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Updated: 2018-03-06T03:09:16.989-08:00


Top Scientists Warn of Catastrophic Sea Level Rise


Flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy, Photo: BR Birke -- CC 2.0Dr. James Hansen, who was the lead climate scientist at NASA, and sixteen other top scientists have concluded the Greenland and Antarctic glaciers will melt ten times faster than previous estimates, leading to sea level rise of ten or more feet in as little as 50 years.In their newly released study: "Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 ◦C global warming could be dangerous," the scientists warn that "Amplifying feedbacks in the Southern Ocean and atmosphere contribute to dramatic climate change in our simulations."We conclude that continued high emissions will make multi-meter sea level rise practically unavoidable and likely to occur this century. Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization.They are describing an ocean feedback loop near Antarctica that results in cooler freshwater from melting glaciers forcing warmer, saltier water underneath the ice sheets, speeding up the melting rate.This would put coastal cities at significant risk of flooding, with land and property disappearing underwater altogether in some locations, and with cold air outbreaks to middle latitudes: In the North Atlantic Ocean the increase in sea level pressure in winter slows the westerlies. Thus instead of a strong zonal wind that keeps cold polar air locked in the Arctic, there is a tendency for a less zonal flow and thus more cold air outbreaks to middle latitudes.They go on to warn that the previous target of 2 degrees centigrade cap for Climate Change is not safe, even as we are set to blow well past that.  The feedback loop, the ocean's role in regulating our climate, and its inability to keep up with changes, present a greater danger than previously anticipated, and that it cannot be easily or quickly restored:Not only do we see evidence of changes beginning to happen in the climate system, as discussed above, but we have also associated these changes with amplifying feedback processes. We understand that in a system that is out of equilibrium, a system in which the equilibrium is difficult to restore rapidly, a system in which major components such as the ocean and ice sheets have great inertia but are beginning to change, the existence of such amplifying feedbacks presents a situation of great concern. There is a possibility, a real danger, that we will hand young people and future generations a climate system that is practically out of their control. The full study can be found at: CLIMATE CHANGE, FEEDBACK LOOP, JAMES HANSEN, SCIENCE, SEA LEVEL RISE,SUPERSTORMS[...]

Dr. Michael Mann's Testimony to the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee


Dr. Michael Mann of Penn State testified before the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee about the critical issue of climate change, and the importance of building on the progress from the Paris Climate Conference.Opening Statement transcript:"Thank you, Congressman, and community members. I am honored to speak to you about this critical issue. My name is Michael Mann. I'm a distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State. I spend my time teaching, advising students, during scientific research. Fundamentally, I am a climate scientist and I have spent much of my year with my head buried in climate data trying to seize out the signal of human caused climate change.What is disconcerting to me and so many colleagues are these tools we have spent years developing, increasingly, are unnecessary because we can see climate change, the impact of climate change now playing out in real-time on our television screens. The impacts -- b food, water, health, national security, our economy -- climate change is creating -- taking a great toll. We've seen that in floods. The floods we have seen over the past year in Texas and in South Carolina. We see it in the devastating combination of sea level rise and more just active hurricanes -- destructive hurricanes which has led to calamities like superstorm sandy and what is now the perennial flooding of Miami beach. We see it in unprecedented drought, like that which continues to afflict California, doubling the area of wildfire, fire burning in the western U.S., and indeed, in the record heat we may see this weekend in phoenix, Arizona. The signal of climate change is no longer subtle. It is obvious. And like the tip of the proverbial iceberg, further changes like the melting of the ice sheet to give us three feet of c rise by the end of the century, may be locked and simply from the carbon we have burned, from the warming in the pipeline due to the burning of fossil fuels. There are some tipping points. There are some we may not have crossed and can still avoid. It is still possible to avert catastrophic and potentially. Reversible changes in climate, but only by moving forward, building on the progress, and accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels towards a clean energy economy.The stakes could not be greater. The future of our children and grandchildren literally hangs in the balance. No contrast could be more stark. We have the republican party whose standard bearer and a vast majority of their congressional representatives continue to deny that climate change exists. We have a democratic party that realizes that while we can debate the specifics of the worsening crisis, we cannot bury our heads in the sand and ignore the growing threat.It is my hope that the Democratic Party will have a statement about putting a price on carbon -- it is my hope that the platform will it knowledge of the Obama Administration and promised to build on that legacy by defending the clean power plan against attacks by congressional republicans and by ensuring other EPA policies to reduce carbon emissions are kept in place. It is my hope the platform will acknowledge that we should hold on." Full video and transcript at this link.About Dr. MannLABELS: 2016 ELECTION, BILL MCKIBBEN, CLIMATE, CLIMATE CHANGE, DEMOCRATIC PLATFORM,DNC, ELIJAH CUMMINGS, MICHAEL MANN[...]

Global Temperature in 2015


by James Hansen[a], Makiko Satoa, Reto Ruedy[b],[c] Gavin A. Schmidtc, Ken Lob,cSource: Earth Sciences Institute, Columbia UniversityAbstract. Global surface temperature in 2015 was +0.87°C (~1.6°F) warmer than the 1951-1980 base period in the GISTEMP analysis, making 2015 the warmest year in the period of instrumental data. The 2015 temperature was boosted by a strong El Niño, nearly of the same strength as the 1998 “El Niño of the century”. The updated global temperature record makes it clear that there was no global warming “hiatus”. Global temperature in 2015 was +1.13 (~2.03°F) relative to the 1880-1920 mean. Accounting for interannual variability, it is fair to say that global warming has now reached ~1°C, almost ~2°F.Update of the GISS (Goddard Institute for Space Studies) global temperature analysis (GISTEMP)[1],[2] (Fig. 1a), finds 2015 to be the warmest year in the instrumental record. (More detail is available at and; figures in this summary are available from Makiko Sato on the latter web site.) Unlike the prior three record years, 2014, 2010 and 2005, each of which exceeded the preceding record by only a few hundredths of a degree, 2015 smashed the prior record by more than 0.1°C. The only prior record-raising jump of annual global temperature as large, probably slightly larger, was in 1998. The 1998 temperature was boosted by the strong 1997-98 “El Niño of the century.”[3] The 2015 temperature was boosted by an El Niño of comparable magnitude.The high 2015 global temperature should practically terminate discussion of a hypothesized “global warming hiatus”, as the past two warm years remove the impression that warming has plateaued (Fig. 1). Close examination (Fig. 1b) reveals that the warming rate of the past decade is less than in the prior 30 years, but such fluctuations are not unusual and can be accounted for by a combination of factors[4].The present GISTEMP analysis uses the NOAA ERSST.v4 (Extended Reconstructed Sea Surface Temperature, Version 4)[5] for ocean surface temperatures. Principal change in v4, relative to v3 that was used in recent years, is a revision of the ship SST bias adjustment, which Huang et al.5 well justify. v4 results in a small increase (a few hundredths of a degree) in the global warming of the past half century.Fig. 1. Global surface temperatures relative to 1951-1980 in the GISTEMP analysis, which employs GHCN.v3 for meteorological stations, NOAA ERSST.v4 for sea surface temperature, and Antarctic research station data1.Fig. 2. Temperature anomalies in the three warmest years and their monthly global anomalies.ERSST.v4 also causes the warming peak in the 1940s to become more prominent. Although the 1940s warming peak is surely real, Hansen and Sato[6] suggest that it is exaggerated by bias introduced by discontinuities in data associated with World War II ship records, as a substantial portion of the warming spike in the ERSST.v4 data arises from an apparent sudden, probably unphysical, warming of the ocean in the Southern Hemisphere during WW II and then a sudden cooling at the end of WW II (Fig. 5 of reference 6). Such data issues are inherent during a time when limited measurements make it difficult if not impossible to make accurate homogeneity adjustments. We point out the issue here because of frequently asked question about how such a large sudden global warming could have occurred in the absence of known large climate forcings. An important point to note is that the homogeneity of measurement systems and global coverage is substantially improved during the past half century of rapid global warming. Smaller data issues remain in the recent global temperature record, but these are mainly at levels not larger than several hundredths of a degree.All land area with substantial habitation was warmer than the 1951-1980 climatology in 2015 (upper left of Fig. 2). The final three months of 2015 each [...]

Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise and Superstorms


Dr. James Hansen has published, with sixteen renowned scientists from around the world, the direst warning about climate change, ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms to date. We have published the abstract from the paper and have provided a link to the full study.The warning from the paper cannot be over-emphasized. Sea level rise is real, it's highly dangerous, and must not be ignored. The paper states that, when ice sheets have melted before due to natural forcings, the consequences have been catastrophic. In the post-industrial age, where the melting is greater than during the paleo melts, the science points to even more catastrophic consequences.Humanity is rapidly extracting and burning fossil fuels without full understanding of the consequences. Current assessments place emphasis on practical effects such as in- creasing extremes of heat waves, droughts, heavy rainfall, floods, and encroaching seas (IPCC, 2014; USNCA, 2014). These assessments and our recent study (Hansen et al., 2013a) conclude that there is an urgency to slow carbon dioxide (CO2) emis- sions, because the longevity of the carbon in the climate system (Archer, 2005) and persistence of the induced warming (Solomon et al., 2010) may lock in unavoidable highly undesirable consequences. (...) If the ocean continues to accumulate heat and increase melting of marine-terminating ice shelves of Antarctica and Greenland, a point will be reached at which it is impossible to avoid large scale ice sheet disintegration with sea level rise of at least several meters. The economic and social cost of losing functionality of all coastal cities is practically incalculable.  Large scale ice sheet disintegration with a sea level rise of at least several meters. That means, according to the report, the functional loss of all coastal cities.  The report points to unpredictable and sudden melts where the ocean is warming and increased superstorms and sea level rise--with the implication of a threat to civilization itself--as a result. As there is no doubt special interests will try to explain away or confuse this report, we are posting the actual abstract and link to the report, which, while scientific, is clear enough to be terrifying.Action must be taken.The report is available here:  → read moreLABELS: CLIMATE, CLIMATE CHANGE, ICE MELT, JAMES HANSEN, NASA, SEA LEVEL RISE,SUPERSTORMS, WARNING[...]

Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 ◦C global warming is highly dangerous


James Hansen1, M. Sato1, P. Hearty2, R. Ruedy3,4, M. Kelley3,4, V. Masson-Delmotte5, G. Russell4, G. Tselioudis4, J. Cao6, E. Rignot7,8, I. Velicogna8,7, E. Kandiano9, K. von Schuckmann10, P. Kharecha1,4, A. N. Legrande4, M. Bauer11, and K.-W. Lo3,41Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions, Columbia University Earth Institute, New York, NY 10115, USA2Department of Environmental Studies, University of North Carolina at Wilmington,North Carolina 28403, USA3Trinnovium LLC, New York, NY 10025, USA4NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, 2880 Broadway, New York, NY 10025, USA 5Institut Pierre Simon Laplace, Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement (CEA-CNRS-UVSQ), Gif-sur-Yvette, France6Key Lab of Aerosol Chemistry & Physics, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xi’an 710075, China7Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, 91109, USA8Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine, California, 92697, USA 9GEOMAR, Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research, Wischhofstrasse 1–3,Kiel 24148, Germany10Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography, University of Toulon, La Garde, France 11Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, Columbia University, New York, NY, 10027, USAAbstractThere is evidence of ice melt, sea level rise to +5–9 m, and extreme storms in the prior interglacial period that was less than 1◦C warmer than today. Human-made climate forcing is stronger and more rapid than paleo forcings, but much can be learned by combining insights from paleoclimate, climate modeling, and on-going observations. We argue that ice sheets in contact with the ocean are vulnerable to non-linear disintegration in response to ocean warming, and we posit that ice sheet mass loss can be approximated by a doubling time up to sea level rise of at least several meters. Dou- bling times of 10, 20 or 40 years yield sea level rise of several meters in 50, 100 or 10 200 years. Paleoclimate data reveal that subsurface ocean warming causes ice shelf melt and ice sheet discharge. Our climate model exposes amplifying feedbacks in the Southern Ocean that slow Antarctic bottom water formation and increase ocean temperature near ice shelf grounding lines, while cooling the surface ocean and increasing sea ice cover and water column stability. Ocean surface cooling, in the North Atlantic as well as the Southern Ocean, increases tropospheric horizontal temperature gradi- ents, eddy kinetic energy and baroclinicity, which drive more powerful storms. We focus attention on the Southern Ocean’s role in affecting atmospheric CO2 amount, which in turn is a tight control knob on global climate. The millennial (500–2000 year) time scale of deep ocean ventilation affects the time scale for natural CO2 change, thus the time scale for paleo global climate, ice sheet and sea level changes. This millennial carbon cycle time scale should not be misinterpreted as the ice sheet time scale for response to a rapid human-made climate forcing. Recent ice sheet melt rates have a doubling time near the lower end of the 10–40 year range. We conclude that 2 ◦C global warming above the preindustrial level, which would spur more ice shelf melt, is highly dangerous. Earth’s energy imbalance, which must be eliminated to stabilize climate, provides a crucial metric.1. IntroductionHumanity is rapidly extracting and burning fossil fuels without full understanding of the consequences. Current assessments place emphasis on practical effects such as increasing extremes of heat waves, droughts, heavy rainfall, floods, and encroaching seas (IPCC, 2014; USNCA, 2014). These assessments and our recent study (Hansen et al., 2013a) conclude that there is an urgency to slow carbon dioxide (CO2) emis- sions, because the longevity of the carbon in the climate system (Archer, 2005) and persistence of the induced warming (Solomon et al., 2010) may lock in unavoidab[...]

National Climate Assessment: Climate Change is Here


In May 2014, the U.S. Global Change Research Program released the Third National Climate Assessment, the authoritative and comprehensive report on climate change and its impacts in the United States.

Evidence for changes in Earth’s climate can be found from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans. Researchers from around the world have compiled this evidence using satellites, weather balloons, thermometers at surface stations, and many other types of observing systems that monitor the Earth’s weather and climate. The sum total of this evidence tells an unambiguous story: the planet is warming.

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It's Earth Day!


