Category Archives: Climate science

Where’s the heat? Warming of Pacific Ocean fastest seen in 10,000 years

Skeptics have made much of the so called 15 year “pause” in warming for land surface temperatures, while conveniently overlooking the warming oceans.

A study just released this week in Science indicates the Pacific Ocean may be warming at a rate faster than it has in the last 10,0000 years [pay wall]:

Observed increases in ocean heat content (OHC) and temperature are robust indicators of global warming during the past several decades. We used high-resolution proxy records from sediment cores to extend these observations in the Pacific 10,000 years beyond the instrumental record. We show that water masses linked to North Pacific and Antarctic intermediate waters were warmer by 2.1 ± 0.4°C and 1.5 ± 0.4°C, respectively, during the middle Holocene Thermal Maximum than over the past century. Both water masses were ~0.9°C warmer during the Medieval Warm period than during the Little Ice Age and ~0.65° warmer than in recent decades. Although documented changes in global surface temperatures during the Holocene and Common era are relatively small, the concomitant changes in OHC are large.

This study was also reported in the LA Times, where some (genuine) climate scientists expressed scepticism about the rate of warming. Still it is very clear the oceans have been acting as a “buffer” in absorbing additional heat. However we can’t bank on the oceans performing this role in future centuries:

“This is much faster than anything we’ve seen in the long term,” said Yair Rosenthal, a professor of earth sciences at Rutgers University and lead author of the study.

The timing could be fortuitous, because we may be pumping the atmosphere full of carbon after a naturally-occurring cooldown, just when the oceans are most prepared to absorb the heat, Rosenthal said.

“There may be some hope, “ he said, “because maybe the ocean will be able to store more heat than we were estimating before.”

It could also spell trouble. While temperatures in the atmosphere go up and down pretty quickly, seawater can absorb a lot of heat before its temperature rises. So even if carbon emissions are reduced, it could take years or even centuries for the ocean to respond, a lag that could have consequences far into the future.

[Image source: Scientific American]

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People power part 2: climate council raises $1 million in a week

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Amazing response from the public:

A social media campaign to fund a replacement for the abolished Climate  Commission through private donations has proved a huge success with $900,000  raised in less than a week.

Amanda McKenzie, from the rebadged Climate Council, said the money was raised  largely from small donors, with an average donation of about $50.

The funds were raised from about 20,000 individuals and far exceeded the  original targets.

“Initially the councillors aimed to raise $500,000 in a week. That target was  met after two days,” she said. “Once we got to $800,000 we upped the aim to $1  million on Facebook”.

There is a much greater level of support for action on climate change than our conservative politicians would have us believe.

See also their report on the IPCCs recently released Assessment Report (5th edition).

 

 

 

#debateisover: the science is real, this is what the dangers look like

Let’s get the word out:

Debateisover2

 

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What keeps scientists up at night: must see video from the Climate Institute that gives scientists a voice

Very much worth watching, this great video from The Climate Institute:

Description:

“On 27 September 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases the Fifth Assessment Report of its working group on the science of climate change. Thousands of scientists from the world’s leading research bodies, including the CSIRO, together with thousands more expert reviewers, contribute to the assessment of climate science by the IPCC. The reports of the IPCC set the context in which international climate negotiations take place, national climate policy is developed, and many firms make long-term investments.

Ahead of the report’s release we interviewed 20 climate scientists from the University of New South Wales, University of Melbourne, Monash University and CSIRO to find out how we can close the gap between the science and public opinion.”

Great work CI, and wonderful to hear the voices of scientists not distorted by a hostile media.

Please socialise this via your networks, the more people who see this the better.

Leaked IPCC report confirms scientists have “95% confidence” we’re changing the climate

95sure

From the Jakarta Globe:

Climate scientists are surer than ever that human activity is causing global warming, according to leaked drafts of a major UN report, but they are finding it harder than expected to predict the impact in specific regions in coming decades.

