High Concentrations of Methane Likely Released fromSiberian Crater

A large, new crater has  had the local Nenets people in northern Sibera buzzing –loud enough to get launched into global media.  Aliens!  Unknown forces!

Worse Russia_Siberia_Crater-0d903

A mystery crater spotted in the frozen Yamal peninsula in Siberia earlier this month was probably caused by methane released as permafrost thawed, researchers in Russia say.

Air near the bottom of the crater contained unusually high concentrations of methane — up to 9.6%.  Air normally contains just 0.000179% methane.

And, if you’ve been paying any attention at all you’ll know that methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 — by about 20 times.

The fear is that the malevolent feedback loop may be kicking into high gear.

Plekhanov and his team believe that the release is due to the abnormally hot Yamal summers of 2012 and 2013, which were warmer than usual by an average of about 5°C. As temperatures rose, the researchers suggest, permafrost thawed and collapsed, releasing methane that had been trapped in the icy ground.

Other researchers argue that long-term global warming might be to blame — and that a slow and steady thaw in the region could have been enough to free a burst of methane and create such a big crater.

And to make the bad even worse, several other holes, incipient craters, have appeared in the same area.

Read All About It!


Economic Myths About Climate Change

From The Upshot, a business series in the NY Times

Each new climate-change study seems more pessimistic than the last. This May and June, for example, were the hottest ones on record for the planet. Storms and droughts occur with increasing frequency. Glaciers are rapidly retreating, portending rising seas that could eventually displace hundreds of millions of people.

Effective countermeasures now could actually ward off many of these threats at relatively modest cost. Yet despite a robust scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions are at the root of the problem, legislation to curb them has gone nowhere in Congress. In response, President Obama has proposed stricter regulations on electric utilities, which some scientists warn may be too little, too late.

Why aren’t we demanding more forceful action? One reason may be the frequent incantation of a motley collection of myths, each one rooted in bad economics:

Myth 1: The enormous uncertainty of climate science argues for a wait-and-see strategy.

See the other myths and why they are myths, not reality…


Oysters on Acid

Billions of baby oysters in the Pacific inlets here are dying and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington is busy spreading the bad news.

“It used to be the canary in the coal mine,” Mr. Inslee said in a recent interview. “Now it’s the oyster in the half shell. You can’t overstate what this means to Washington.”

Oysters Under Acid

Oysters On Acid

Mr. Inslee, who is campaigning for his agenda across the state this summer with oyster farmers in tow, is trying to position himself as America’s leading governor in the climate change fight. But Mr. Inslee does not have the support of the majority of the Washington State Senate, particularly those conservative lawmakers from the rural inland … NY Times: Davenport

This is a strangely snarky report on Inslee using out of state money to get his ideas out — after out-of-staters have poured billions into the political troughs to do just the opposite, deny and define down the dangers of climate change.  In this year of WW I centenary it’s like complaining about French taxi drivers carrying soldiers to the front after the Germans have poured across the border….

For more, here’s a Science Daily article:

Marine researchers have definitively linked the collapse of oyster seed production at a commercial oyster hatchery in Oregon to an increase in ocean acidification.


Changing Climate: A Couple of Changes in Response

It’s damn hard to find much good news about national response to climate change these days.  The car is going over the cliff and a few maniacs are slapping at those trying to pull it back.  Here are hands on the bumper though, trying to pull.

New Mexico has a five-year, $1 million grant from the federal Highway Authority to research methods for boosting carbon capture along the 7,500 miles of state road in its semi-arid environment.

Testing different plantings and techniques over the past year, the state boosted carbon capture on roadsides to from 35 percent to 350 percent over areas that weren’t actively managed. Native grasses produced the biggest gains, in the state’s prairie regions.

The claim, and hope, is that some 4 million miles of roadside vegetation, could be tweaked to draw in, and hold, more carbon from the atmosphere, than it now is.

Climate Central

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And at the federal level a  National Drought Resilience Partnership has been set up to coordinate policies and actions and to give Internet resource access to communities and individuals in rural America.  (We hope those who don’t believe in climate change will not dirty their hands with logging in.)

NOAA

If you haven’t seen the President’s Climate Action Plan, here’s a link.

