Saturday, October 22, 2016

Global Cooperation on Carbon Trading Could Reduce Climate Change Mitigation Costs by 32%

Summary map of existing, emerging and potential regional, national and subnational carbon pricing initiatives (ETS and tax) (Credit: World Bank) Click to Enlarge.
According to a new World Bank report released this week, increased global cooperation through carbon trading could reduce the cost of climate change mitigation by 32% by 2030.

The new report subsequently concludes that, while the INDCs will rely on a variety of policies and programs, the World Bank believes that carbon pricing initiatives are going to play an increasing role.  Already 100 Parties, representing 58% of global greenhouse gas emissions, are planning or considering carbon pricing, and around 40 national jurisdictions and over 20 cities, states, and regions, are putting a price on carbon, translating to a total coverage of around 7 gigatonnes, or 13% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“The more we cooperate through carbon trading, the larger the savings and the greater the potential to increase ambition by countries in the short term,” said John Roome, Senior Director for Climate Change at the World Bank.  “To be effective, carbon pricing policies must be coordinated with other energy and environmental policies — this will require collaboration within and between countries.”

Read more at Global Cooperation on Carbon Trading Could Reduce Climate Change Mitigation Costs by 32%

  Friday, Oct 21

Global surface temperature relative to 1880-1920 based on GISTEMP analysis (mostly NOAA data sources, as described by Hansen, J., R. Ruedy, M. Sato, and K. Lo, 2010: Global surface temperature change. Rev. Geophys., 48, RG4004.  We suggest in an upcoming paper that the temperature in 1940-45 is exaggerated because of data inhomogeneity in WW II. Linear-fit to temperature since 1970 yields present temperature of 1.06°C, which is perhaps our best estimate of warming since the preindustrial period.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Winter Drought Forecast for Much of U.S.

Drought conditions across the contiguous U.S. as of Oct. 18, 2016. (Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor) Click to Enlarge.
While the weather catchphrase of recent winters was the shiver-inducing polar vortex, the buzzword for this winter in the U.S. will be drought.

Significant droughts are already in place over nearly 45 percent of the contiguous U.S., with hotspots in California — where the drought is in its sixth year — the Southeast and Northeast.  With the renewed possibility of a La Niña emerging in the next couple months, little improvement is expected in most areas; the drought in the Southeast is expected to expand and drought could also emerge in the Southern Plains, according to the most recent seasonal forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The winter forecast doesn’t bode well for [California] and many other areas around the nation currently experiencing drought,” Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said during a press teleconference.

La Niña is the opposite end of the natural climate seesaw from El Niño; it is characterized by cooler-than-normal ocean waters in the tropical Pacific, while El Niño features warmer-than-normal.

After an exceptionally strong El Niño, conditions in that area of the Pacific have cooled, moving into neutral territory and now “hovering near the La Niña threshold,” Halpert said.

While an El Niño tends to bring wetter, cooler weather to the southern tier of the U.S., La Niña has an opposite effect, bringing drier and warmer weather to the same region.  It is still uncertain whether a La Niña will actually materialize, and if it does, it is likely to be a weak one, but with the outlook trending in that direction, the forecast for already drought-stricken areas is for more of the same.

California had hoped that the strong El Niño would bring more drought relief than it did.  An above-average winter wet season was needed to make a significant dent in the drought, but the year ended around normal.  The bulk of the precipitation fell in the northern part of the state, unusual for a winter with an El Niño.  While that led to some improvement there, central and Southern California remain mired in the worst categories of drought.

Even with normal or above-normal precipitation, California’s drought isn’t going anywhere soon.  To wipe it out, “many, many years” of above-normal precipitation are needed, Miskus said.

In the future, more droughts like this could be in store for the state as recent research has suggested that some of the ocean and atmospheric conditions that helped usher in and deepen the drought could become more common in a warming world.

While out West there is a firm wet season that provides the only opportunity for drought relief, in the eastern U.S., precipitation is much more evenly distributed throughout the year.

But in the Southeast, conditions have been dry and warm since spring, allowing drought to flourish.  The epicenter is northern Georgia and Alabama, southeastern Tennessee and the western Carolinas.

The Atlantic coast of the Southeast is fairing much better because of rains dropped by Hurricanes Hermine and Matthew.  In some areas of eastern North and South Carolina, Matthew dumped 1-in-1,000 year rains, according to the National Weather Service.

“You go from flooding in one end of the state to pretty bad drought in the west,” Miskus said.

With the La Niña signal and a winter forecast of warmer and drier weather, the drought is expected to deepen and expand westward and toward the Gulf Coast.

Read more at Winter Drought Forecast for Much of U.S.