The uncertainty is frustrating for government planners: the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the main guide for states weighing multibillion-dollar shifts to renewable energy from fossil fuels, for coastal regions considering extra sea defenses or crop breeders developing heat-resistant strains.

Drafts seen by Reuters of the study by the UN panel of experts, due to be published next month, say it is at least 95 percent likely that human activities – chiefly the burning of fossil fuels – are the main cause of warming since the 1950s.

That is up from at least 90 percent in the last report in 2007, 66 percent in 2001, and just over 50 in 1995, steadily squeezing out the arguments by a small minority of scientists that natural variations in the climate might be to blame.

That shifts the debate onto the extent of temperature rises and the likely impacts, from manageable to catastrophic.

Governments have agreed to work out an international deal by the end of 2015 to rein in rising emissions.

More details to come.

Not that it is a surprise to many of us.

Uncertainty is not our friend: leaked IPCC report confirms climate change still dangerous

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There has been a rash of articles of late claiming the next IPCC report (AR5) will revise the temperature response to increased levels of atmospheric CO2 downwards. Turns out this is not the case, but more on that soon.

This is what I like to call “The Great Climate Sensitivity Debate of 2013” in which we all rushed out to understand what this once obscure branch of science was about.

The message from the deniers and some sections of the media was that the silly scientists had gotten it wrong, and that the consensus was shifting towards “Things aren’t as bad as we once thought.”

Perhaps the most notorious example of this “bright siding” was this article from the The Economist

Silly, silly scientists!

Panicking us for 30 years only to say “Oops sorry guys we waz wrong! So sorry – our bad!”

Seems this whole flap over climate sensitivity was a pointless distraction, as New Scientist notes:

Can we all stop worrying about global warming? According to a recent rash of stories in the media, the “climate sensitivity” – the extent to which temperatures respond to more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – is lower than expected, and thus that the world won’t get as hot as predicted. One story, in The Economist, based on leaked information from a draft of the next assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, claims the IPCC will revise its sensitivity estimate downwards when they release their official report this September.

Turns out climate change is still dangerous and something we may wish to prevent:

The bottom line is that there is no new consensus that climate sensitivity is lower than previously thought, says Knutti. The observed trend points to lower values because of the recent slowdown, but other evidence continues to support higher values.

The last IPCC report stated that equilibrium climate sensitivity was between 2 and 4.5 °C, mostly likely 3 °C. The Economist claims the IPCC’s next report will give a figure between 1.5 and 4.5 °C, with no most likely value. The IPCC won’t confirm or deny it, but it’s not a huge change if it is true.

“What matters for avoiding dangerous climate change is the upper end, and that hasn’t changed,” says Knutti. Ward makes the same point. “We can’t afford to gamble on sensitivity definitely being low,” he says.

But will it all be a huge waste if sensitivity does turn out to be low? Far from it. If we don’t cut emissions, Knutti points out, all low sensitivity means is that it will take a decade or two longer for the planet to warm as much as it would if sensitivity was high. “It doesn’t get away from the fact that emissions have to be reduced,” he says.

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Let’s end the pseudo debate: ask your politician if they accept the scientific consensus on climate change

“Belief” is a troubling word when used within the context of the climate debate.

Frequently people will ask me “Do you believe in climate change?” as if it is a matter of personal opinion.

I always answer (politely of course) “I accept the 97% consensus of climate scientists”. My personal views are of no consequence to the reality of climate change – it is simply what the overwhelming evidence has told me.

Facts are independent of opinion. And while every one has a right to accept or reject the evidence of climate change, personal belief does not alter the robust and well-tested scientific theory (not hypothesis) that humanity is changing the planet’s atmosphere.

Within the scientific community this fact is a no longer controversial – nor has it been for decades. The fact that the science is settled has been obscured by the denial movement, sceptical politicians and the Murdoch press. In doing so they have impeded action on climate change.