“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.”


Another Treasury Secretary Warns About Costs of Climate Change

Last week Henry Paulson, the Bush Secretary of Treasury who had his hands on the wheel during the near Titanic sinking of the US/World economy, and whom most would credit with averting a catastrophe, while suffering gaping holes in the side of the ship (in the steerage decks, natch), came out as the spokesman for “Risky Business,” a call to action on climate change.

Now another Secretary of the Treasury, who arguably set the table for the near catastrophe, Robert Rubin, joins Paulson in an urgent warning — and along with it, a long-called for change in how national well being is measured.

The U.S. economy faces enormous risks from unmitigated climate change. But the metrics we currently use to measure economic growth, fiscal prospects and business earnings do not incorporate these risks. If we are going to have a well-informed and accurate debate about the economic costs of action vs. inaction, the public and private sectors need metrics that honestly reflect climate-related risk.

We do not face a choice between protecting our environment or protecting our economy. We face a choice between protecting our economy by protecting our environment — or allowing environmental havoc to create economic havoc. And a major step toward changing the debate is to change the way we measure the health of our economy, our fiscal conditions, and the health of individual companies and businesses to better reflect the world as it will be.

 … gross domestic product — the current standard measure of national economic health — is inadequate and misleading, because it fails to account for significant externalities, beginning with climate change. Others might think we should incorporate additional externalities beyond climate impacts, and that’s a good discussion to have. But we should start with a parallel GDP that incorporates the impact of greenhouse gas emissions. Without that, we are using an incomplete measure of economic output to inform policy decisions. Currently, GDP simply reflects the goods and services produced by our economy. However, it does not account for the present and future damage resulting from the emissions involved in producing those goods and services. And bad data leads to bad policy.

WaPo

As Climate Progress points out, this pointing to the GDP as a misleading indicator of the nation’s health, was a point made decades ago by Robert Kennedy as he campaigned for president, though Kennedy, of course, made an even bolder argument:

the Gross National Product includes air pollution, and ambulances to clear our highways from carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them. The Gross National Product includes the destruction of the redwoods and the death of Lake Superior. It grows with the production of napalm and missiles and nuclear warheads….

But I’m OK with Rubin’s more incremental call.  If we could get the bottom-liners to factor so-called externalizes into the P&Ls and Balance Sheets, we would be a long way towards seeing the world as it is, and therefore, except for the usual right wing renegades, seeing where the real bottom line could be brought back from the extreme red into something that approaches black.

 


High Heat and More of It — and More Insects, Fewer Trees

DaysAbove_sacramento

The term “extremely hot” means different things in different places … . A reading of 100°F is rare in Madison, Wis., but on the other hand, in Phoenix 100°F days are not rare at all. These days, 115°F is considered an extremely hot day there. The mercury matches or tops that scorching number only about once a summer; but by 2100, more than 53 are projected. By contrast, a generally cooler city like Madison gets about 10 days at or above 90°F each year, so the temperature threshold there is lower. By 2100, Madison is expecting more than 67 days of 90°F-plus temps.

The graphic shows your city’s extremely hot threshold: the number of days that temperature is matched/topped on average during the period 1986-2005, and the number times that temperature is expected to be reached/topped by 2050 and by 2100. This assumes there’s no significant cutback in greenhouse-gas emissions.

Hot and more of it…

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And it’s not just the maximum heat…

Phoenix set a record high temperature of 115°F at 1:32p.m. on Thursday afternoon. Then, 43 minutes later, it set another as the temperature gauge at Sky Harbor International crept up again to 116.

Yuma, Arizona tied its record high of 117 for this date, and nearby Tacna hit 120.

Arizona hasn’t just been suffering high maximum temperatures — it’s the high minimum temperatures too. Thursday set a record high minimum temperature of 93, up from the previous record of 90 set back in 2006. “We have not dropped below the 90 degree mark since Tuesday morning, if you can believe that,” said Dr. Matt Pace of Phoenix’s NBC 12 News.

“More people die from heat than any other weather event,” Dr. Bob England, director of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, told the Arizona Republic.

