Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Doha a dud, the planet is screwed, and other climate news

I concluded Climate news leftover: Melting ice caps with the following promise.
I'll have more climate news coming up later this week, including a story about the conclusion of the Doha conference.
Time to follow through with all the climate news from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Doha climate talks conclude edition) on Daily Kos, beginning with that diary's top story.

Reuters: Doha climate talks throw lifeline to Kyoto Protocol
By Regan Doherty and Barbara Lewis
DOHA | Sat Dec 8, 2012 2:44pm EST
(Reuters) - Almost 200 nations extended a weakened United Nations plan for combating global warming until 2020 on Saturday with a modest set of measures that would do nothing to halt rising world greenhouse gas emissions.

Many countries and environmentalists said the deal at the end of marathon two-week U.N. talks in OPEC-member Qatar would fail to slow rising temperatures or avert more floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels.

Environment ministers extended until 2020 the Kyoto Protocol, which obliges about 35 industrialized nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions until the end of 2012. That keeps the pact alive as the sole legally binding climate plan.

But the 1997 treaty, 23 days away from expiry, has been sapped by the withdrawal of Russia, Japan and Canada and its remaining backers, led by the European Union and Australia, now account for just 15 percent of world greenhouse gas emissions.
Here's what I had to say about this outcome over at Kunstler's blog Monday morning.
I've also been following the U.N. climate conference in Doha, which managed to eke out what could barely qualify as a successful result under the most charitable criteria.
In other words, it's the bare minimum the delegates could do and still convince themselves that they accomplished anything.  It's times like this when I really do feel like humans are acting like Moties and I'm just another Crazy Eddie.  Speaking of which...

io9: After extensive mathematical modeling, scientist declares “Earth is F**ked”
Dave Levitan
December 7, 2012
Brad Werner has a simple question: Is the Earth fucked? He also has a remarkably complicated methodology yielding a very simple answer: yes, unless people start a serious global rebellion.

Werner, a complex systems researcher at UC San Diego, spoke on Wednesday at the huge American Geophyiscal Union conference going on in San Francisco. This is a meeting where a typical talk might be called "Status and potential capacities to sequester carbon of China's terrestrial ecosystem," or "The significance of the opening angle of pyroclast ejection during explosive volcanic eruptions." Werner's talk really was called "Is Earth Fucked?"

AGU Executive Director/CEO Christine McEntee told ScienceNow, "Our program committee evaluates the scientific merit of the abstracts and accepts those that meets their criteria. Our scientists are free to create the titles of their sessions."
Yes, this is a real talk.  No, this is not The Onion.  The one thing that the author thinks will save us is grassroots resistance to capitalism.  I wonder if he's a member of Occupy?

That's the short-term view.  Here are a couple of articles on the long-term one.

LiveScience: Have Humans Caused a New Geological Era?
By Tia Ghose
Fri Dec 7, 2012 03:13 PM ET
SAN FRANCISCO — Humans drive trillions of miles in cars, clear-cut forests for agriculture and create vast landfills teeming with tin cans, soda bottles and other detritus of industrialization. There's no doubt that humans have radically reshaped the planet, and those changes leave traces in the Earth's geological record.

At the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union this week, geologists are grappling with how to define the boundaries of that human-centered geologic era, referred to as the Anthropocene. Despite our dramatic impact on the planet, defining our era has proven a difficult task.

"If it's to be a geological period, it has to be visible in the geological record," said Anthony Brown, a researcher at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, who is trying to define the boundary.
How about a mass extinction distinct from the terminal Pleistocene, about which I happen to know something?

Of course, the end of the world as we know it is nothing new.

Science News: BOOK REVIEW: Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Everending Earth
By Craig Childs
Review by Sid Perkins
Web edition: November 29, 2012
The world could end any number of ways — and in a sense it already has, many times, in mass extinctions that paved the way for new life.
In chapters packed with vivid descriptions and lyrical language, Childs tells tales not merely of droughts and ice ages, but of globe-swallowing deserts and planet-freezing cold spells during which equatorial oceans were awash with slush. Chronicling Childs’ jaunts from Greenland to Mexico to a forbidding island in the middle of the Bering Sea, this thoroughly enjoyable book is a fascinating travelog of an excitable, seething and perilous planet where catastrophes are frequent, at least when measured on a geological timescale.
After all, even the Moties regain civilization, over and over and over again.

More climate news over the jump.

Reuters via Scientific American: Gore raps Obama on climate change in post-Sandy speech
By Edith Honan and Hilary Russ
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore on Thursday sharply criticized President Barack Obama, a fellow Democrat, for failing to make global warming a priority issue, saying action was more urgent than ever after the devastation in the Northeast from Superstorm Sandy.

"I deeply respect our president and I am grateful for the steps that he has taken, but we cannot have four more years of mentioning this occasionally and saying it's too bad that the Congress can't act," Gore told the New York League of Conservation Voters.

Gore was the surprise guest to introduce New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who spoke about the city's response to Sandy, which slammed into the city on October 29, killing 43 people, destroying homes, and knocking out power, mass transit and telephone service in huge swaths of the city.

