A remarkable conclave of leading figures from nine of the world’s major religions is under way at Windsor Castle in Britain, under the auspices of Prince Philip and the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon. Called “Many Heavens, One Earth,” the meeting is intended to generate commitments for actions by religious organizations, congregants and countries that could reduce emissions of greenhouse gases or otherwise limit the human impact on the environment.
…Olav Kjorven, an assistant secretary general at the United Nations involved with the meeting, spent the last year visiting religious orders around the world to see what faiths could bring to the climate table. The answer, Mr. Kjorven told me, is a lot, and not simply in prayer.
Religions, he explained, run more than half the world’s schools, so tweaking a curriculum to include more on the environment can have a big impact. Their vast financial holdings provide leverage and capital for investments with environmental or social benefits. At the conference, which ends on Wednesday, many faiths will be announcing long-term plans to make more of an impact in an arena that has not tended to be a top priority….
2009 August 10. The Earth Is Warming? Adjust the Thermostat. By John Tierney, The NY Times. Excerpt: …geoengineering…used to be dismissed as science fiction fantasies: cooling the planet with sun-blocking particles or shades; tinkering with clouds to make them more reflective; removing vast quantities of carbon from the atmosphere.
Today this approach goes by the slightly less grandiose name of climate engineering, and it is looking more practical. Several recent reviews of these ideas conclude that cooling the planet would be technically feasible and economically affordable.
…The National Academy of Sciences and Britain’s Royal Society are preparing reports on climate engineering, and the Obama administration has promised to consider it. But so far there has been virtually no government support for research and development — certainly nothing like the tens of billions of dollars allotted to green energy and other programs whose effects on the climate would not be felt for decades.
For perhaps $100 million, climate engineers could begin field tests within five years, says Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science. Dr. Caldeira is a member of a climate-engineering study group that met last year at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics under the leadership of Steven E. Koonin, who has since become the under secretary for science at the United States Department of Energy. The group has just issued a report, published by the Novim research organization, analyzing the use of aerosol particles to reflect shortwave solar radiation back into space.
These particles could be lofted into the stratosphere to reproduce the effects of sulfate aerosols from volcanic eruptions like that of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, which was followed by a global cooling of nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit. Just as occurred after that eruption, the effects would wane as the particles fell back to Earth. Keeping the planet cooled steadily (at least until carbon emissions declined) might cost $30 billion per year if the particles were fired from military artillery, or $8 billion annually if delivered by aircraft, according to the Novim report….
2009 August 8. Climate Change Seen as Threat to U.S. Security. By John M. Broder, The NY Times. Excerpt: WASHINGTON — The changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics, military and intelligence analysts say.
Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.
Recent war games and intelligence studies conclude that over the next 20 to 30 years, vulnerable regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia, will face the prospect of food shortages, water crises and catastrophic flooding driven by climate change that could demand an American humanitarian relief or military response.
An exercise last December at the National Defense University, an educational institute that is overseen by the military, explored the potential impact of a destructive flood in Bangladesh that sent hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming into neighboring India, touching off religious conflict, the spread of contagious diseases and vast damage to infrastructure. “It gets real complicated real quickly,” said Amanda J. Dory, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, who is working with a Pentagon group assigned to incorporate climate change into national security strategy planning….
If the United States does not lead the world in reducing fossil-fuel consumption and thus emissions of global warming gases, proponents of this view say, a series of global environmental, social, political and possibly military crises loom that the nation will urgently have to address….
2009 July. Atomic Tracers. By Kathleen M. Wong, ScienceMatters@Berkeley. Just as crime scene investigators use blood, mud and other environmental clues to find their suspects, Berkeley professor Donald DePaolo uses isotopes to reveal the history of rocks, water and even the atmosphere….
2009 June 15. A Climate (Communication) Crisis? By Andrew C. Nevkin, The NY Times. Excerpt: As debates over national and global climate and energy policy continue to drag out, there’s been an intensifying exploration of climate miscommunication among those seeking concrete actions that will make a noticeable difference in the atmosphere someday. If the science pointing to a rising risk of dangerous human interference with climate is settled, the thinking goes, then why aren’t people and the world’s nations galvanized? Maybe it’s a language problem?…
…Randy Olson, a marine scientist turned filmmaker and now author, said…his overall reaction was that the commentators focusing on changing how the climate issue is “framed” were far too detached from the public to have a meaningful idea of how to make an impact. (Dr. Olson’s forthcoming book, “Don’t Be Such a Scientist,” aims to help scientists communicate more effectively with the rest of society.)
