Cosmos, climate change, and walking the dog

This Sunday the National Geographic Channel’s excellent Cosmos science series explores climate change (Sunday June 1st at 7-30pm NZ/Aus on Sky channel 72). In the excerpt above, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson explains the difference between climate and weather by talking a chocolate Labrador for a walk on the beach. The series has been attracting big audiences in the US, and the episodes I’ve caught have made compelling watching. It’s a reworking of Carl Sagan’s classic 1980 series, with wonderful graphics and great storytelling by Tyson. Highly recommended. And remember, watch the man, not the dog. (Hat tip to Chris Mooney at Mother Jones).

Carter and de Lange’s GWPF sea level report plagiarises their own Heartland-funded NIPCC propaganda

Analysis of a report on sea level rise — Sea-level Change: Living with uncertainty — published earlier this month by Nigel Lawson’s UK climate lobby group the Global Warming Policy Foundation, and written by NZ scientists Willem de Lange and Bob Carter, shows that it extensively plagiarises last year’s heavily criticised Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) report, funded and published by US lobby group the Heartland Institute. The GWPF report’s conclusions are taken word-for-word from chapter six of the NIPCC report — Observations: The Hydrosphere and Ocean [pdf] — also written by de Lange and Carter. Nowhere in the report do the report’s authors or the GWPF acknowledge the extent to which they rely on the earlier publication. Carter and de Lange fail to credit themselves, Heartland, or the NIPCC beyond a single reference to their chapter in the list of sources appended to the GWPF report.

Here is the first policy recommendation from the GWPF report:

1. Abandonment of ‘let’s stop global sea-level rise’ policies

No justification exists for continuing to base sea-level policy and coastal management regulation upon the outcomes of deterministic or semi-empirical sea-level modelling. Such modelling remains speculative rather than predictive. The practice of using a global rate of sea-level change to manage specific coastal locations worldwide is irrational, and should be abandoned.

This bears a striking resemblance to the first of the “conclusions” offered on p796 of chapter six of the NIPCC report:

Abandon “let’s stop global sea-level rise” policies

No justification exists for continuing to base sea-level policy and coastal management regulation on the outcomes of deterministic or semi-empirical sea-level modeling. Such modeling remains highly speculative. Even if the rate of eustatic sea-level change was known accurately, the practice of using a notional global rate of sea-level change to manage specific coastal locations worldwide is irrational, and it should be abandoned.

The eagle-eyed will notice that words in italics are edited from the GWPF version, but in every other respect the two sections are identical. The final two GWPF conclusions are also drawn verbatim from the NIPCC chapter, as are many other parts of the GWPF report.

Where it draws verbatim on the NIPCC work, the GWPF report is both unoriginal and wrong, and where it can be bothered to be original it is also wrong. In either case it is work of shoddy scholarship that reflects badly on its authors, the institutions with which they are associated, and the GWPF.

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TDB today: Goodbye coastline – we are beyond the point of no return

In which I pull together the strands of the recent bad news from Antarctica and Greenland, and lament the loss of the coastline we all grew up with — no longer a theoretical possibility but a long term certainty. Check out Goodbye coastline – we are beyond the point of no return, this week’s post at The Daily Blog, and start planning for all our watery futures.

Morgan Godfery: No climate refugees please, we’re New Zealanders

Ioana Teitiota, the Kiribati man seeking climate refugee status in order to avoid being deported from New Zealand, has had his case rejected by the Court of Appeal. He and his family will now have to return to the low-lying islands and deal with the worsening impacts of sea level rise. In a powerful Comment Is Free piece for the Guardian, Morgan Godfery looks at the lack of humanity implicit in the court’s ruling:

The decision reveals — in all its misery — the protection deficit in international law. A judicial decision is an uncodified statement of power relations. Never could there be a more unequal power relationship than here: on one side, the I-Kiribati and their sinking home, on the other the rigid machinery of international law. If Lord Diplock is right, then “law is about man’s duty to his neighbour”. That principle should underpin our approach to climate change and forced migration.

He then echoes Naomi Klein’s call for mass action to compel governments to act:

But the law doesn’t encompass all of our moral obligations. It’s clear that the international system isn’t fit for purpose. Let’s look past it to social resistance and political solutions. Science, as Naomi Klein argues, “is telling us to revolt”. Ordinary people need to put pressure on their governments to deal with climate change displacement. The missing link isn’t some new legal rule, but mass action.

As the news about sea level rise gets worse, with bigger rises looking likely to happen sooner than expected, the prospects for the I-Kiribati and many tens of thousands more in the Pacific are becoming ever more gloomy. In that context, New Zealand’s responsibilities to its neighbours is clear. Godfery’s conclusion is compelling:

The social history of the Pacific is one of migration, from the early Austronesian and Polynesian expansions to the recent European settler migration. How can we say no to refugees when we are all migrants ourselves?

Quite so.

PIG and pals pass point of no return – West Antarctic ice melt inevitable

Two new papers published this week suggest that the West Antarctic glaciers draining into the Amundsen Sea — the Pine Island, Thwaites, Haynes, Pope, Smith and Kohler glaciers — are melting rapidly and are now committed to collapse, adding up to 1.2 metres to future sea level rise. In the NASA JPL video above, Eric Rignot, lead author of a paper1 examining how the glaciers’ “grounding lines” — the point where the bottom of the glacial ice leaves the bedrock and starts to float — have retreated very significantly over the last 20 years explains how they are now melting back unstoppably. Another paper modelling ice loss from the Thwaites glacier 2 finds that it is committed to retreat and collapse via the same mechanism. Lead author Ian Joughin of the University of Washington, told Science magazine:

The next stable state for the West Antarctic Ice Sheet might be no ice sheet at all…

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  1. E. Rignot, J. Mouginot, M. Morlighem, H. Seroussi, B. Scheuchl. Widespread, rapid grounding line retreat of Pine Island, Thwaites, Smith and Kohler glaciers, West Antarctica from 1992 to 2011. Geophysical Research Letters, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/2014GL060140 []
  2. Ian Joughin, Benjamin E. Smith, Brooke Medley. Marine Ice Sheet Collapse Potentially Underway for the Thwaites Glacier Basin, West Antarctica, Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1249055. []