Climate Silence Goes Way Beyond Debate Moderators - By Andrew C. Revkin

Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump on the debate stage. (Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times) Click to Enlarge.
With three presidential debates and one for vice president behind us, David Leonhardt posted a helpful tally of debate questions — decrying the lack of a single question on one of the key issues facing humanity in this century and beyond:  human-driven climate change. (The issue was touched on twice by Hillary Clinton in answers to other questions.)

Paul Krugman and a host of environment-minded commentators weighed in, as well.

I put it this way on Twitter:  “When journalism merely mirrors public worries, what happens? Zero debate questions on #climatechange.”

But of course there are deeper issues afoot.

[You can learn more in my Facebook Live session on the article and related themes.]

In a moment, I’ll give the floor here to George Marshall, a longtime climate communication evangelist who’s written an invaluable book on Why our brains are wired to ignore climate change and what to do about it.  And as a coda, you can watch two great discussions of ways to build A More Scientific Union.
In the end, climate change shares characteristics with other momentous issues humans tend to tuck away — mortality being an example.  (Woody Allen is probably an exception on that front.)

This creates what Leiserowitz and colleagues at George Mason University see as a “spiral” of climate silence.

In a guest post, here’s more on ways to make progress from George Marshall, whose work I cited in my piece on the phenomenon:

Breaking the collective silence is, I am convinced, a key to making headway on climate change.  I work for Climate Outreach, a British nonprofit group that specializes in generating public engagement with climate change.  We published our first report on climate silence three years ago.

The recent research by Yale and George Mason Universities confirms that three quarters of Americans “rarely or never discuss global warming with family or friends.”  The silence is just a strong in Britain.  After our workshops, participants frequently tell us that this had been the first meaningful conversation that they have ever had on climate change.
For one thing people hugely overestimate how much  they talk about climate change.  A survey in the U.S., U.K. and Canada in 2010 by Haddock Research also found that only 24 percent of people said that they talked frequently about climate change — in line with the Yale/George Mason findings.
And this too may be an overestimate.  When asked to describe previous conversations on climate change most people struggle to recall any specific content, and a large majority say they are very uncomfortable talking about climate change at all.  Our work finds that this awkwardness is especially marked among young people, who told us that climate change is “uncool,” “sounds preachy” and is “not something I feel comfortable talking about- like religion.”  A surprising finding of Haddock’s research was that the social group that talked about climate change the least was young women under 30, even though they claim to be among the most concerned.

What is even more surprising is that this constructed silence extends  even to people who are the recent victims of extreme and unprecedented weather.  When I was researching my book, Don’t Even Think About It,  I conducted  multiple interviews with people along the New Jersey sea shore and Bastrop County, Tex., which had been devastated by, respectively, Hurricane Sandy and the largest wildfires in Texan history.  As was reported on Earthblog, no one I spoke to could recall a recent conversation about climate change.  Even those who accepted that climate change had played a role admitted that raising the issue had felt uncomfortable and  exploitative.  [I explored Marshall’s work in these disaster zones on Dot Earth in 2012.]

Such findings support the our research, supported by a large and growing body of evidence, that finds that silence is not accidental but has been socially constructed to create distance and defend ourselves from uncomfortable truths.  It is a process that has disturbing similarities with the collectives silences in countries suffering from human rights abuses in which entire societies reach unwritten compacts about what can and cannot be publicly recognized.

My view is that the climate change community  (a deliberately all-embracing term that encompasses politicians, policy makers, scientists and  campaign organizations) have all underestimated the critical importance of social conversations in generating change.  Peer-to-peer conversations provide a vital signal to us about the issues that are important and the opinions that are socially required for us to hold.  And the conversation itself provides us with the forum within  which we can then rehearse and negotiate our own views.

Such conversations are the essential underpinning for political change.  If people do not mention climate change with friends, they do not mention it to pollsters either, which is why climate change never appears on the regular polls of key voter issues and is sidelined in elections.  Politicians see it as a risky and divisive issue which will yield few votes so they too avoid mentioning climate change.

The news media in turn finds no place for this long-term crisis on a news agenda set by the daily political debates.  As our colleagues at Yale and George Mason say, there is a spiral of silence which, like climate change, is built on positive feedbacks that amplify that silence further.

However the reverse is equally true:  that when people start to engage with an issue with  friends and family and beyond, we could see an acceleration in attention as it becomes socially salient at all levels.  This is why the Scottish government, now arguably the world’s most progressive government on climate change, has made conversations a core component of their engagement strategy.

Several weeks ago it launched a set of materials, designed by Climate Outreach, which will enable hundreds of groups across Scotland to engage their wider communities in local conversations.  In our forthcoming book, Talking Climate: From Research to Practice in Public Engagement, my colleagues Adam Corner and Jamie Clarke go further to make the detailed case for public conversations as a model of public engagement.

