Coming soon: RSNZ reports on NZ climate impacts and mitigation options

Expert panels to deliver up-to-date overview of climate risks and mitigation options

Last year the Royal Society of NZ set up two panels to look at what our current understanding of climate change means for New Zealand, and the findings are due to be published over the next two weeks. The first report, Climate Change Implications for New Zealand, will be released on Tuesday, April 19th. It was put together by a team led by VUW’s Prof Jim Renwick, with a brief to:

“prepare a succinct summary of existing New Zealand information around the risks associated with recent and projected trends in greenhouse gas emissions, and the likely consequences for New Zealand in future decades and centuries.”

The second report, Climate Change Mitigation Options for New Zealand, was prepared by a panel led by Prof Ralph Sims, and will be published on April 27th.

The Implications report will be launched at the RSNZ in Wellington at 11 am on Tuesday (free admission, register here), and the Mitigation report will be launched at the same venue in Wellington on the 27th (register here), and in Auckland on the 29th (register here). The RSNZ has also arranged a series of talks by international experts Prof Jean Palutikof (Co-chair of IPCC 5th Assessment Report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability) and Prof Jim Skea, co-Chair of IPCC Working Group 3, on to accompany the reports. Details here.

I’ll have more on what the reports have to say after their release, but they promise to provide a very useful overview of what we’re confronting, and how we might move forward to address the problem. At the very least they should offer a concise framework for policy-makers and politicians to work with.

Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: Hansen on his magnum opus

Why ice sheets may melt faster than expected, and what that could mean for our near future

In this video Jim Hansen provides a “video abstract” of his latest — and longest — paper, Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 °C global warming could be dangerous, published this week after a lengthy period in review. He, and his stellar list of co-authors, have also provided an “abbrievated” version of the paper, which I strongly recommend you read.

My abstract is a bit shorter: fresh water from melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica is beginning to change the way that heat moves around in the global ocean, setting up feedbacks that will melt the ice faster. This in turn will lead to much more rapid sea level rise than suggested in the recent IPCC report, and much bigger temperature contrasts between warm and cold oceans in the North Atlantic and around West Antarctica — which will drive the mid-latitude superstorms of the paper’s title.

Not a pretty prospect. And if you think it’s unlikely, consider this. There are already “cold blobs” in the North Atlantic and off West Antarctica, Atlantic storms are becoming much more vigorous , and there are hints of an acceleration in the rate of sea level rise.

Hansen has been right before. I hope, for all our sakes, that this time he’s not.

February’s global temperature spike is a wake-up call

This is the largest warm anomaly of any month since records began in 1880.

This article, by Steve Sherwood, of UNSW Australia and Stefan Rahmstorf, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, currently working in Australia, first appeared at The Conversation.

Global temperatures for February showed a disturbing and unprecedented upward spike. It was 1.35℃ warmer than the average February during the usual baseline period of 1951-1980, according to NASA data.

This is the largest warm anomaly of any month since records began in 1880. It far exceeds the records set in 2014 and again in 2015 (the first year when the 1℃ mark was breached).

In the same month, Arctic sea ice cover reached its lowest February value ever recorded. And last year carbon dioxide concentration in our atmosphere increased by more than 3 parts per million, another record.

What is going on? Are we facing a climate emergency?
Continue reading “February’s global temperature spike is a wake-up call”

Fixing the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme is just flogging the dead horse

How fast shall we drive over the cliffSimon Johnson looks at ‘fix the ETS’ metaphors and argues that trying to incrementally ‘save’ or ‘fix’ the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme will ensure it remains ineffective in reducing domestic emissions for decades. Politically, its just flogging the dead horse. We don’t have time for a unending institutionalised cultural conflict over ‘fixing the NZETS’ like the one we have had for ‘fixing’ the Resource Management Act.

In my last post I used the metaphor or framing of ‘arguing over the gears while accelerating towards a cliff’ for the latest review of the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme.

Other commentators are using a very different framing for the review; that of ‘fixing the NZETS’. For me that raises some fundamental questions. What are the political advantages and disadvantages of the two framings? Where will each framing lead us? Which framing is more ‘science-informed’?

Continue reading “Fixing the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme is just flogging the dead horse”

Too hot (and here comes the surge)

GISS20152015 was the hottest year since records began in all of the major global temperature datasets, and by a huge margin. The world is now more than 1ºC warmer than pre-industrial temperatures — pushed there by rapidly rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and helped a little by the current very strong El Niño. And because El Niño’s major impacts on global temperatures happen as an event declines, we can expect 2016 to be even warmer.

Carbon Brief has an excellent analysis of the new record here. See also NASA and NOAA’s joint announcement, the NASA press release, and Hansen et al’s overview (pdf). Here’s the latter on the outlook for the rest of the decade:

We can also say with confidence, because of Earth’s energy imbalance (energy absorbed from sunlight exceeding heat radiated to space), that the present decade will be warmer than last decade. Already the first half of the present decade is almost 0.1°C warmer than last decade. Strong La Niñas commonly follow strong El Niños, so it is likely that 2017 and perhaps 2018 will be quite cool relative to 2015-2016, but the decade as a whole should be considerably warmer than the prior decade.

Kevin Trenberth provides an interesting overview at The Conversation, detailing some of the weather extremes delivered by the current El Niño, and notes:

What we have seen this past year will likely be routine in about 15 years, although regionally the details will vary considerably. Indeed, we have had a glimpse of the future under global warming.

You wouldn’t want to bet against it continuing… Continue reading “Too hot (and here comes the surge)”