Think Progress

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And if the heat isn’t enough there are the insects…

New research from North Carolina State University shows that urban “heat islands” are slowly killing red maples in the southeastern United States. One factor is that researchers have found warmer temperatures increase the number of young produced by the gloomy scale insect — a significant tree pest — by 300 percent, which in turn leads to 200 times more adult gloomy scales on urban trees.

Gloomy Scale

Gloomy Scale

“We’d been seeing higher numbers of plant-eating insects like the gloomy scale in cities, and now we know why,” says Adam Dale, a Ph.D. student at NC State and lead author of two papers describing the work. “These findings also raise concerns about potential pest outbreaks as temperatures increase due to global climate change.”

Gloomy scales suck sap from trees, removing nutrients and energy. This reduces tree growth and can eventually kill trees.

Science Daily


Climate Catastrophe: Can It Be Stopped?

From Eduardo Porter’s on-going series in the NY Times business section, on climate change.

Here’s what your future will look like if we are to have a shot at preventing devastating climate change.

Within about 15 years every new car sold in the United States will be electric. In fact, by midcentury more than half of the American economy will run on electricity. Up to 60 percent of power might come from nuclear sources. And coal’s footprint will shrink drastically, perhaps even disappear from the power supply.

This course, created by a team of energy experts, was unveiled on Tuesday in a report for the United Nations that explores the technological paths available for the world’s 15 main economies to both maintain reasonable rates of growth and cut their carbon emissions enough by 2050 to prevent climatic havoc.

“This will require a heroic cooperative effort,” said Jeffrey D. Sachs, the Columbia University economist who directs the Sustainable Development Solutions Network at the United Nations, which convened the multinational teams.

…  The decarbonization paths rely on aggressive assumptions about our ability to deploy new technologies on a commercial scale economically. For instance, carbon capture and storage is supposed to be available starting in about 10 years. Second-generation biofuels are assumed to come into play by 2020. Hydrogen fuel cells and power storage technology are deployed starting around 2030.

… Big challenges remain. Any 40-year forecast must be taken with some skepticism. Technologies that seem feasible and economic today might turn out not to be. And it bears repeating that though the teams contend they can get to 1.6 tons per person, they have not yet.

But these technologies all exist today and seem reasonably scalable. The teams did not rely on more speculative technologies, like cold fusion, to make their numbers.

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The Report: Pathways to Deep Decarbonization (pdf)

Our moment of truth has arrived. Twenty-two years ago at the Rio Earth Summit, the world’s
governments recognized that humanity was changing the climate system profoundly, posing risks for
human wellbeing and sustainable development prospects. They adopted the United Nations Framework  Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) two years later, and resolved to protect the planet and promote sustainable development by stabilizing “GHG concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”

Yet, more than two decades later, GHG emissions are still far from stabilizing.

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The economic, social, and environmental risks of unabated climate change are immense. They
threaten to roll back the fruits of decades of growth and development, undermine prosperity, and
jeopardize countries’ ability to achieve even the most basic socio-economic development goals in the
future, including the eradication of poverty and continued economic growth. These risks affect all
developed and developing countries alike.

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Despite the 2°C commitment reiterated at every COP since Cancun, global GHG emissions have
continued to rise sharply. The climate science is clear and unequivocal: without a dramatic reversal of
the GHG emissions trajectory—one that leads to a significant decline in GHG emissions by mid-century
and to net zero emissions during the second half of the century—the world will not only overshoot the
2°C limit, but will do so dramatically

AND, by the way, Germany is well on its way:

Thanks to favorable weather and record production from solar and wind power, renewable energy accounted for approximately 31 percent of Germany’s electricity generation in the first half of 2014.


Lake Mead, Lowest Level Ever

Lake Mead, well known to Colorado River rafters as the terminus of their great three week adventure, and not so well known to millions as the source of their water, is reaching a record this week, and probably not stopping there.

The last time Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, reached maximum capacity was 1983. This week the lake, located along the Colorado River near Las Vegas, Nevada, is expected to reach a new milestone — its lowest point ever.

Formed by the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead has been suffering for years as an expansive drought across the West, coupled with rising temperatures and populations, has overstressed the massive man-made body of water. According to forecasts from the federal Bureau of Reclamation, water levels will fall this week to their lowest since it was first filled in 1937. The lake, which provides water for 20 million people across the Southwest has been losing water for over a decade and is currently at about 40 percent capacity.