And it is not enough just to encourage people to talk:  I believe we have to encourage people to recognize and name that silence, and to find the fire that can drive them to directly challenge it:  “Damn  it all —  this is important and I AM going to talk about it.”  For exactly these reasons the challenge of silence and the demand for visibility has long been a key component of social right campaigns- against racism, sexism, child abuse and campaigns for gay rights and marriage. There is much to learn from these struggles.

Read more at Climate Silence Goes Way Beyond Debate Moderators -
By Andrew C. Revkin

A Hotter World Is Poorer and More Violent

Recent research suggests climate change will lead to troubling social and economic damages, including a severe drop in global GDP.

Solomon Hsiang (Photograph Credit: Justin Saglio) Click to Enlarge.
What will a planet plagued by escalating climate change look like?  No one really knows.  But speaking at EmTech MIT 2016, Solomon Hsiang, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, presented results based on his recent analysis of economic and climate data that begin to more clearly define what the world might look like as it gets hotter.

It’s not a pretty picture.  Rising temperatures will dramatically damage agricultural yields and human health, and will significantly reduce overall economic growth.  In fact, Hsiang said, data suggests global GDP will be reduced by 23 percent by the end of the century if climate change progresses largely unabated, compared to a world without global warming.

That decrease in economic output will hit the poorest 60 percent of the population disproportionately hard, said Hsiang.  In doing so, it will surely exacerbate inequality, as many rich regions of the world that have lower average annual temperatures, such as northern Europe, benefit from the changes.  Hotter areas around the tropics, including large parts of south Asia and Africa, already tend to be poorer and will suffer.

One of the insights from his research, Hsiang said, is that “temperature is immensely influential” on many different aspects of our lives.  Extreme hot temperatures, it turns out, have a strong negative impact on everything from manufacturing productivity to infant mortality to individual and group violence.  “We will need to adapt,” he said.  But “adaption is hard because it is expensive.”  Thus, he suggested, we will need innovation and new technologies in many different sectors to bring down the costs.

Still, Hsiang said he remains optimistic.  Recent increases in computational power and availability of vast amounts of data means it is possible for the first time to begin to understand the specific economic and social changes ahead as climate change becomes more severe. And that information, he said, could allow us to minimize the damages and “decide what type of world we want to live in.”

Read more at A Hotter World Is Poorer and More Violent

U.S. Energy Shakeup Continues as Solar Capacity Triples

A solar panel. (Credit: Voice0Reason/flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Solar power capacity in the U.S. will have nearly tripled in size in less than three years by 2017 amid an energy shakeup that has seen natural gas solidify its position as the country’s chief source of electricity and coal power continue to fade, according to monthly data published by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Cutting carbon dioxide emissions from electric power plants is a major part of the U.S. strategy for tackling climate change as the country seeks to meet its obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement and keep global warming from exceeding more than 2°C (3.6°F).

Reducing those emissions requires changing the fuels used to produce electricity, including using more natural gas and renewables than coal, historically the country’s largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change.

Renewables still make up only a fraction of the U.S. power supply — 8 percent this year. That’s expected to grow to 9 percent next year, and the biggest driver of that growth is solar.

Read more at U.S. Energy Shakeup Continues as Solar Capacity Triples

Governments Agree U.N. Study of Tough Climate Limit, Despite Doubts

A building under construction is seen amidst smog on a polluted day in Shenyang, Liaoning province November 21, 2014. (Credit: Reuters/Jacky Chen) Click to Enlarge.
Governments gave the green light on Thursday for a U.N. scientific study on how to meet an ambitious global warming target, despite growing worries by some scientists that the goal may be unrealistic.

The report, due for completion in 2018, is meant to guide almost 200 nations including China and the United States on how to stop world temperatures rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit). its' open ended - no date set

But some scientists say the 1.5C ceiling, favored most strongly by tropical island states which fear rising sea levels, will likely be breached soon because of a steady buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels.

And world leaders have only signed up for a less ambitious plan - their promise in Paris last December to limit global warming to "well below" 2C above pre-industrial times, while "pursuing efforts" for 1.5 degrees.

The study, approved by government officials and scientists at the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Bangkok on Thursday, will look at ways to meet the tougher target.

The paper, due for completion in 2018, will also look at the likely impacts of a 1.5C rise on the planet, from tropical coral reefs to Greenland's ice, and try to ensure that policies to limit warming also reduce poverty.

Average world surface temperatures are on track to set a new record high in 2016, more than 1C (1.8F) above pre-industrial times, and threaten to cause ever more downpours, heat waves and to accelerate a rise in ocean levels.

Read more at Governments Agree U.N. Study of Tough Climate Limit, Despite Doubts