For Earth Day: Bella Gaia:

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From Our planet is at a turning point. The massive global migration underway now from countryside to cities will demand huge investments in energy, water, materials, waste, food distribution, and transportation over the next 25 years. If the correct investments are made now, this unique opportunity will be the catalyst for dramatic changes in the built environment and the fight against carbon emissions and climate change. 

Assessing "Dangerous Climate Change": Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature


This paper, by an international team of scientists, points out the clear and present danger that today's children may be handed a deteriorating climate with consequences out of their control. Dr. James Hansenby James Hansen, Pushker Kharecha, Makiko Sato, Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Frank Ackerman, David J. Beerling, Paul J. Hearty, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Shi-Ling Hsu, Camille Parmesan, Johan Rockstrom, Eelco J. Rohling, Jeffrey Sachs, Pete Smith, Konrad Steffen, Lise Van Susteren, Karina von Schuckmann, James C. ZachosWe conclude that the widely accepted target of limiting human-made global climate warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the preindustrial level is too high and would subject young people, future generations and nature to irreparable harm. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel use must be reduced rapidly to avoid irreversible consequences such as sea level rise large enough to inundate most coastal cities and extermination of many of today's species. Unabated global warming would also worsen climate extremes. In association with summer high pressure systems, warming causes stronger summer heat waves, more intense droughts, and wildfires that burn hotter. Yet because warming causes the atmosphere to hold more water vapor, which is the fuel that drives thunderstorms, tornadoes and tropical storms, it also leads to the possibility of stronger storms as well as heavier rainfall and floods. Observational data reveal that some climate extremes are already increasing in response to warming of several tenths of a degree in recent decades; these extremes would likely be much enhanced with warming of 2°C or more.We use evidence from Earth's climate history and measurements of Earth's present energy imbalance as our principal tools for inferring climate sensitivity and the safe level of global warming. The inferred warming limit leads to a limit on cumulative fossil fuel emissions.It is assessed that humanity must aim to keep global temperature close to the range occurring in the past 10,000 years, the Holocene epoch, a time of relatively stable climate and stable sea level during which civilization developed. The world cooled slowly over the last half of the Holocene, but warming of 0.8°C (1.4°F) in the past 100 years has brought global temperature back near the Holocene maximum.We note that policies should emphasize fossil fuel carbon, not mixing in carbon from forest changes as if it were equivalent. Most of the carbon from fossil fuel burning will stay in the climate system for of order 100,000 years. Of course carbon dioxide from deforestation also causes warming and policies must address that carbon source, but good land use policies could restore most of that carbon to the biosphere on a time scale of decades to centuries. However, maximum biospheric restoration is likely to be only comparable to the past deforestation source, so fossil fuel sources must be strictly limited.We conclude that human-made warming could be held to about 1°C (1.8°F) if cumulative industrial-era fossil fuel emissions are limited to 500 GtC (gigatons of carbon, where a gigaton is one billion metric tons) and if policies are pursued to restore 100 GtC into the biosphere, including the soil. This scenario leads to reduction of atmospheric CO2 to 350 ppm by 2100, as needed to restore Earth's energy balance and approximately stabilize climate.Read the full paper here →LABELS: CARBON EMISSIONS, CLIMATE, CLIMATE CHANGE, ENVIRONMENT, GISS, GLOBAL WARMING, JAMES HANSEN, JEFFREY SACHS, SCIENCE, WARNING[...]

Awakening the Sleeping Giant of Climate Skepticism


by Joanna Benn This Friday, the widely anticipated and long-awaited state of the Earth and its climate will be released by the UN’s climate assessment body, the IPCC. In a pre-emptive strike, the right wing media last week launched a full front attack to discredit the climate science using leaked drafts. In the past week, we've seen a host of vitriolic ‘they got it all wrong’ stories ranging from the Mail on Sunday to Rupert Murdoch's The Australian and the Wall Street Journal. For most of us, being non-climate scientists, it is confusing to make sense of the facts and counter- arguments. If one takes out opinion and ideology and leaves it to the scientists, which seems a good strategy to me– the next stage for climate skeptics is to discredit them. I don’t understand this. I don’t comment on medical advances as I am not a doctor, but it appears that everyone is an expert on climate change. If 97 doctors cite one diagnosis and three others have a different opinion, it’s likely I will believe the majority. If weather forecasters tell me there is a 90 percent chance of rain in the morning, I will probably take an umbrella with me.These climate skeptic journalists, working from leaked incomplete versions of the report, apparently know more than the 830 expert authors from 85 countries who have in large part, dedicated their lives to this work. Working Group 1, which is the first part of the report due out next week, summarizes the Physical Science IE. What’s happening to the ocean, atmosphere, ice-caps and beyond. It uses findings gained from new technology which like all things in our increasingly IT-led world, have moved with incredible speed.Satellites in the sky, buoys floating in the ocean and ice cores that provide a carbon record from far back in Earth’s history are all part of the sophisticated armory used. Alongside this progress, computing advances now allow for increasingly realistic and reliable models of the climate. So, scientists are able to examine the complex physical, chemical and biological processes that influence the Earth’s climate in finer detail than ever before. In addition they can project how it will change as a result of human activities.If climate skeptics really want to properly engage in the debate, surely the time is when the results are released and final. To me it seems a cheap shot to go in ahead of time and present skewed, selective findings when the scientists in questions can’t respond publicly until the embargo lifts.1. If you’re interested in some strong rebuttal to the media, Carbon Brief in the UK is an excellent source of information: Here, Dana Nuccitelli takes apart David Rose's earlier claims that the Arctic has recovered from its melting phase. Twelve prominent climate scientists and experts from across the globe state that "the body of evidence is overwhelming" and that dangerous climate change is happening. The full statement can be found here. 4. And in Germany, this strong editorial made the front page saying, “The empirical evidence for accelerated climate change is strong. Yet many still call it into question or dismiss it as scientific mumbo-jumbo that should be filed away and forgotten. These individuals obscure one thing in particular: their own interests."In a few days, governments and scientists from around the globe will agree and sign off the executive summary of this new report. Perhaps we should all just sit tight and wait to see what it says; then think about what needs to be done to keep the global average temperature rise at less than 2°C ab[...]

Doubling Down on Our Faustian Bargain


by James Hansen, Pushker Kharecha, Makiko SatoFaust in his Study by RembrandtHumanity is doubling down on its Faustian climate bargain by pumping up fossil fuel particulate and nitrogen pollution. The more the Faustian debt grows, the more unmanageable the eventual consequences will be. Yet there are plans to build more than 1000 coal fired power plants and plans to develop some of the dirtiest oil sources on the planet. These plans should be vigorously resisted. We are already in a deep hole -- it is time to stop digging.Humanity's Faustian climate bargain is well known. Humans have been pumping both greenhouse gases (mainly CO2) and aerosols (fine particles) into the atmosphere for more than a century. The CO2 accumulates steadily, staying in the climate system for millennia, with a continuously increasing warming effect. Aerosols have a cooling effect (by reducing solar heating of the ground) that depends on the rate that we pump aerosols into the air, because they fall out after about five days.Aerosol cooling probably reduced global warming by about half over the past century, but the amount is uncertain because global aerosols and their effect on clouds are not measured accurately. Aerosols increased rapidly after World War II as fossil fuel use increased ~5%/year with little pollution control (Fig. 1). Aerosol growth slowed in the 1970s with pollution controls in the U.S. and Europe, but accelerated again after ~2000.The rapid growth of fossil fuel CO2 emissions in the past decade is mainly from increased coal use (Fig. 1), mostly in China with little control of aerosol emissions. It is thus likely that there has beenan increase in the negative (cooling) climate forcing by aerosolsin the past decade, as suggested by regional aerosols measurements in the Far East, but until proper global aerosol monitoring is initiated, as discussed below, the aerosol portion of the amplified Faustian bargain remains largely unquantified.Read more→LABELS: CLIMATE CHANGE, COAL, ENVIRONMENT, FAUST, GISS, GLOBAL WARMING., JAMES HANSEN,NASA, SCIENCE[...]