Nationally, the storm caused at least $50 billion in damage and killed at least 131 people, officials said.
Instead of climate change action, we're going to get immigration reform.  That's because people who aren't born yet don't vote.

Reuters via Scientific American: Extreme Weather Is New Normal, U.N. Secretary-General Says at Climate Talks
By Barbara Lewis and Alister Doyle
DOHA (Reuters) - Extreme weather is the new normal and poses a threat to the human race, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday, as he sought to revive deadlocked global climate change talks.

Ban's intervention came as efforts to agree a symbolic extension of the U.N. Kyoto Protocol, a treaty that obliges about 35 developed nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, looked to be faltering.

In a speech to almost 200 nations meeting in Doha to try to get a breakthrough, Ban said a thaw in Arctic sea ice to record lows this year, superstorms and rising sea levels were all signs of a crisis.

"The abnormal is the new normal," he told delegates at the November 26-December 7 talks. He said signs of change were apparent everywhere and "from the United States to India, from Ukraine to Brazil, drought (has) decimated essential global crops".

"No one is immune to climate change - rich or poor. It is an existential challenge for the whole human race - our way of life, our plans for the future," he said.
Time for examples from around the world.

Nature via Scientific American: Arctic Report Card: Dark Times Ahead
By Richard Monastersky and Nature News Blog
Conditions in the Arctic are slipping rapidly from bad to worse as the pace of climate change accelerates in that region. That’s the message from an annual environmental assessment of the far North, released on Wednesday.

“Conditions in the Arctic are changing in both expected and sometimes surprising ways,” said Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The changes are having an impact far beyond the far North, she added. “What happens in the Arctic doesn’t always stay in the Arctic. We’re seeing Arctic changes that affect weather patterns in the US,” Lubchenco said at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, where the Arctic Report Card was previewed. The online report was written by 114 scientists from 15 countries.

According to the report, the Arctic broke a string of environmental records this past year. The summertime sea ice pack was the smallest ever seen. The amount of Northern Hemisphere snow in June hit the lowest mark on record. Virtually the entire Greenland Ice Cap showed some evidence of surface melting for the first time in observations going back to 1979. And permafrost temperatures on the North Slope of Alaska topped previous highs, said Martin O. Jeffries, a co-editor of the Arctic report and the Arctic science advisor at the Office of Naval Research. “If we’re not there already, we’re surely on the verge of seeing a new Arctic,” he said.
NOAA: State of the Climate: Contiguous U.S. warmer and drier than average for November, autumn
Drought persists, causing water resource issues for central U.S.; 2012 virtually certain to become warmest year on record for the nation
December 7, 2012
The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during November was 44.1°F, 2.1°F above the 20th century average, tying 2004 as the 20th warmest November on record. The autumn contiguous U.S. temperature of 54.7°F was the 21st warmest autumn, 1.1°F above average.

The November nationally-averaged precipitation total of 1.19 inches was 0.93 inch below the long-term average and the 8th driest November on record. The autumn precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 5.71 inches, 1.0 inch below average.

The January-November period was the warmest first 11 months of any year on record for the contiguous United States, and for the entire year, 2012 will most likely surpass the current record (1998, 54.3°F) as the warmest year for the nation.
Reuters: Philippines declares state of calamity after deadly typhoon
Sat Dec 8, 2012 3:56am EST
NEW BATAAN, Philippines - Philippine President Benigno Aquino declared a state of national calamity on Saturday, four days after this year's strongest typhoon left nearly 1,000 people dead or missing mostly in the country's resource-rich south.

A price freeze on basic commodities was put into effect, and local governments were authorized to utilize their calamity funds for search, relief and rescue operations.

The national disaster agency put the death toll at 459 and a further 532 were missing, mostly in the Mindanao provinces of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.
Reuters via Scientific American: Rare tornado kills three in New Zealand's biggest city
By Rob Taylor

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Three people were killed and several injured after an unusual storm, described by witnesses as a "mini tornado", hit New Zealand's largest city of Auckland on Thursday, toppling trees and ripping debris from a construction site.

The tornado, driven by a powerful storm cell, tore concrete slabs from a building site and dropped them onto a truck, killing two people inside, a fire services spokesman said.

Rescue teams were searching a school site for workers thought to be trapped beneath fallen concrete blocks in the west Auckland suburb of Hobsonville, The New Zealand Herald newspaper reported.
Extreme weather isn't the only outcome of climate change.  Extinction is, which brings this linkspam full circle.

Our Amazing Planet via Scientific American: 66 Coral Species Nominated for Endangered List
Federal protection could slow the destruction of coral reefs, which are devastated by increasing water temperatures and the rise of ocean acidification
By OurAmazing Planet
December 3, 2012
A federal agency has proposed listing 66 species of coral under the Endangered Species Act, which would bolster protections of the animals.

The proposed listing comes after a 2009 petition by the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group, asserting that the federal government needed to do more to protect coral species.

Under the proposal, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would list seven coral species as endangered and 52 as threatened in the Pacific, with five endangered and two threatened in the Caribbean.
Watch me reuse this article in a post about biodiversity.

No comments:

Post a Comment