Climate change news: The clock is ticking on the opportunity to keep warming below 2C

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There was a bunch of news on the climate change front last week including this article from Richard Black writing for the BBC. He highlights the efforts by the leaders of some 200 companies from around the world to get their government to act to reduce carbon dioxide emmissions. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

The 2C Challenge, co-ordinated by the Prince of Wales Corporate Leaders Group, says that climate change puts society’s future prosperity at risk.

But the window to keep global warming below 2C has “almost closed”, it warns.

Companies signing up include UK retailer Tesco, energy provider EDF, electronics company Philips, chemicals giant Unilever, eBay and Rolls-Royce.

The communique is published six weeks before governments of 192 countries convene in Durban, South Africa, for the annual UN climate summit.

More coverage from the Environmental News Service. From the article:

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change said, “Governments have clearly signaled their intention to move towards a low-carbon future. To get there fast enough will require huge new investments in clean energy. This is the only way to guarantee the long-term sustainability and security of the world economic system and the stability of returns from global investment, a major part of which is directly linked to the pensions and life insurance of ordinary people around the world.”

“The statement from major private sector investors will help to give governments both the confidence and the knowledge to put the right incentives and mechanisms in place,” said Figueres.

Frank Pegan, who chairs IGCC Australia/New Zealand said, “Individual nations will be in a stronger position to attract private capital to stimulate their economies by implementing clear and credible climate policies. As and when governments around the world show leadership and reduce policy risk around climate change for investors, the investment flows will follow.”[…]

Dr. Wolfgang Engshuber, who chairs the Advisory Council of the Principles for Responsible Investment, said, “Climate change will transform economies throughout the world, creating new opportunities for investors. However, these will gain traction only if governments play their part in laying down well-designed and effective climate change policies. Without such a supportive regulatory environment, we will not see the level of investment that is needed to transform the world’s energy supplies and transport systems.”

Physicist Richard Muller led the project at Berkeley that compiled more than a billion temperature records dating back to the 1800s. The project report concluded that the planet has warmed 1C since the 1950s. Here’s a report from the Guardian. From the article:

The Berkeley Earth project compiled more than a billion temperature records dating back to the 1800s from 15 sources around the world and found that the average global land temperature has risen by around 1C since the mid-1950s.

This figure agrees with the estimate arrived at by major groups that maintain official records on the world’s climate, including Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), and the Met Office’s Hadley Centre, with the University of East Anglia, in the UK.

“My hope is that this will win over those people who are properly sceptical,” Richard Muller, a physicist and head of the project, said.

“Some people lump the properly sceptical in with the deniers and that makes it easy to dismiss them, because the deniers pay no attention to science. But there have been people out there who have raised legitimate issues.”

Muller sought to cool the debate over climate change by creating the largest open database of temperature records, with the aim of producing a transparent and independent assessment of global warming.

More on Muller from The Los Angeles Times (Geoff Mohan). From the article:

UC Berkeley physicist Richard Muller and others were looking at the so-called urban heat island effect — the notion that because more urban temperature stations are included in global temperature data sets than are rural ones, the global average temperature was being skewed upward because these sites tend to retain more heat. Hence, global warming trends are exaggerated.

Using data from such urban heat islands as Tokyo, they hypothesized, could introduce “a severe warming bias in global averages using urban stations.”

In fact, the data trend was “opposite in sign to that expected if the urban heat island effect was adding anomalous warming to the record. The small size, and its negative sign, supports the key conclusion of prior groups that urban warming does not unduly bias estimates of recent global temperature change.”

More coverage from The Economist. From the article:

There are three compilations of mean global temperatures going back over 150 years from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and a collaboration between Britain’s Met Office and the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (known as Hadley CRU). All suggest a similar pattern of warming amounting to about 0.9°C over land in the past half century. Yet this consistency masks large uncertainties in the raw data and doubts about their methodologies. But a new study of current data and analysis by Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature offers strong support to the existing temperature compilations. The results, described in four papers still undergoing peer review, are released on October 20th. It estimates that over the past 50 years the land surface warmed by 0.911°C: a mere 2% less than NOAA’s estimate.

Meanwhile, Andrew Revkin laments the melting away of skeptics talking points due to Muller’s research in the New York Times. From the article:

Richard Muller, a noted Berkeley physicist who’s been a strident critic of climate campaigners, has released a much-anticipated new package of studies, along with all of his team’s data and methods, that powerfully challenges one of the prime talking points of pundits and politicians trying to avoid a shift away from fossil fuels. The assertion has been that the world hasn’t really warmed — just the thermometers — due to expanding asphalt and concrete around cities and other locations housing weather stations.

Revkin is pointing to this blog post from Anthony Watts that stresses that Muller’s research has not been peer reviewed yet. Watts writes:

Readers may recall this post last week where I complained about being put in a uncomfortable quandary by an author of a new paper. Despite that, I chose to honor the confidentiality request of the author Dr. Richard Muller, even though I knew that behind the scenes, they were planning a media blitz to MSM outlets. In the past few days I have been contacted by James Astill of the Economist, Ian Sample of the Guardian, and Leslie Kaufman of the New York Times. They have all contacted me regarding the release of papers from BEST today.

There’s only one problem: Not one of the BEST papers have completed peer review.

Readers may want to thank the Koch Foundation for funding part of the study. Here’s a report from Brad Plummer writing for The Washington Post. From the article:

Muller’s stated aims were simple. He and his team would scour and re-analyze the climate data, putting all their calculations and methods online. Skeptics cheered the effort. “I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong,” wrote Anthony Watts, a blogger who has criticized the quality of the weather stations in the United Statse that provide temperature data. The Charles G. Koch Foundation even gave Muller’s project $150,000 — and the Koch brothers, recall, are hardly fans of mainstream climate science.

So what are the end results? Muller’s team appears to have confirmed the basic tenets of climate science.

Here’s a report about the world’s poor and the need to mitigate the effects of climate change on their population by relocating them. From the article:

The Migration and Global Environmental Change Foresight Report is the most detailed study carried out on the effect of flooding, drought and rising sea levels on human migration patterns over the next 50 years.

The government’s chief scientist, Professor Sir John Beddington, who commissioned the study, said that environmental change would hit the world’s poorest the hardest and that millions of them would inadvertently migrate toward, rather than away from, areas that are most vulnerable.

“[These people] will be trapped in dangerous conditions and unable to be moved to safety,” he said.

Finally, here’s a report about the uniqueness of current warming that is occurring in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres — not seen over the past 20,000 years in the geologic record — from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

“What is happening today is unique from a historical geological perspective,” said Svante Björck, a climate researcher at Lund University.

Björck directly addressed the argument that climate has always changed in cycles by showing that, in the past, when when, for example, the temperature rises in one hemisphere, it falls or remains unchanged in the other. “My study shows that, apart from the larger-scale developments, such as the general change into warm periods and ice ages, climate change has previously only produced similar effects on local or regional level,” says Svante Björck.

To make his findings, Björck examined global climate archives, searching for evidence that any of the climate events that have occurred since the end of the last Ice Age 20,000 years ago generated similar effects on both the northern and southern hemispheres simultaneously. He used the Little Ice Age as an example, explaining that, while Europe experienced some of its coldest centuries, there is no evidence of corresponding simultaneous temperature changes and effects in the southern hemisphere.

Climate records, in the form of core samples taken from marine and lake sediments and glacier ice, serve as a record of how temperature, precipitation and concentration of atmospheric gases and particles have varied over the course of history, and are full of similar examples.

More climate change coverage here.

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