Public Perception of Climate Change and the New Climate Dice


by James Hansena, Makiko Satoa, Reto RuedybSummary. Should the public be able to recognize that climate is changing, despite the notorious variability of weather and climate from day to day and year to year? We investigate how the probability of unusually warm seasons has changed in recent decades, with emphasis on summer, when changes are likely to have the greatest practical effects. We show that the odds of an unusually warm season have increased greatly over the past three decades, but also the shape of the frequency distribution has changed so as to enhance the likelihood of extreme events. A new category of hot summertime outliers, more than three standard deviations (3σ) warmer than climatology, has emerged, with the occurrence of these outliers having increased 1-2 orders of magnitude in the past three decades. Thus we can state with a high degree of confidence that extreme summers, such as those in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010, are a consequence of global warming, because global warming has dramatically increased their likelihood of occurrence.We illustrate observed variability of seasonal mean surface air temperature anomalies in units of standard deviations, including comparison with the normal distribution ("bell curve") that the lay public may appreciate. We take 1951-1980 as an appropriate base period, because temperatures then were within the Holocene range to which humanity and other planetary life are adapted. In contrast, we infer that global temperature is now above the Holocene range, as evidenced by the fact that the ice sheets in both hemispheres are shedding mass (1) and sea level is rising at a rate [more than 3 mm/year or 3 m/millennium (2)] that is much higher than the rate of sea level change during the past several millennia. The frequency of occurrence of local summer-mean temperature anomalies was close to the normal distribution in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s in both hemispheres (Fig. P1A, B). However, in each subsequent decade the distribution shifted toward more positive anomalies, with the positive tail (hot outliers) of the distribution shifting more than the negative tail. The temporal change of the anomaly distribution for the contiguous United States (Fig. P1C) is similar to the global change, but much noisier because the contiguous U.S. covers only ~1.5% of the globe. Winter warming exceeds that in summer, but the standard deviation of seasonal mean temperature at middle and high latitudes is much larger in winter (typically 2-4°C) than in summer (typically ~1°C). Thus the shift of the anomaly distribution, in the unit of standard deviations, is less in winter than in summer (Fig. P1D). A concept of "climate dice" was suggested (3) to describe the stochastic variability of local seasonal mean temperature, with the implication that the public should recognize the existence of global warming once the dice become sufficiently "loaded" (biased). Specifically, the 10 warmest summers (Jun-Jul-Aug in the Northern Hemisphere) in the 30-year period of climatology (1951-1980) define the "hot" category, the 10 coolest the "cold" category, and the middle 10 the "average" summer. Thus it was imagined that two sides of a six-sided die were colored red, blue and white for these respective categories. The divisions between "hot" and "average" and between "average" and "cold" occur at +0.43σ and -0.43σ for a normal distribution of variability. The report continues at this link. aNASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University Earth Institute,bTrinnovim LLC, New York, NY 1002[...]

The New Climate Dice


by Dr. James HansenSeveral people have asked for a referenceable version of our paper "Public Perception of Climate Change and the New Climate Dice", so we have placed the current version on arXiv, the permanent storage for physics preprints. This is the version of the paper submitted to Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. with favorable reviews by Tom Karl and Andrew Weaver, so presumably it is the final version. In any case, arXiv is a permanent storage place of this version. You can find it at arXiv with referencing information or get a PDF from my web site or directly here.Part A of the first figure in the paper (available as a PDF from my web site) makes clear why extreme anomalies are beginning to pop up all over the place. Summer anomalies over land are the most important, as discussed in the paper. Averaged over a decade the frequency distribution of seasonal mean temperature anomalies is shifting rapidly toward more extreme hot anomalies, and the distribution is becoming broader (greater extremes). Because the planet is out of energy balance, we can conclude that next decade the distribution will be shifted even further to the right.The way to stop that continued progression is, of course, to rapidly slow fossil fuel emissions, as discussed in our previous post (Case for Young People).----------------------------------------------------------------------------Doctor James Hansen, an adjunct professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University, heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Sciences. His website can be found at: CLIMATE, CLIMATE CHANGE, ENVIRONMENT, GISS, GLOBAL WARMING, JAMES HANSEN, NASA, SCIENCE[...]

Why I Must Speak Out About Climate Change


by James Hansen allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="286" src="" width="504">This presentation in the TED series took place on February 29, 2012. Dr. James Hansen heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City and is Adjunct Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.  He was trained in physics and astronomy in the space science program of Dr. James Van Allen at the University of Iowa. His early research on the clouds of Venus helped identify their composition as sulfuric acid. Since the late 1970s, he has focused his research on Earth's climate, especially human-made climate change.  Link.LABELS: CLIMATE, CLIMATE CHANGE, ENVIRONMENT, GISS, GLOBAL WARMING, JAMES HANSEN, NASA,SCIENCE[...]

Where are US Global Warming Emissions Headed?


by Jake SchmidtAs I meet with global warming officials from other countries, I frequently hear this statement: “American action on global warming is lost for the foreseeable future.” This is a good time to evaluate how true or false this statement is since the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has just released its annual projections – the Annual Energy Outlook 2011. The general conclusion: emissions will be below 2005 levels for the next 15 years and could be reduced even further if the Administration implemented EPA and other rules in a strong fashion.But before giving some detail on the results here is a little perspective on the EIA’s analytical track record. First, EIA’s projections of energy use and emissions have been reduced each time a new analysis is released since their earlier projections had overestimated the growth in emissions (as my colleague highlighted). This isn’t because they are bad analysts. It is just hard to predict future energy use in an ever changing world and they don’t want to be perceived as radicals (so their analysis tends to be conservative). [Note: the same could also be said of the International Energy Agency.] Second, EIA projections are based on the “policies on the books”. Their “reference case” analysis “generally assumes that current laws and regulations affecting the energy sector remain unchanged throughout the projection.” So their reference case doesn’t include policies that are under consideration and that might be adopted by the President, Congress, or the states. Nor does this scenario consider new rules that might be implemented under existing law. Lastly, predicting future changes in technology development and costs is a complicated undertaking so EIA uses assumptions about how technology will change in the future. Remember how you first used your email or the internet? Think you could predict 5, 10, or 20 years later that you could access it from your pocket and tell your friends what you were doing every second from that same device? Similarly, capturing how energy technology will change in the future is difficult. To capture all these dynamics, EIA includes “sensitivity analysis” which looks at the emissions and energy results from changes to these factors – e.g., new policies being implemented.With that in mind let’s look at some of the results from the new EIA projections.Without any new policies, US energy-related CO2 emissions* will be below 2005 levels for the next 15 years. In 2020, US emissions without new policies are projected to be 4% below 2005 levels and won’t surpass 2005 levels until 2027, according to EIA’s reference scenario (see figure). This reflects the adoption of no new policies, but does include recent existing policies such as the renewable and energy efficiency investments in the stimulus, the CO2 tailpipe and fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks through 2016 adopted by President Obama in early 2010, new appliance efficiency standards recently put into effect (see here, here, here, and here), state-level greenhouse gas programs such as the ones in California and the Northeast, state-level requirements that a certain portion of electricity is produced from renewable sources. The scenario also includes increased use of natural gas in the electricity sector mostly as a result of tapping into shale gas, growing use of renewable technologies and fuels (partly as a result of the stimulus investments and the state level policies), and other general economic trends.Implementation of additional policies under development wou[...]

