Swell maps, and other stories

GoogleBAS.jpg Time for another round up of climate-related news. Hot on the web today (for cartophiles, at least) is that Google Earth has gained a swag of new climate change related information, the result of collaboration between Google, the UK Government, the Met Office Hadley Centre and the British Antarctic Survey. The Climate Change in Our World project, launched at the Google Zeitgeist conference by UK PM Gordon Brown offers two new layers based on Hadley Centre predictions, BAS research in Antarctica, and impacts worldwide. You can animate global temperature changes, visit crumbling ice shelves, and view climate change impacts around the world. Google Earth blog here, download .kmz files here. Hours of geographical fun are guaranteed.

  • A major new study finds strong links between recent climate change and large scale changes in the planet’s natural systems. It’s our fault, in other words [Nature (behind a paywall), BBC, Science Daily News, Guardian]. Lead author Cynthia Rosenzweig from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York told the BBC “…look at all the effects this relatively low amount of warming has had. It reveals the sensitivity to relatively low amounts of warming in many physical and biological systems.” A key point for anyone who thinks that “only a few degrees” won’t make much difference.
  • The growing number of humans on the planet is having a dramatic impact on wildlife populations, according to the Living Planet Index compiled by WWF and the Zoological Society of London. Populations of land-based species have fallen by 25%, marine by 28% and freshwater by 29% since 1970. We’re losing about 1% of all other species every year, and one of the “great extinction episodes” in the Earth’s history is under way, the index finds. [BBC, Independent, Guardian, Telegraph].
  • More bad wildlife news: the 2008 Bird Red List “warns that long-term droughts and extreme weather puts additional stress on key habitats,” according to the BBC. “The assessment lists 1,226 species as threatened with extinction – one-in-eight of all bird species.
  • RNZ National’s science programme Our Changing World is always worth a listen, but last week’s (15/5/08) was a cracker. Ice core expert Richard Alley on Antarctica’s future, an update on the University of Waikato’s UltraCommuter EV, and one of the most cogent overviews of biofuel options I’ve ever heard from Doug Cameron, Chief Scientific Officer of Khosla Ventures, the Californian clean tech company. If those streaming links expire, podcast versions are available here, and the programme’s archive is here.
  • Wired reports on Renault’s plans to make EVs for Israel, and then the world, and EcoGeek discovers that Audi intends to have EVs in production in ten years. They might have to hurry… (my son announced yesterday that “one day’ he intends to own a Porsche. I’m willing to bet that by the time he can afford one (if ever) it’ll be a hybrid or EV).
  • #35 with a bullet! Tim Selwyn’s latest NZ blogosphere survey (at Tumeke!) finds that Hot Topic has moved up from #68 in February to #35 in March/April. I’d like to thank The Listener for making it all possible… 😉

I’ll drown in my own tears

homer.jpg But tears of laughter or tears of frustration? I honestly don’t know whether to laugh or cry (but I’ve certainly got the blues) about a “Viewpoints” feature in this week’s Listener – here’s the intro that runs above two single page articles:

The latest UN climate change conference canvassed many opinions. The Listener asked people from opposite sides of the debate to share their views.

On the crank side we have Bryan Leyland and Chris de Freitas. The “balancing” view comes from Professor Dave Kelly, an ecologist from the University of Canterbury (previews only – full text available after April 19). As I’ve said before, framing the discussion about climate change as a “debate” and with only two sides (it’s real/it isn’t) is highly misleading because it misrepresents the balance of evidence – and I’ll be returning to that in more depth in a future post. But what really brought tears to my eyes were the outright lies from the cranks. CdF repeats some of the untruths in his last outing in the Herald, and BL adds a few more of his own. Here we go again…

Continue reading “I’ll drown in my own tears”

Winter wonderland

205188main_2007ice_anomaly.jpg Climate cranks are keen to paint the last northern hemisphere (boreal) winter as unusually cold – a clear sign, they say, that “global warming is over”, and that global cooling has begun. Every crank’s at it: Bob Carter at Muriel’s place, Gerrit van der Lingen in an article in a Christchurch magazine and Vincent Gray in a submission to the select committee looking into the Emissions Trading Bill. It’s nonsense. The winter was cooler than many recent ones – but still 16th warmest, according to NOAA. A strong La Niña is cooling the tropical Pacific, and dragging the global average down, the precise converse of the strong El Niño that made 1998 so hot. In other words it’s weather noise, not long term change, as Stu Ostro explains at the Weather Channel. However, the cranks are right about one thing: last winter was unusual, but not for the reasons they think. In this post, I want to explore some of the reasons why this winter was out of the ordinary, and why I think it may demonstrate that rapid climate change is happening now. It’s an expanded version of how I began my last two talks…

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Another Hot Topic, skiing’s future, batteries, kites, u.s.w.

There’s another Hot Topic on the bookshelves – not in NZ, but in the UK. Sir David King, the sometimes controversial scientific adviser to Tony Blair has (with Gabrielle Walker) penned The Hot Topic: How to Tackle Global Warming and Still Keep the Lights On. Reviews in The Times and The Guardian. It will no doubt make its way over here eventually.

[Much more below the fold]

Continue reading “Another Hot Topic, skiing’s future, batteries, kites, u.s.w.”

Chris hates Greenpeace

False balance time at the Herald. Last week they gave Greenpeace climate campaigner Susannah Bailey a chance to look at how certain sectors of the business community (Greenhouse Policy Coalition, Business Roundtable etc) are lobbying against current plans for an emissions trading scheme, this week they give NZ Climate “Science” Coalition science advisor Chris de Freitas space to express a different point of view. Bailey’s language was a deal more measured than de Freitas, who indulges in some vibrant green-bashing:

The fanatical name calling and personal attacks expose the strong ideological elements that drive global warming alarmist thinking. It’s as if the depth of passion is overcompensation for doubt and uncertainty. Why else would environmentalists squander so much effort trying to discredit individuals and organisations who disagree?

Warning: I’m about to squander some time trying to discredit de Freitas – whose grasp of the underlying science seems a little – how shall I put this – shaky for an associate professor in the School of Geography, Geology and Environmental Science at the University of Auckland.

Continue reading “Chris hates Greenpeace”