TDB Today: WACCy weather and a warm year

WACCyweather

A classic case of WACCy weather in the northern hemisphere, seen here in a map from the excellent Climate Reanalyzer site, prompts me to discuss the 2013 global temperature numbers, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, and what sea ice loss is doing to northern hemisphere weather patterns in my post at The Daily Blog this week. We live in interesting times…

Beatin’ the heat: cut carbon or we’re cooked

The area of land affected by extreme heatwaves is expected to double by 2020 and quadruple by 2040, and there’s no way we can stop it happening according to a new paper by Dim Coumou and Alexander Robinson – Historic and future increase in the global land area affected by monthly heat extremes (Environmental Research Letters, open access). However, the researchers find that action to cut emissions can prevent further dramatic increases in heat extremes out to the end of the century.

The paper’s made headlines around the world — see The Guardian, Independent, and Climate Central — most focussing on the inevitability of more, and more intense, heat events in the near future. Dana Nuccitelli at The Guardian provides an excellent discussion of the science behind the new paper so, to avoid reinventing the wheel, I’m going to focus on a fascinating chart from the paper, and then ponder the implications for climate policy.

Continue reading “Beatin’ the heat: cut carbon or we’re cooked”

Moon-walking with due legal process to a very hot place – Neil Armstrong, coal mining & global warming

EarthApollo8.jpg

On the same day as the death of Neil Armstrong, the first astronaut to step onto the Moon, became public, the NZ High Court moonwalked its way to an off-the-world moment. It decided that greenhouse gas emissions and global warming are off-limits in the planning for an open cast coal mine. That’s as just as ‘out of this world’ as denying that the Moon landings ever happened, argues Simon Johnson.

On Saturday, two bits of news struck home to me very strongly. The first was the death of moon-landing astronaut Neil Armstrong. The second was the High Court decision that open-cast coal mines and global warming are legally and jurisdictionally unrelated in the Resource Management Act.

The moon landing in 1969 I remember very well. As a seven year old, I listened attentively to the ‘one small step’ broadcast. The whole class was silent under the spell of our teacher’s scratchy transistor radio. It’s one of my most strongly held memories of those days. I guess that reflects quite well on that class of seven year olds. They stopped playing bullrush, sniffing with colds, and fighting over lunches to listen attentively to the unfolding of one of humanity’s most historic moments.

While I was still fondly remembering the Moon landing, the next news item struck.

Continue reading “Moon-walking with due legal process to a very hot place – Neil Armstrong, coal mining & global warming”

Uncertainty overdone

Earlier this month James Hansen wrote a trenchant op-ed in the New York Times.  He reiterated the warning that the exploitation of the Canadian tar sands will be game over for the climate, spelt out some of the long-term drought consequences for the US of continued warming and identified notable heat waves of the last decade as most likely due to human-caused climate change. He was clearly anxious to drive home the message that humanity is in serious danger if we carry on exploiting all the fossil fuels we can find. “If it sounds apocalyptic, it is.”

On cue, journalist Andrew Revkin in his Dot Earth blog on the New York Times a few days later reported a meteorologist, Martin Hoerling, who claimed that Hansen had exceeded his brief as a scientist and allowed his policy commitment to overrule scientific caution. Revkin then asked climatologist Kerry Emanuel for his reaction to both Hansen and Hoerling. He received the comment that Emanuel saw overstatements on all sides, and, unsurprisingly, aligned himself with Emanuel.

But there was more to come on Revkin’s blog. A few days later he posted a response to Hoerling by Dan Miller who had assisted Hansen in the preparation of his op-ed. Miller had also been in touch with Emanuel to find out what his concerns were. It turned out they were hardly substantial:

Continue reading “Uncertainty overdone”

Coal controversy continues

Two North American pieces I’ve read this week appealed to me for their directness about the export of coal. One, via James Hansen, was a letter from a Canadian group to Warren Buffet, informing him of their intention this Saturday to prevent coal trains from his BNSF railway company from passing through White Rock, British Columbia to deliver their coal to coastal ports for export to Asia. May 5th is the chosen date because it has been designated an international day of action by 350.org.

We are a group of citizens in British Columbia, Canada who are deeply concerned about the risk of runaway climate change. There is a broad scientific consensus that we must begin to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions this decade to avoid climate change becoming irreversible. At the same time, governments and industry are eager to increase the production and export of fossil fuels, the very things that will ensure climate change gets worse.

These two things are irreconcilable, and since we can’t dispute the scientific findings or change the laws of nature, those of us who care about the future must do what we can to reduce the production, export and burning of fossil fuels – especially coal.

Since we know what is at stake we feel a moral obligation to do what we can to help prevent this looming disaster. On Saturday May 5th that means stopping your coal trains from reaching our ports.

Our actions will be peaceful, non-violent, and respectful of others. There will be no property destruction. We are striving to be the best citizens we can. We will stand up for what we believe is right and conduct ourselves with dignity.

Continue reading “Coal controversy continues”