"I'm a Climate Scientist"


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Climate scientists have come together to remind those who dispute climate change that the skeptics are not climate scientists. In this video (clean version), the climate scientists rap speak for themselves. Who's a climate scientist? Watch the video to find out.


Defending the Atmosphere, Part 1


by William S. BeckerLast February, three Republican leaders in Congress filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that when it comes to global climate change, judges and Justices should mind their own business. The courts are about to get a different message. Starting on May 4, young people in the United States and several other countries will file petitions and lawsuits in an effort to force public officials into protecting us all from climate change. The international legal intervention – the sponsors call it guerrilla law – is believed to be the first of its kind. It is being organized by Our Children’s Trust in Eugene, Oregon. It’s part of a broader campaign that will include “iMatter” marches by young people around the world May 7-14, the brainchild of 16-year-old Alec Loorz of California. Behind these demonstrations and legal actions is a principle that goes back to Roman law: the “pubic trust doctrine”. The doctrine holds that government officials are “trustees of the commons” with a fiduciary responsibility to protect critical natural resources on behalf of present and future generations. Attorneys working on the campaign will ask the courts to rule that the atmosphere is one of those critical resources. More concretely, the lawsuits will ask that public officials be required to create plans to return atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million, the level scientists such as NASA’s Jim Hansen say is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate impacts. The court action is meant to empower young people who have the most to lose from climate change but are too young to vote. Loorz explains it this way: Young people will be affected most by decisions that are made today and yet we can’t vote and we don’t have money to compete with lobbyists. We do, however, have the moral authority and the legal right to insist that our future be protected. A more technical explanation of the atmospheric trust idea is included in a book being written by the author of the concept, University of Oregon law professor Mary Christina Wood. She argues: The legal foothold for Atmospheric Trust Litigation (ATL) is the ancient public trust doctrine, which imposes a strict fiduciary obligation on government to protect natural resources in trust for the citizens. As a legal doctrine, the public trust compels protection of those ecological assets necessary for public survival and community welfare. The judicial branch should hold government to its legal responsibilities. So far, however, though many lawsuits have been filed, none have forced the carbon reduction needed to curb runaway atmospheric heating… What power do judges have to enforce the doctrine? Through injunctive powers, Wood says, courts won’t tell government how to lower carbon emissions, but they can insist that governments show they are meeting their bottom-line responsibility to the citizens. Which brings us back to the U.S. Supreme Court and the three Republicans. The high court is considering American Power v. Connecticut, a lawsuit by several states and organizations that contend major emitters of carbon dioxide are a “public nuisance”. The claim was upheld by the Court of Appeals, but energy companies and the federal government have asked the Supreme Court to rule that climate policy is a “political question” that must be resolved by Congress and the President. The parties argued the case before the Justices on April 19. The “public nuisance” and “public trust” lawsuits are different approaches to the same basic goal: to get the courts to act where policy makers and lawmakers have failed on t[...]

Defending the Atmosphere, Part 2


by William S. BeckerIn response to a lawsuit that argues greenhouse gas emissions are a “public nuisance”, three of Congress’s most active opponents of responsible climate policy filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court last February. Rep. Fred Upton, Rep. Ed Whitfield and Sen. James Inhofe told the Justices it is inappropriate and unnecessary for courts to get involved in America’s climate policy.Upton chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce; Whitfield chairs the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power; and Inhofe is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. All three are prominent Republican opponents of climate action, working among other things to scuttle EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.To be fair, it’s not just Republicans who are blocking Congress from acting against climate change. Nineteen Democrats in the House voted for Inhofe’s and Upton’s bill to strip EPA of its regulatory authority. Several Senate Democrats also voted for the bill, including Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who complains “EPA’s overreach is destroying jobs in my state and all over the country”. (For an excellent report on Congress’s effort to “repeal climate science”, see Remapping Debate.)If the courts agree to consider the “iMatter” movement’s atmospheric trust lawsuits (see Part 1 of this post), here are some of the arguments we can expect from opponents of climate action, whose delicate phrasing makes inaction sound like action. The italicized portions are direct quotes from the brief that Upton, Whitfield and Inhofe filed in the public nuisance lawsuit, American Power v. Connecticut:Argument: The courts don’t have to act because members of Congress have been actively involved in the legislative process relating to climate change policies and regulations.Reality Check: By “actively involved in the legislative process”, the three Republicans mean opponents are using the process to block meaningful action on climate change. So far, they’ve been successful.Argument: Members of Congress have strong institutional and policy interests in preserving Congress’ plenary role in determining climate change policy for the nation.Reality Check: In other words, members of Congress want to maintain control of climate policy so they can protect the interests of the coal, oil and nuclear industries, which contribute handsomely to reelection campaigns.Argument: Plaintiffs are asking the Court to become involved in political and public policy matters that are being resolved by the Legislative and Executive branches of government.Reality Check: Climate policy is not “being resolved”, unless “being resolved” means making sure there is no national climate policy at all. While the evidence and impacts of climate change are increasing in the United States and worldwide, there is no prospect that Congress will pass a bill limiting greenhouse gas emissions anytime soon. As for action by the Executive Branch, the three Republicans and their colleagues are trying to block it. At the same time they argue climate policy is being resolved, their brief complains the Obama Administration has “unleashed a torrent of greenhouse gas regulations” and has “engaged in frenetic regulatory activity”.Argument: The courts needn’t worry because the United States is engaged in two decades of Congressionally authorized international climate change policy negotiations.Reality Check: Due in large part to opposition in Congress and the last Bush Administration, two decades of international negotiations have not prod[...]