Below I’ve pasted what Dr. Olson said he would have written if asked whether there is a better word, in the climate context, for doom….
Everyone associated with environmental communication needs to read The Cluetrain Mainfesto of 1999 and take it to heart. The environmental struggle is one big exercise in persuasion. What the Cluetrain folks pointed out is that humans respond to human voices. You can “frame” all you want, but if the communication is coming from robots, the only ones who will respond will be the robots….The bottom line is it only takes a few seconds for people to listen to a voice and decide whether they trust it or not. If that voice is devoid of human qualities, and worse if there is a clear sense that the voice is speaking with “messages” that have been “framed” and “focus grouped,” it just ain’t gonna work for the masses. And double that for the younger masses.
…You can come up with all the clever terms you want, but if they are spoken by environmental leaders who are perceived as cold, calculating, and manipulative, the broader audience will simply disconnect. Not because of the language, but because of their basic instincts leading them to not trust the voice they are hearing….
2009 January 19. More-Reflective Crops May Have Cooling Effect. By Henry Fountain, The New York Times. Excerpt: Some of the most imaginative solutions to the problem of global climate change involve planetary-scale geoengineering projects to reduce the sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface. But proposals like building a huge sunshade in space or seeding the atmosphere with sulfate particles would cost enormous sums and require a degree of international cooperation that is difficult to achieve.
Andy Ridgwell and colleagues at the University of Bristol in England have another idea, one they call bio-geoengineering. Rather than developing infrastructure to help cool the planet, they propose using an existing one: agriculture.
Their calculations, published in Current Biology, suggest that by planting crop varieties that reflect more sunlight, summertime cooling of about 2 degrees Fahrenheit could be obtained across central North America and a wide band of Europe and Asia.
…Plants reflect slightly different amounts of light depending on factors like how waxy the leaves are. Even differences in growth patterns between two varieties of a crop — the way leaves are arranged — can affect reflectivity.
Existing varieties could be used, Dr. Ridgwell said, or crops could be bred or genetically engineered for greater reflectivity (without affecting yields, nutritional values or other important characteristics)….
But it wouldn’t cost much, and it wouldn’t require much international cooperation. “It’s very practical, and it could just be done,” he said. “It’s not some trillion-dollar pie-in-the-sky idea.”
2008 October 30. Antarctica hit by climate change. By Daniel Cressey, Nature News. Excerpt: In its landmark Fourth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) declared in 2007 that human influence on climate “has been detected in every continent except Antarctica”. Now a paper in Nature Geoscience says that our impact can be found even in the last wilderness.
…”The scarcity of observations in the Antarctic makes it harder to identify and attribute temperature trends, but it does not make it impossible,” says climatologist Nathan Gillett of Environment Canada, lead author of the new study.
Previous work has seen Antarctica temperature records ranging from 1900 to the present day collated into one data set. Gillett and his colleagues compared changes detailed in that data set with temperature changes simulated in four different climate models, running the models both with and without human influence factors.
Changes actually observed did not fit with the models when only natural climate changes and variability were present. They were only explainable when human influence on the climate was taken into account.
…”Warming in both polar regions has many potential impacts – for example on ice-sheet melting, sea level and on polar ecosystems,” says Gillett, who conducted the research while working at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK….
2008 August 30. Swimmer aims to kayak to N Pole. BBC News. Excerpt: Long-distance swimmer Lewis Pugh plans to kayak 1200km (745 miles) to the North Pole to raise awareness of how global warming has melted the ice sheet….
Lewis Pugh has spent his life swimming long distances…. Now, after months of tuition from Hungarian kayaking champion Robert Hegedus, Mr Pugh wants to become the first man to paddle to the North Pole.
“Nobody has ever attempted to kayak to the pole before. In fact, it would have been impossible last year because it was frozen over,” he said.
This year, for the first time, scientists predict that the North Pole could briefly be ice free and that has inspired Mr Pugh to try to find a way through.
