December 15 2018

December 15 2018

National Climate Assessment, climate migration in America, emissions climb in 2018, the future of coral reefs

The second volume of the fourth National Climate Assessment, a legally-mandated report authored by 13 federal agencies, has been released. The first volume (released last year) focused on the science of climate change, while this volume focuses on the impacts and adaptation (a summary of findings and a FAQ are also available). ClimateNexus summarized the report with the headline “Trump Administration Climate Report: It’s Real, It’s Here, It’s Because of Fossil Fuels. And the Sooner We Fix It, the Better.”

The New York Times summarizes the report (Washington Post coverage here), noting that estimated impacts by the end of the century include $141 billion from heat-related deaths, $118 billion from sea level rise and $32 billion from infrastructure damage. By 2050, the report forecasts changes in rainfall and hotter temperatures that will reduce agricultural productivity in the Midwest to levels last seen in the 1980s and make wildfires more frequent, including in the southeastern U.S. (the Guardian has a great piece on climate change and the American south). The report notes that the actual impacts we experience will depend upon how much we reduce emissions and prepare for the changes ahead. It recommends establishing a price on carbon, limiting greenhouse gas emissions through regulation and expanding government investment in clean energy. Slate has a nice synopsis of the report and its implications in a readable narrative, and a blog post at the Union of Concerned Scientists examines agricultural impacts.

In a breathtaking display of ignorance and irresponsibility, the President’s response to the National Climate Assessment was “I don’t believe it.” In the New York Times, Paul Krugman describes the depravity of such denial of science, and an op-ed in Bloomberg reviews its stupidity (and therefore its ultimate weakness). Salon describes the conservative talking-head argument, unfortunately presented on CNN and other places, that the Theory of Global Warming is just a conspiracy to make scientists a lot of money (debunked here by the New York Times). The New Republic also reviews the absurd misinformation and lies repeated on TV, including by Republican elected officials, and InsideClimate News documents how the scientific community is pushing back. Vox notes that the Trump organization was all in on climate impacts when arguing for a sea wall at its golf course property in Scotland.

An article in Bloomberg reports on the conclusion from the new report that migration of Americans from coastal environments will be an important issue for which the country is poorly prepared. The article notes in particular “the social, legal and economic challenges posed by the movement of large numbers of people.” Right on cue, InsideClimate News reports on recent conclusions that more meltwater is running off Greenland’s ice sheet now than at any time in the last 350 years, and the Washington Post summarizes the federal government’s recent findings that 95% of the oldest and thickest ice in the Arctic is gone.

The Washington Post reports that the United Nations Environment Program has recently concluded there is even a larger gap than previously thought between the world’s promised emission reductions pursuant to the Paris Accord and emission reductions required if we want to brake the Earth’s warming to the most stringent limit of 1.5°C. The Washington Post reports that the Global Carbon Project has concluded 2018 carbon emissions will be 2.7% higher than 2017, a deeply disappointing outcome as emissions were relatively flat for the proceeding three years.

InsideClimate News describes the types of changes that must be adopted to move the world toward more ambitious 2030 goals. These include ending fossil fuel subsidies, phasing out coal-fired power plants, implementing policies to boost industrial efficiency, increasing support for the use of renewable energy to heat and cool buildings and advancing the move to electric vehicles (EV’s had nearly 40 percent of the new car market in Norway last year due to government action). The New York Times reviews five key steps we must take to prepare our nation for climate change.

The Los Angeles Times reports that in California our 2030 emission reduction goals are in peril due to increases in vehicle miles traveled, according to The California Air Resources Board (CARB). CARB has concluded that all levels of government have “… not yet gone far enough in making the systemic and structural changes to how we build and invest in communities that are needed to meet state climate goals.”

Katharine Hayhoe has authored an article in the Washington Post that provides a scientist’s response (in nonscientific language) to five myths frequently propagated about global warming. The Post also reports on efforts by the shipping industry to reduce carbon emissions, including the use of modern “sails.”

An article in Anthropocene explores the ecological succession that will occur as coral reefs die, including the possibility of the proliferation of sponges. The New York Times reports on a new study of two recent bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef, which concludes that at least some of the coral species may have more heat resilience than previously thought. The Times also reports on the Arctic Report Card, produced annually by the U.S. Government, which documents continued, rapid changes in the Arctic. Some of these changes have been predicted, others are surprises, including the alteration of the jet stream that is influencing weather in lower latitudes.

Many don’t realize that, in essence, burning fossil fuels destroyed life on earth once before, at the end of the Permian era (about 252 million years ago) when there was one continent on the planet known as Pangea. In this great extinction event (also known as The Great Dying), 96% of the species on earth disappeared when enormous and long-lasting volcanic activity (and associated burning of coal seams) released massive amounts of carbon dioxide that raised the temperature of the earth by 18°F. Articles in the New York Times (and Science Friday from NPR) review this period, as many are suggesting it is an important (and frightening) analog to the present due to the speed with which we are adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

An op-ed in the New York Times summarizes the problems the Trump administration has had implementing its anti-regulatory agenda around energy and climate change (2 initiatives have succeeded, 20 have failed). The author notes that the facts and the law are against the administration, which leaves it only with the strategy of “yelling and pounding the table.” So far, that’s not working very well for them. Thank heaven for little miracles.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season.