Earth's Energy Imbalance and Implications


James Hansen, Makiko Sato, Pushker Kharecha, Karina von SchuckmannImproving observations of ocean temperature confirm that Earth is absorbing more energy from the sun than it is radiating to space as heat, even during the recent solar minimum. This energy imbalance provides fundamental verification of the dominant role of the human-made greenhouse effect in driving global climate change. Observed surface temperature change and ocean heat gain constrain the net climate forcing and ocean mixing rates.  We conclude that most climate models mix heat too efficiently into the deep ocean and as a result underestimate the negative forcing by human-made aerosols. Aerosol climate forcing today is inferred to be ‒1.6 ± 0.3 W/m2, implying substantial aerosol indirect climate forcing via cloud changes. Continued failure to quantify the specific origins of this large forcing is untenable, as knowledge of changing aerosol effects is needed to understand future climate change. A recent decrease in ocean heat uptake was caused by a delayed rebound effect from Mount Pinatubo aerosols and a deep prolonged solar minimum. Observed sea level rise during the Argo float era can readily be accounted for by thermal expansion of the ocean and ice melt, but the ascendancy of ice melt leads us to anticipate a near-term acceleration in the rate of sea level rise.Humanity is potentially vulnerable to global temperature change, as discussed in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2001, 2007) reports and by innumerable authors. Although climate change is driven by many climate forcing agents and the climate system also exhibits unforced (chaotic) variability, it is now widely agreed that the strong global warming trend of recent decades is caused predominantly by human-made changes of atmospheric composition (IPCC, 2007).The basic physics underlying this global warming, the greenhouse effect, is simple. An increase of gases such as CO2 makes the atmosphere more opaque at infrared wavelengths. This added opacity causes the planet's heat radiation to space to arise from higher, colder levels in the atmosphere, thus reducing emission of heat energy to space. The temporary imbalance between the energy absorbed from the sun and heat emission to space, causes the planet to warm until planetary energy balance is restored.The planetary energy imbalance caused by a change of atmospheric composition defines a climate forcing. Climate sensitivity, the eventual global temperature change per unit forcing, is known with good accuracy from Earth's paleoclimate history. However, two fundamental uncertainties limit our ability to predict global temperature change on decadal time scales.First, although climate forcing by human-made greenhouse gases (GHGs) is known accurately, climate forcing caused by changing human-made aerosols is practically unmeasured. Aerosols are fine particles suspended in the air, such as dust, sulfates, and black soot (Ramanathan et al., 2001). Aerosol climate forcing is complex, because aerosols both reflect solar radiation to space (a cooling effect) and absorb solar radiation (a warming effect). InFig. 1.  Climate forcings employed in this paper.  Forcings through 2003 (vertical line) are the same as used by Hansen et al. (2007b), except the aerosol forcing after 1990 is approximated as -0.5 times the GHG forcing.  Aerosol forcing includes all aerosol effects, including indirect effects on clouds and snow albedo.  GHGs include O3 and stratospheric H2O, in addition to well-mixed GHGs.addition,[...]

Perceptions of Climate Change


by James Hansen and Makiko SatoThis past winter, for the second year in a row, seemed pretty extreme in both Europe and the United States. So this is a good time to check quantitatively how seasonal climate change is stacking up against expectations.People's perception of climate change may be the most important factor determining their willingness to accept the scientific conclusion that humans are causing global warming (or global climate disruption, as you please). It is hard to persuade people that they have lying eyes.In the paper attached to my congressional testimony in 1988 (1) we asserted that the perceptive person would notice that climate was changing by the early 21st century. I used colored dice to illustrate how the frequency of unusually warm seasons was expected to change.We considered three scenarios for future greenhouse gas amounts. Figure 1 shows that the real world so far is close to scenario B. Temporary aside: there are two main reasons that greenhouse gas growth moved off the track of scenario A onto scenario B in the early 1990s, as shown in Figure 2: (1) the growth of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) was greatly diminished by successive tightenings of the Montreal Protocol, (2) the growth of methane slowed sharply.Fig. 1. Update of Fig. 2 of Reference 1, scenarios A, B and C being climate forcings of greenhouse gases used in climate model simulations. The real world (red curve) has closely followed scenario B.Fig. 3. Surface temperature anomalies in Northern Hemisphere winter 2010-2011 relative to 1951-1980 mean. See reference 3.Let's start with this past winter, compare it with the last few winters, and then check whether the odds of warm seasons have changed as expected. Figure 3 shows the temperature anomaly for each of the past three months and the seasonal (Dec-Jan-Feb) mean anomaly.December was very warm in northeast Canada, about 10°C (about 15-20°F) warmer than baby-boomers' climatology (1951-1980 mean). It was unusually cold in the eastern United States and especially in northern Eurasia. Hudson Bay and Baffin Bay (between Canada and Greenland) were essentially ice-free, the first recorded time that ice-free conditions lasted so long. Ice-free water is a huge potential source of heat to the atmosphere. When the water is ice-covered the air above the ice can sink to 10 or 20°C below zero, but ice-free water warms the air above. I speculated in a prior post that this energy source may have contributed to causing the long-wave patterns that pushed cold Arctic air into northern Eurasia. But before getting carried away with regional climate prediction, let's compare the last few winters and summers.Figure 4 shows the seasonal mean temperature anomalies for the prior three Northern Hemisphere winters and the mean for the past decade. Note that the Northern Hemisphere temperature anomaly pattern in 2010 (Dec 2009, Jan-Feb 2010) was very similar to 2011, including the unusually warm Hudson Bay region. The similarity occurred despite the opposite phases of the Southern Oscillation in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, 2010 having an El Niño and 2011 having a La Niña. But the strong patterns are averaged out in the mean anomaly for the first decade of this century. The decadal mean has widespread warming of about 1°C, but greater warming in the Arctic and less warming in the southern and western United States.Fig. 4. Surface temperature anomalies in the prior three Northern Hemisphere winters and the mean anomaly for the past decade. See reference 3.Figure 5 shows seasonal temperature anomalies for the last three North[...]

Risky Business


by William S. BeckerLike a family with no homeowner’s insurance, no fire detectors, a gas leak in the basement and a bad case of denial, the global community remains unprepared for irreversible and potentially catastrophic changes to the Earth’s climate.What’s needed – quickly – is an international risk management effort, a process that’s more familiar in military and national security circles than it is in environmental and scientific circles.That process is described in “Degrees of Risk: Defining a Risk Management Framework for Climate Security” -- a report just released by the London-based think tank Third Generation Environmentalism (E3G). The report’s recommendations are the result of consultations E3G held over the past two years with military and intelligence leaders in Europe, the United States and several developing countries. The bottom line:Climate change is not currently well managed. Agreements at the most recent UN climate negotiations in Cancun in 2010 included a goal of limiting climate change to, at most, a 2oC average global temperature rise. However, the emissions reductions pledged by countries at the same conference would actually result in a 50 percent chance of global temperatures rising by 3-4oC.The implications of current security analysis are clear: unless climate change is limited to levels where its impacts can be managed effectively, and unless successful adaptation programs are implemented, there will be major threats to national and international security.Even in the most powerful countries, high levels of climate change would make open trade, travel, investments and progress against poverty “highly unlikely”, the report warns. Other security and intelligence organizations in the United States, from the Center for Naval Analysis to the National Intelligence Council, have reached similar conclusions. So have security analyses published by NATO, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia. But E3G takes the discussion to a new level, asking:If the security threat from climate change was analyzed as rigorously as nuclear proliferation, what would an appropriate risk management strategy to deliver climate security look like?An early step is be to deal with several barriers to effective risk management. The report’s authors – Nick Mabey, Jay Gulledge, Bernard Finel and Katherine Silverthorne – cite several:• Current security analyses usually are based on mid-range scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They don’t reflect the most recent research and don’t cover the full range of future climate risks.• When scientists and the public focus on global average temperatures, they fail to consider that climate impacts will vary widely across regions and latitudes.• Policy makers tend to consider worst-case scenarios for climate disruption to be low-probability events. That’s not necessary true, particularly if we push the climate to tipping points.• Climate models have underestimated the rate of several impacts – for example, the loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. One reason may be that some factors are not well understood and are not included in climate modeling.• There remains a widespread perception that climate change will happen gradually over a long period of time. In the recent geological past, however, climate change occurred abruptly at large scale.• There is a common perception that wealthy nations such as the United States are not as vulnerable to climate risks, so other p[...]