On Saturday he is due to set off on the 1200km (745 mile) expedition from Norway to the North Pole – a journey expected to take between two and three weeks. A support ship will follow the kayak to provide Mr Pugh with food and respite from the brutal conditions.
…Until now, Lewis Pugh has been famous for completing long distance swims in all of the world’s oceans. In 2006 the former lawyer swam the length of the River Thames and then in 2007 he swam 1km (0.6 miles) at the North Pole.
On both occasions Mr Pugh said he wanted to raise awareness of global warming and its affect on the polar regions….
2008 June 6. $45 trillion needed to combat warming. By Joeseph Coleman, Associated Press. Excerpt: TOKYO – The world needs to invest $45 trillion in energy in coming decades, build some 1,400 nuclear power plants and vastly expand wind power in order to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to an energy study released Friday.
“Meeting this target of 50 percent cut in emissions represents a formidable challenge, and we would require immediate policy action and technological transition on an unprecedented scale,” IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka said.
Environment ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized countries and Russia backed the 50 percent target in a meeting in Japan last month and called for it to be officially endorsed at the G-8 summit in July.
The study said that an average of 35 coal-powered plants and 20 gas-powered power plants would have to be fitted with carbon capture and storage equipment each year between 2010 and 2050.
In addition, the world would have to construct 32 new nuclear power plants each year, and wind-power turbines would have to be increased by 17,000 units annually. Nations would have to achieve an eight-fold reduction in carbon intensity — the amount of carbon needed to produce a unit of energy — in the transport sector.
Such action would drastically reduce oil demand to 27 percent of 2005 demand. Failure to act would lead to a doubling of energy demand and a 130 percent increase in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, IEA officials said.
“This development is clearly not sustainable,” said Dolf Gielen, an IEA energy analyst and leader for the project.
Gielen said most of the $45 trillion forecast investment — about $27 trillion — would be borne by developing countries, which will be responsible for two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050…
2008 May 15. NASA SATELLITE FINDS INTERIOR OF MARS IS COLDER. NASA RELEASE: 08-128. Excerpt: WASHINGTON — New observations from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter indicate that the crust and upper mantle of Mars are stiffer and colder than previously thought. The findings suggest any liquid water that might exist below the planet’s surface and any possible organisms living in that water, would be located deeper than scientists had suspected. [and here’s the climate part…] …The radar pictures also reveal four zones of finely spaced layers of ice and dust separated by thick layers of nearly pure ice. Scientists think this pattern of thick ice-free layers represents cycles of climate change on Mars on a time scale of roughly one million years. Such climate changes are caused by variations in the tilt of the planet’s rotational axis and in the eccentricity of its orbit around the sun. The observations support the idea that the north polar ice cap is geologically active and relatively young, at about 4 million years.
2008 April 29. Court Forces Government to Move on Polar Bear Status. By ANDREW C. REVKIN, NY Times. Excerpt: …a Federal Court ruling today … forces the Bush administration to decide by mid-May whether polar bears deserve protection under the Endangered Species Act because of Arctic impacts from the warming climate. …Dana Perino, the White House press secretary, …[said] in a briefing preceding Mr. Bush’s latest speech on climate, the result was a looming “regulatory train wreck. …This would have the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act all addressing climate change in a way that is not the way that they were intended to”
…the administration… is pushing for new oil and gas drilling in polar bear habitat while biologists for Interior Department, prodded by legal action, recommended the bear be given threatened status under the species act because of the warming of the Arctic and summer retreat of sea ice.
“Today’s decision is a huge victory for the polar bear,” said Kassie Siegel, climate program director at the Center for Biological Diversity and lead author of the 2005 petition, filed by various environmental groups….
According to …the Natural Resources Defense Council, which joined in the suit, the court rejected a request by the Interior Department for more time, saying: “Defendants offer no specific facts that would justify the existing delay, much less further delay. To allow Defendants more time would violate the mandated listing deadlines under the ESA and congressional intent that time is of the essence in listing threatened species.”
…The Bush administration has argued in various courts, including the Supreme Court, that such efforts will fail because, among other things, the “remedy” for limiting global warming must be applied globally, not just in the United States.
