The second climate forecast for the next decade has been published [Advancing decadal-scale climate prediction in the North Atlantic sector, Keenlyside et al, Nature, behind a firewall but available here], and the world’s media – and a fair number of blogs – have jumped all over its suggestion that there might be some regional cooling over the next decade. Richard Black at the BBC headlined his piece “Next decade ‘may see no warming'” , the New York Times‘ Andy Revkin settled for “In a New Climate Model, Short-Term Cooling in a Warmer World”, which becomes “Next decade may see no warming” at frogblog and “Global Warming on hold until 2015 claim Germans” at Kiwiblog. So what’s going on? Is global warming really on hold?
How much will sea level rise over this century? “Don’t know” is a good answer. “Not much” is looking like a bad answer that’s getting worse by the month. Last week a group of Northland Conservation Corps workers rode on a hikoi along Ninety Mile Beach to draw attention to the issue:
Tutor Mike Wikitera and his team erected five signs marking predicted sea level rises by 2030. The group, who rode horses to avoid adding to greenhouse gas emissions, erected the first sign at Shipwrecks Bay and placed the last one at Waipapakauri beach on October 30.
But what are the “likely levels” by 2030? The IPCC’s latest report projects between 18cm and 59cm by the end of the century, but only by excluding a very big unknown – how much ice will melt in Greenland and Antarctica. As more evidence of dramatic melt in Greenland arrives, it’s getting increasingly difficult to rule out multi metre rises. The latest number comes from Professor David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey, quoted in the Daily Telegraph [UK]:
Prof Vaughan says the main message is not to panic â€“ the effects of melting will be gradual, in the order of three metres per century if the evidence of the past 20,000 years is anything to go by.
Three metres per century? That’s towards the top end of current speculation. 30cm every ten years, ten times the current rate, compares with 17cm over the last century. Prof Vaughan’s right about panic. It’s not a good option, but extreme concern is certainly justified. For some dramatic pictures of what might happen, check out this Greenpeace report on climate change impacts on Spain, timed to coincide with the IPCC meeting in Valencia to ratify the AR4 synthesis report. To see what 3m might mean for NZ, go here and zoom in on your favourite bit of beachfront property. NIWA’s current advice to local government is to allow for 50cm by 2100. That’s in need of considerable upward revision.
Meanwhile, the impact of sea level rise is not just high tides and wet feet. Salt water intrusion into fresh water coastal aquifers can be bad news for agriculture and drinking water – and the problem may be worse than previously thought, according a new study reported by Science Daily. The BBC covers one of the areas at most risk – Bangladesh – in a new series, documenting a boat journey through the country.
Renewables are the key to New Zealand’s future energy needs, according to the government’s new energy strategy, published today [HTML, PDF]. No new thermal generation should be built over the next ten years, the government is going tell the power generation and distribution state owned enterprises. New generation capacity is expected to come from an expansion of wind and geothermal generation. The energy strategy is complemented by the new energy efficiency and conservation strategy (EECS) [web, PDF], designed to help homes, businesses and transport reduce their energy use.
Announcing the energy strategy, David Parker said (Scoop audio):
The government does not believe it is in the interests of the country for the SOEs to build any more base-load thermal generation. The government will be writing to the SOE generators to make it clear that it expects them to follow this guidance. We are also considering additional measures to ensure our message is loud and clear, for all generators, not just SOEs. Competitive neutrality between the private sector and SOEs is important.
In the transport sector, the government wants to encourage biofuels, greater fuel efficiency, and low-carbon vehicles. It foresees as much as 60% of the light vehicle fleet being electric powered by 2050. The strategy also call for the development of a domestic sea freight strategy, looking to build an integrated rail/sea freight system to reduce reliance on roads. [â€œKey pointsâ€ press release]
In her speech launching the EECS, Jeanette Fitzsimmons said:
â€œThis is an action plan to make a real difference to Kiwi families so that they can live in warmer, drier, healthier homes that cost less to heat; for business to become more competitive; and to save money and emissions in the transport sector. The strategy is set to deliver annual non-transport energy savings of 30 PetaJoules per year by 2025. Thatâ€™s the same as the electricity used by 30 cities the size of Nelson in 2006 or 18 months of coal-fired production from Huntly, at 2006 levels. In transport, cumulative savings by 2025 will be around 4.8 billion litres of fuel.â€
All good stuff, but someone should tell her officials that a PetaJoule is a bit more than 1015 Joules – as defined at the back of the strategy document. That should be 10 to the power of 15, a thousand trillion joules, or 1,000,000,000,000,000 joules. Either that, or Nelson is the most energy efficient town in the known universe. Mike Ward clearly doesn’t need to be mayor…
Reaction so far seems mainly positive. More from me when I’ve had a chance to read the strategy documents in detail.