A New Climate Reality


by Janet RitzThe world changes so fast, it's difficult to see it in context. Scientists watch from a mathematical point of view, points on a graph, comparative analyses, blips on radar from sensors slapped on the bows of ships.  Dry bits of brain matter fight the brain freeze caused by information overload of drought in the Southwest, typhoon-caused floods in Bangladesh, tornadoes in the Midwest, and where is all that snow coming from?  It begins to look horrifyingly familiar: one person's agony is another's data.It's helpful to step back on occasion and take empathetic stock.First and foremost are actual climate and weather events: storms, drought, wind, fire, flood, snow. There are the forces (forcings) behind them; natural weather phenomena, the quantifiable increase in intensity caused by greenhouse gases; the loss of glaciers and polar ice; the inability of the Southern Ocean to function as a carbon sink; the increase in wind speeds due to the growing temperature differential between the Northern and Southern Hemisphere; C02 released into the atmosphere from fires in California and Greece; the methane once trapped in the tundra...There is the impact upon species, one-third of which the IPCC report warns may be lost due to climate change. Polar bears are the obvious indicator, but there are also the diminishing pollinators upon which we depend; the coral in the Great Barrier Reef, the damage done by invasive species such as the Lionfish, the wolves that go off and on the endangered list, birds that fall out of the sky.  Is it the climate, sudden wind shears between greater warm and cold air masses?  Is it encroachment of an exploding population on ecosystems, pollution, overfishing, or the many other culprits that produce the same result?  What can't be disputed: Species are stressed and many are disappearing.The heartbreak of 5,000 dead birds without a good explanation makes it easier to gravitate toward cold data over warming empathy.There was a curious incident in Northern Ireland that does have an explanation. A ten-mile wide migration of billions of Mauve Stinger Jellyfish swam to the Northern Irish Sea and killed every Salmon within their reach (est. 100,000).The fishermen who tried to reach the trapped fish (nets a mile offshore had created a semi-wild farm environment), could only watch as they faced a solid block of glowing red jellyfish to the horizon.  They could not get through to salmon so revered, it had been served at the Queen's table for her 80th birthday. The salmon died.What makes this alarming, apart from billions of glowing red jellyfish wiping out 100,000 salmon, was the fact that they had traveled from the warm waters of the Mediterranean to what are supposed to be the cold waters of the North Irish Sea.Scientists have attributed it to global warming. No matter what the impact is of the U.N. conferences, no matter who signs on to resultant accords or had signed its predecessor, Kyoto, it's time to adjust to a new climate reality.The new reality includes the need for increased humanitarian commitment, as evidenced by U.S. Naval vessels that rush throughout the world to provide aid and countries who pledge and too often do not follow through with the funds.   It's time for business to step up where Congress will not.  A German reinsurer has provided the context in a 2010 annual report where they stated their greatest expenses l[...]

2010 World Climate Change Roundup: Thundersnow and Melting Ice


The world is experiencing increasing intensity in weather events. There is more snow in Europe and the U.S. than seen since last February's "Snowmaggedon." In Australia, there are floods to the rooftops, and, in some parts, snow in summer. How can that be climate change? It's so cold.  Brrrrr. Science has the answer.  Snow is frozen water. The more water in the atmosphere, the more snow. The water is in the atmosphere because it is warmer. It's in the atmosphere because it's melting and that water must go somewhere. It goes into unprecedented rains in Los Angeles and northeastern Australia. It goes into the snow-hurricane in the Eastern Seaboard, complete with thundersnow and lightening. It goes into relentless snow in Britain and Europe. Climate change is not a single weather event or occurrence. It's a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over decades that act to reflect light back and melt the ice and confuse the weather over time. Perhaps Mother Earth is not doing us a favor by dumping so much snow on the world. But then, we haven't done many favors for her lately either. It would be more convincing to some if she baked us. That will come again.  For now, it's out of the frying pan into the icebox. Those who don't want to spend the costs associated with mitigating the damage try to confuse those who see the snow and say, but it's cold. Climate change has taken shape for those willing to see it. The change is in intensity. More rain, more heat (remember that 113 F last summer?), more snow, less ice where there was ice before (those two go together), more floods, more droughts, more forest fires, less potable water where there is less water, too much water where shortage is not an issue. Meanwhile, there's thundersnow:Here are stories from around the globe:Expect more extreme winters thanks to global warming, say scientistsBy Steve Connor, Science Editor - The IndependentScientists have established a link between the cold, snowy winters in Britain and melting sea ice in the Arctic and have warned that long periods of freezing weather are likely to become more frequent in years to come.An analysis of the ice-free regions of the Arctic Ocean has found that the higher temperatures there caused by global warming, which have melted the sea ice in the summer months, have paradoxically increased the chances of colder winters in Britain and the rest of northern Europe. Scientist, His Work and a Climate ReckoningWhen Dr. Keeling, as a young researcher, became the first person in the world to develop an accurate technique for measuring carbon dioxide in the air, the amount he discovered was 310 parts per million. That means every million pints of air, for example, contained 310 pints of carbon dioxide.By 2005, the year he died, the number had risen to 380 parts per million. Sometime in the next few years it is expected to pass 400. Without stronger action to limit emissions, the number could pass 560 before the end of the century, double what it was before the Industrial Revolution. Temperature and Europe's Frigid AirThe cold anomaly in Northern Europe in November has continued and strengthened in the first half of December. Combined with the unusual cold winter of 2009-2010 in Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes, this regional cold sp[...]