Climate Progress

Bathtub Ring of Once High Water at Lake Mead

Bathtub Ring of Once High Water at Lake Mead

Among those who will be affected as the lake shrinks more and more will be plenty of climate change deniers, who in their wisdom, will blame the federal government for conspiratorially siphoning off millions of gallons of water for nefarious purposes and depriving Mr. and Mrs. Ostrich of their right to get what they want!

Can’t we start a class-action suit for damages caused by obstinate idiocy?

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And the American southwest of course is only a small part of the problem.  A 2013 comprehensive study by the National Academy of Sciences says what’s ugly now is only going to get uglier.

…even modest climate change might drastically affect the living conditions of billions of people, whether through water scarcity, crop shortages or extremes of weather.

The group warns that water is the biggest worry. If the world warms by just 2 °C above the present level, which now seems all but unavoidable by 2100, up to one-fifth of the global population could suffer severe shortages.

“Water and all that relies on it, from food to sanitation and public health, is an emblematic aspect of climate change whose urgency people tend to instantly understand,” says Schellnhuber.

Regions most at risk from water scarcity include parts of the southern United States, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. By contrast, India, tropical Africa and high latitudes in the Northern Hemi­sphere can expect to receive more water in a warming world.

drought conditions are likely to become more frequent and severe in some parts of South America, western and central Europe, central Africa and Australia, another project team reports3.

Uncertainty, adds Schellnhuber, is no excuse for inaction. “Those who might say, ‘Come back when you’ve narrowed down the risk’ should be reminded that climate change is a treacherous gamble,” he says. “We don’t quite know the odds, but the chance of losing heavily might be a lot bigger than many tend to think.”

Nature dot com


Super Typhoon Approaches Japan

Updates:  Neoguri was downgraded to a tropical storm thought with winds gusting up to 120 mph

TOKYO: Typhoon Neoguri slammed into the Japanese mainland on Thursday bringing widespread flooding, ripping trees from their roots and leaving houses half-buried under mud, as tens of thousands were urged to seek shelter.

The storm, which has left several people dead and a string of damage in its wake, caused havoc in many small communities as residents struggled to keep waves of dirty water from destroying their homes.

More than 500 houses in several prefectures were flooded due to the typhoon and heavy rain, according to the disaster management agency, with about 490,000 households urged to seek shelter.

Typhoon Neoguri Advancing on Japan

Typhoon Neoguri Advancing on Japan

Typhoon Neoguri reached sustained winds of over 150 miles per hour Sunday, making it a ‘super typhoon,’ as it continued to gain force and approach Japan’s southern and western islands. It is likely to cause heavy rains and strong winds across much of Japan, and threaten at least two nuclear power plants in its path.

Heavy rains from another storm have already been setting records in Kyushu, Japan’s southern and southwestern-most major island, where Neoguri is likely to make first landfall. Kyushu is home to two nuclear plants, which have been shut down for safety in advance of the storm’s arrival. A nuclear plant on nearby Shikoku island has been shut down for safety, as well. After making landfall, the storm is expected to move north through virtually all of Japan, losing strength as it travels up the island.

Climate Progress


BBC to Re Calibrate Climate News

To Improve Accuracy, BBC Tells Its Reporters To Stop Giving [So much] Air Time To Climate Deniers

In order to be neutral when covering science … the BBC noted it needs to avoid “false balance,” a fallacy that occurs when two sides of an argument are assumed to have equal value.

“Science coverage does not simply lie in reflecting a wide range of views but depends on the varying degree of prominence such views should be given,” the report said.

The type of “false balance” news segment that the BBC is now actively trying to avoid is one that is fairly common in American network news’ climate change coverage. It involves putting one person who is well-versed on climate science next to a person who denies climate science, and having them debate.

Editorially, this type of debate makes the network look like it’s being balanced, giving equal opportunity to opposite viewpoints. However, because 95 to 97 percent of climate scientists agree that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are causing the planet to warm, that balance is false, giving disproportionate time to a viewpoint that is widely rejected in the scientific community.