As we head into Election 2013 climate change will be front and centre once more with Tony Abbott swearing a “blood oath” to axe-the-tax. The Coalition’s attack on the “carbon tax” has been central to undermining the Gillard government’s legitimacy. Their scare campaign – in addition to Labor’s own incompetence and failure to explain their policies to the electorate – has more than likely delivered them office in September.

However, the Coalition’s climate policies are now coming under increasing scrutiny – especially from business who regard their ‘Direct Action Plan” as either inadequate or a bit of a joke. The business community prefers an emissions trading scheme.

Climate change is central to discussions about our nations future; it will impact business, individuals and communities. Thus we should be asking our politicians if they accept or reject the scientific consensus.

It is time for the pseudo debate to end.

Let’s stop talking about whether or not global warming has “paused” for 17 years or if climate change is a Marxist/Rothschild plot to take over the globe.

We should ask our politicians “Do you accept the consensus of 97% of climate scientists?”

Australia’s politicians in the spotlight: uknowispeaksense survey

I highly recommend the research on the acceptance or rejection of climate science of our politicians by Mike from uknowispeaksense. See his work here:

He has represented this a couple of graphs. What is surprising is that most politicians accept the science, as indicated in the following pie charts.

House of Representatives:

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And in the Senate:

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However if you dig into the numbers, far less conservative politicians accept the scientific consensus. Still, it is worth noting both the majority of voters and politicians accept the science.

So why the hold up?

The denial movement has created a powerful aura of invincibility around itself and that we should all pay attention to their arguments. However, the reality is that they are tiny in numbers but extremely vocal. What they lack in numbers they make up for in the vehemence in prosecuting their anti-science campaign.

The article below from The Conversation is also relevant to this discussion and proposes eight questions we should be asking of all our politicians (see below).

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By Brad Farrant, University of Western Australia; Fiona Armstrong, La Trobe University; Karen Kiang, University of Melbourne, and Mark G Edwards, University of Western Australia

As we head into an election, you’d be justified in asking what your local member is basing their climate change decisions on.

If your MP says “I don’t support policies to prevent dangerous climate change” because “I don’t believe climate change is occurring” or “I’m not sure climate change is human caused” is this position justifiable simply because it’s his or her personal opinion?

While everyone may be entitled to their own opinion, are our elected leaders being ethically responsible when they justify inaction on climate change based on personal opinions? Sustainability ethicist Donald A. Brown, from Widener University School of Law, emphatically argues, “no” – they are not.

In a recent widely republished blog post on ethicsandclimate.org, Brown argues government officials have an ethical responsibility to understand the state of climate change science. Politicians hold crucial leadership positions where they can enact policies that can prevent or minimise great harm. These policies, to put it bluntly, affect millions, if not billions, of people around the world.

Governments and elected officials cannot ethically choose to rely on their own uninformed opinion or ideology instead of the scientific consensus.

The long-standing consensus of climate scientists and the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence warn us that constituents and governments are causing great harm through greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, Brown says, politicians may not appeal to their personal opinions on climate science. They are not justification for not taking action.

Brown refers to a number of US politicians who hold the position that they don’t support climate policies because they are not convinced by the science. Brown argues that the media has largely failed to hold them accountable.

The same issue afflicts many Australian politicians – and the Australian media. Very rarely have politicians who reject climate science in Australia been asked to explain their justifications on scientific grounds.

According to the Political Leaders and Climate Change Index (PLCCI) published in 2010 by the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, the number of politicians in the parliament who either don’t or won’t accept the science of climate change in Australia is significant.

Of course, this can change over time. Recently the new Federal Minister for Resources and Energy Gary Gray renounced his previous position that climate science was “pop science” and a “middle-class conspiracy to frighten schoolchildren”.

However, there are many other politicians who have not changed their opinions as Gray has done. In 2010 around 40% of Liberal/National politicians held the view the world could warm by 3-4 degrees Celsius before the situation became dangerous. The actual scientific consensus is a mere 2 degrees. Another 40% professed not to know what a safe global average temperature increase might be.