Cancun Agreements: A foundation from which to build greater international action on climate change


by Jake SchmidtEarly this morning, Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa gaveled home an agreement by over 190 countries which came together and demonstrated a renewed commitment to the fight against global warming. The Cancun Agreements* are a detailed set of visionary, yet pragmatic principles that make important strides to begin implementing the agreement reached in Copenhagen last year. The countries gathered in Cancun made progress on emissions reductions, greater transparency, forest preservation and the creation of the green fund to help mobilize much needed investments throughout the world.We aren’t done in our battle to address global warming, but these agreements provide a foundation from which to build further action. It does this in four important ways which were essential steps in Cancun. I’ll hit the high points as I already covered some of these key elements of the draft Cancun Agreements and my colleagues covered the other elements in more detail**.1. Commitments by countries to take action to reduce emissions. The agreement reaffirms the commitments by countries to implement their specific actions to reduce emissions. In Copenhagen, countries accounting for over 80% of the world’s emissions made specific commitments to reduce their emissions at home. The agreement marks a continued commitment to implement these actions in a country’s domestic laws and policies. For the first time these countries decided to “anchor” their pledges in an agreement adopted by the UN. These are actions that countries are already beginning to take at home, which is ultimately what we need from the international agreement—action, action, action.2. Improving transparency and accountability. It also contains important decisions that would begin to implement details on how to increase the transparency and accountability of countries emissions and actions. This will provide the necessary data, information, reporting, and scrutiny to keep a spotlight on whether countries are making the necessary progress towards their commitments. The agreement will allow all countries and the world’s citizens to have the needed information to hold countries accountable for their progress.The decision would require that developed countries improve their monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) of emissions, actions to reduce emissions, and financial support to developing countries. Developed countries would continue to submit annual emission inventories which track their economy-wide emissions over time. And they would be required to better track their progress in implementing their emissions reduction actions and financial support to aid developing countries in reducing emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change. These monitoring and reporting provisions would be subject to enhanced review by technical experts providing a level of assurance that the information is accurate and credible so that there is no “fudging the details”.The agreement would require that developing countries improve their reporting on emissions and actions that they are taking to cut emissions. They would now report every 2 years their emissions and actions. And these would be subject to domestic monitoring, reporting, and verification “in accordance with guidelines to be developed under the Convention”. The agreement would create a new technical analysis of the information reported by the country through “international consultation a[...]

How Warm Was This Summer?


Dr. James HansenLet's look at the surface temperatures in the summer of 2010, which justifiably received a lot of attention. Figure 1 shows maps of the June-July-August temperature anomaly (relative to 1951-1980) in the GISS temperature analysis (described in paper in press at Rev. Geophys., available at this link) for 2009 and 2010, as well as maps for December-January-February (Northern Hemisphere winter, Southern Hemisphere summer) for the past two years.June-July-August 2010 was the 4th warmest in the 131 year GISS analysis, while 2009 was the 2nd warmest1.  2010 was a bit cooler than 2009 mainly because a moderate El Nino in the equatorial Pacific Ocean during late 2009 and early 2010 has been replaced by a moderate La Nina. Also most of Antarctica was cool in winter 2010, while it was warm in 2009. Antarctic winter temperature anomalies are very noisy, fluctuating chaotically from year to year.The maps make clear that perceptions of how hot it was depend on where you live. The two warmest anomalies on the planet this past summer were Eastern Europe and the Antarctic Peninsula. Not many people live on the Antarctic Peninsula and an anomaly of even several degrees in winter there is not a big deal. But the warm anomaly centered in Eastern Europe, which covered most of Europe and the Middle East, was noticed, to say the least. It was also quite warm in Japan, where the prior summer had been cooler than the 1951-1980 mean. The United States, which had been unusually cool in the summer of 2009, was warm this past summer, except the Pacific Northwest, which was cooler than the 1951-1980 climatology.Figure 1. Seasonal-mean temperature anomalies relative to 1951-1980 mean for the most recent two summers and winters.Figure 2. Winter and summer temperature anomalies over United States, Europe and Japan relative to 1951-1980 mean. Areas employed to calculate anomalies were the 48 contiguous states for the United States, rectangle defined by 36-70N latitude and 10W-30E longitude for Europe, and 40 1-by-1 degree boxes approximately covering Japan. If the box defining Europe were extended to the east to encompass western Russia, the 2010 anomaly would be comparable to the warm anomaly in 2003.These global temperature anomaly maps may help people understand that the temperature anomaly in one place in one season has limited relevance to global trends. Unfortunately it is common for the public to take the most recent local seasonal temperature anomaly as indicative of long-term climate trends. Last winter in the Northern Hemisphere (left side of Figure 1) provided a good example of this misperception. As discussed in the Rev. Geophys. paper, the extreme winter cold anomalies in Eurasia and the United States were a fluke associated with the most extreme Arctic Oscillation in the record.This does not mean that local anomalies are unrelated to global trends, but it is necessary to look at statistics. Figure 2 shows winter and summer surface temperature anomalies averaged over the United States (contiguous 48 states), Europe and Japan. In each of these locations either 7 or 8 of the last 10 winters were warmer than the 1951-1980 mean winter temperature. Summer temperatures are a bit less noisy: 8 of the last 10 summers were warmer than the 1951-1980 mean in the United States and Japan, and 10 of 10 in Europe. So if you are perceptive and old enough, you should be able to notice a trend toward warmer sea[...]

Key steps on global warming on which agreement is needed in Mexico later this year


by Jake SchmidtGreenhouse gas emissions by countryincluding land-use changeThis December, 194 countries will be in Cancun, Mexico to continue negotiations on international efforts to address climate change. My colleagues and I are in Mexico City this week for a series of discussions with key government officials, NGOs, businesses, and members of the media so we’ve been reflecting on Cancun. The Cancun climate negotiation session (COP16) must serve three critical functions to ensure the continued progress on international climate change efforts and to rebuild some of the trust lost during and after Copenhagen. First, at Cancun, the international community needs to prove to countries and the world public that it can work together to address climate change. It is essential that countries make some progress in Cancun and show that the international system can work. This is paramount, as a perceived failure will make it even more difficult to build political momentum within the UN system and may lead the public and countries to disengage.Second, Cancun needs to produce agreement on aspects of the key implementing activities to be delivered by the international agreement –e.g., clean energy technology deployment, deforestation reductions, improving the resilience of countries to the impacts of climate change, etc. While it is unlikely that every aspect of these issues will be resolved in Cancun, it is possible to make significant progress on each of these issues at Cancun. The notion of “nothing is agreed, until everything is agreed” must be set aside in favor of re-establishing confidence by progressively building the agreement component by component.Third, COP16 needs to produce momentum and enough progress that COP17 (in South Africa) and the Rio 2012 Earth Summit can finalize additional commitments and implementation steps. So what are a couple of tangible steps that countries can agree in Cancun to achieve these three aims? 1. Commitments for “Actions” and “Support”. The meeting in Cancun needs to create the expectation that this and future meetings will focus strong political and public attention on what actions countries are taking to reduce their emissions and on what support they are offering to help deploy clean energy, reduce deforestation emissions, and adapt to the impacts of climate change.Action, Action, Action. Countries accounting for over 80% of the world’s emissions have now committed to specific actions that undertake at home to reduce their global warming pollution. Much of the political posturing, focus of the general public and the media, and dynamics of the international negotiations is focused on what “the agreement” (or the negotiating text) has to say. Much less attention is focused on what actions countries commit to take, what concrete steps they are taking at home to reduce their emissions, and how they could be assisted in the move to a low carbon economy. The meeting in Cancun needs to reaffirm the expectation that countries are to implement specific actions at home and report those efforts with the international community at every subsequent meeting. Over time this reporting should become more formal, but countries should be expected to informally report on their actions at Cancun. Countries should have to say: “we have done nothing” or “we have taken such and such step, but need t[...]