Richard Alley: what we know now…

In this talk, recorded at the American Geophysical Union’s Chapman Conference on Climate Communication in Colorado recently, Richard Alley gives his overview of what we know about the state of the climate. As you might expect, he covers the cryosphere in some detail (why Greenland may not be as big a worry as West Antarctica), but he also has interesting things to say about climate sensitivity (same as it ever was), food production, and the possibility that chunks of the planet may become too hot for humans. Well worth watching…

Check out the other talks from the conference, all up at the AGU’s Youtube channel. I’m planning to catch up with the talks by Mike Mann, Steve Lewandowsky, Jeff Masters and Gavin Schmidt — when I can find the time.

[Hat tip to Greenland’s very own videographer, Peter Sinclair — who also gave a talk at the conference.]

The Climate Show #32: a Cook’s tour of the Aussie heat

At long last: John Cook from Skeptical Science rejoins the Climate Show team for the first show of 2013. He hooks up with Glenn and Gareth to review Australia’s big heatwave, and stays around to dig into the new Greenpeace report on dirty energy, discuss Obama’s inauguration speech and Boris Johnson’s climate blunder, the latest scary news on sea level rise and the implications for the future. Plus much much more…

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The Fate of Greenland

The Fate of Greenland: Lessons from Abrupt Climate ChangeGary Comer was a wealthy retired American who found on a private voyage in 2001 that he was able to easily navigate the normally ice-bound Northwest Passage in northern Canada. It perturbed him that he could do so and resulted in his substantial funding of scientific research into the global extent of abrupt climate change. Glaciologist Richard Alley, oceanographer Wallace Broecker and geologist George Denton were leading scientists in the research he funded, and are co-authors with editor Philip Conkling of a newly published book which draws on the past decade of their and others’ work. The Fate of Greenland: Lessons from Abrupt Climate Change is a handsomely produced volume, lavishly illustrated with stunning photographs, many of them taken by Comer himself.  It’s written for a general audience, albeit at times requiring close attention from readers when the complexities of some of the scientific detective work are explained.

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Alley’s documentary: upbeat and optimistic

Richard Alley’s book Earth: The Operators’ Manual, which I reviewed recently, was written as a companion to a PBS documentary of the same name. The documentary has recently screened in the US and is now available for viewing here. The broad themes are the same as those of the book. They’re not complicated: taking our energy from fossil fuels has caused climate change, but there are clean energy alternatives more than adequate to human needs and the sooner we move to deploy them the better.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the documentary takes Alley to many places and countries, including New Zealand. He dwells on the human need for energy, the kind of energy demands a growing population will make, and the ultimate inability of fossil fuels, a limited resource, to meet that demand even if we could carry on burning them with impunity. But we can’t, and Alley explains why. A visit to the Franz Josef and Tasman glaciers, with some great photography, is part of what he uses to explain the real world impact of changing levels of CO2. A fascinating visit to the national ice core laboratory in Denver, Colorado demonstrates that today atmospheric CO2 is at a level not seen in cores that go back as far as 400,000 years – far above them, in fact. Then it’s back to New Zealand as, against the background of Rotorua thermal activity, Alley explains the isotopic evidence that backs up the relative volume measurements to confirm that the increased CO2 is the result of burning fossil fuels, dwarfing natural volcanic processes.

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Earth: The Operators’ Manual

Earth: The Operators' ManualRichard Alley’s splendid abilities as a communicator are well displayed in his new book Earth: The Operators’ Manual. Written as a companion book for a forthcoming PBS documentary he hosts, it provides a lively review of the science of climate change and of the renewable energy sources now able to be employed. The general reader who wants to understand why human activities are causing climate change and why it matters, and is prepared to put a little effort into the quest, will find the book an engaging explanation.

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