2008 April 12. Hurricane Expert Reassesses Link to Warming. By ANDREW C. REVKIN. The NY Times. Excerpt: A fresh study by a leading hurricane researcher has raised new questions about how hurricane strength and frequency might, or might not, be influenced by global warming. Eric Berger of the Houston Chronicle nicely summarized the research on Friday… That work was supported by some subsequent studies, but refuted by others. Despite the uncertainty in the science, hurricanes quickly became a potent icon in environmental campaigns, as well as in “An Inconvenient Truth,” the popular climate documentary featuring former Vice President Al Gore. The message was that global warming was no longer a looming issue and was exacting a deadly toll now.
The new study, in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, is hardly definitive in its own right, essentially raising more questions than it resolves. But it definitely rolls back Dr. Emanuel’s sense of confidence about a recent role for global warming. (The abstract is here. A pdf is downloadable on Dr. Emanuel’s ftp page.)
On his SciGuy blog, Eric discusses some of the ramifications of Dr. Emanuel’s new storm study… They are solid points that hold lessons for advocates on both sides of the charged debate over climate science and its implications for society. There are lessons here for journalists, too. Science is a trajectory toward understanding, not a set of truths. Sometimes that can be inconvenient, whether writing a headline or advocating for a climate bill.
But somehow society has to learn how to be comfortable with this aspect of the scientific enterprise, while not fuzzing out because things aren’t crystal clear. As Stephen Schneider, a veteran climatologist at Stanford, recently mused, the question is, “Can democracy survive complexity?” It’s clear that Dr. Emanuel’s admonition about the need for a lot more work applies beyond the realm of science, as well.
2008 March 25. Link to Global Warming in Frogs’ Disappearance Is Challenged. By ANDREW C. REVKIN, NY Times. Excerpt: The amphibians, of the genus Atelopus – actually toads despite their common name – once hopped in great numbers along stream banks on misty slopes from the Andes to Costa Rica. After 20 years of die-offs, they are listed as critically endangered by conservation groups and are mainly seen in zoos.
It looked as if one research team was a winner in 2006 when global warming was identified as the “trigger” in the extinctions by the authors of a much-citedpaper in Nature…
The “bullet,” the researchers said, appeared to be a chytrid fungus that has attacked amphibian populations in many parts of the world but thrives best in particular climate conditions. The authors, led by J. Alan Pounds of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in Costa Rica, said, “Here we show that a recent mass extinction associated with pathogen outbreaks is tied to global warming.” The study was featured in reports last year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Other researchers have been questioning that connection. Last year, two short responses in Nature questioned facets of the 2006 paper…. Now, in the March 25 issue of PLoS Biology, another team argues that the die-offs of harlequins and some other amphibians reflect the spread and repeated introductions of the chytrid fungus. They question the analysis linking the disappearances to climate change. In interviews and e-mail exchanges, Dr. Pounds and the lead author of the new paper, Karen R. Lips of Southern Illinois University, disputed each other’s analysis….
Ross A. Alford, a tropical biologist at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, said such scientific tussles, while important, could be a distraction, particularly when considering the uncertain risks attending global warming. “Arguing about whether we can or cannot already see the effects,” he said, “is like sitting in a house soaked in gasoline, having just dropped a lit match, and arguing about whether we can actually see the flames yet, while waiting to see if maybe it might go out on its own.”
2008 Mar 18. Melting Pace of Glaciers Is Accelerating, Report Says By ANDREW C. REVKIN Excerpt: Most of the world’s mountain glaciers, many of which feed major rivers and water supplies, are shrinking at an accelerating pace as the climate warms, according to a new report… issued Monday by the World Glacier Monitoring Service, which is based at the University of Zurich and supported by the United Nations Environment Program. …The study included data from 30 glaciers spread around nine mountainous regions.
…The big danger ahead, several glacier experts said, is that the loss of glaciers would take away a summertime source of river water, drinking water and hydroelectric power in populous, relatively poor places like South Asia and the cities along the western slope of the Andes.
“Millions of people depend on the runoff from mountain snow and ice in the warm seasons,” said Peter Gleick, who has studied water and climate for two decades and is the president of the Pacific Institute, a private research group in Oakland, Calif. “Climate change is going to make that runoff disappear.”