The likelihood of a Coalition government winning in 2013 makes the public statement of personal opinions on human induced climate change an issue of national and global importance.

The risks posed to the Australian and international communities by the uninformed opinions of our national leaders are significant. They cannot ethically choose to rely on their own uniformed opinion or ideology instead of science. Because of those risks, the role of responsible and well-informed media is crucial. The media has the civic and moral obligation to be a watchdog on society and its institutions.

Journalists have a duty to question politicians who oppose action based on uninformed opinions. The public has a right to be informed, and to question, a politician’s justification for putting current and future generations at risk.

Following Brown, we propose a series of questions that journalists (and the public) should be asking politicians on global warming, and how governments should respond to it.

  1. Are you aware that over 97% of climate scientists globally, the CSIRO, the Australian Academy of Science and every major national science academy in the industrialised world (whose membership includes climate scientists) agree that the planet is warming, that the observed climate change is mostly human caused, and that if we continue with business as usual, harsh impacts and irreversible changes to the climate system will occur?
  2. Do you accept that climate change is occurring? If not, what specific scientific sources and references do you rely on to justify rejecting the scientific consensus?
  3. Do you accept that the human population is making a substantial contribution to climate change via our greenhouse gas emissions? If not, what specific scientific sources and references do you rely on to justify going against the scientific consensus?
  4. Is it your position that Australia and the rest of the world need to urgently adopt policies to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in line with scientific recommendations? If not, what specific scientific sources and references do you rely on to justify rejecting the scientific consensus?
  5. Are you aware that the impacts of climate change in terms of increased risks to human health and climate change related deaths is already being measured by medical and public health professionals worldwide?
  6. Do you accept that anyone who argues that we continue with business as usual and emit greenhouse gases beyond levels that the consensus of climate scientists says is dangerous for humanity (and the ecological system on which humans depend) should bear the burden of proof to show that this is safe?
  7. Do you accept that, in light of the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence and the long-standing consensus of climate scientists, politicians have a responsibility to immediately implement strategies to prevent dangerous climate change?
  8. Given that climate scientists have been advising the urgent reduction of greenhouse gases for decades, do you accept that politicians who fail to implement policies to prevent dangerous climate change should be held responsible for harm that results from this inaction?

We might ask politicians a few of these ourselves. Have a go yourself – and let us know how you get on. We’d be pleased to write about it.

Karen Kiang is affiliated with Royal Children’s Hospital and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

Brad Farrant, Fiona Armstrong, and Mark G Edwards do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. They also have no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Shock! Prediction about global warming made in 1999 stunningly accurate

1999 prediction black line; actual temperatures red line; yellow diamonds individual years

In a paper just published  Nature Geoscience titled Test of a decadal climate forecast (doi:10.1038/ngeo1788) forecasts made in a climate models form 1999 have been  accurate within a “few hundreds of a degree”.

As the Guardian reports:

The paper, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature Geoscience, explores the performance of a climate forecast based on data up to 1996 by comparing it with the actual temperatures observed since. The results show that scientists accurately predicted the warming experienced in the past decade, relative to the decade to 1996, to within a few hundredths of a degree. 

The forecast, published in 1999 by Myles Allen and colleagues at Oxford University, was one of the first to combine complex computer simulations of the climate system with adjustments based on historical observations to produce both a most likely global mean warming and a range of uncertainty. It predicted that the decade ending in December 2012 would be a quarter of degree warmer than the decade ending in August 1996 – and this proved almost precisely correct. 

The study is the first of its kind because reviewing a climate forecast meaningfully requires at least 15 years of observations to compare against. Assessments based on shorter periods are prone to being misleading due to natural short-term variability in the climate.

So, scientists created a complex computer simulation in 1999; it has proven to be stunningly accurate.

I can’t wait to see how the denial machine will spin that one.

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