Saturday, 12 March 2016

Major news about abrupt climate change

The 10th March seemed to be a day of major headlines about abrupt climate change.

One of the news was good.

Global temperatures could rise 1.5 degrees by 2020, researchers say
University of Queensland solar and biofuels expert Professor Ben Hankamer.
University of Queensland solar and biofuels expert Professor Ben Hankamer. Photo: Supplied

10 March, 2016

Global temperatures could rise 1.5 degrees in the next five years, much faster than previously thought, according to new modelling.

A landmark climate deal struck in Paris last year saw almost 200 countries agree to work to limit temperature rises to "well below two degrees" and work towards limiting the increase to 1.5 degrees.

But findings from Queensland researchers published on Thursday predicted that barrier would be reached by 2020 if the status quo was maintained.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted a global mean surface temperature rise of 0.3°C to 0.7°C from 2016 to 2035 in its 2014 report.

A solar and biofuels expert from the University of Queensland and an energy economist from Griffith University took the novel approach of calculating carbon dioxide emissions per person, factoring in reactions to increases in energy efficiencies.

UQ Professor Ben Hankamer said even as technologies improved to deliver energy more efficiently, attempts to drag billions of people out of poverty would mean more people needed more energy.

"What politicians will often say, is they want to have constant economic growth, they want poverty alleviation," he said.

"Both of those things require more energy therefore there's going to be an increased demand … (and) you're going to start going up more quickly and as a result you're going to be releasing CO2 more quickly.

"A lot of the models don't take this individual energy use into consideration and so as a result they don't show that same effect."

Professor Hankamer and Griffith energy economist Liam Wagner's research combined predictions of increases in population, economic growth and rising energy use per person with existing models used to determine the effects of CO2 emissions on temperature rise.

"Normally when you have more efficient processes, the assumption is you're going to start saving more energy," Professor Hankamer said.

"The bit (other researchers often) weren't taking into consideration is because things become cheaper and because we can, we buy more stuff."

Professor Hankamer called for governments to focus on the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy if there was to be any chance of constraining warming and lifting people out of poverty.

"There are estimates of about $500 billion in fossil fuel subsidies being provided every year and maybe a cost-neutral solution would be to start thinking about transitioning some of that funding towards the renewable sector," he said, adding "you either have the choice of enforcing people into poverty or you transition from fossil fuels into renewables."

From the University of Queensland

Global warming could occur more quickly than expected, according to a new model by University of Queensland and Griffith University researchers.

Rate Of Climate Change To Soar By 2020s, With Arctic Warming 1°F Per Decade
Joe Romm

10 March, 2016

New research from a major national lab projects that the rate of climate change, which has risen sharply in recent decades, will soar by the 2020s. This worrisome projection — which has implications for extreme weather, sea level rise, and permafrost melt — is consistent with several recent studies.

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) study, “Near-term acceleration in the rate of temperature change,” finds that by 2020, human-caused warming will move the Earth’s climate system “into a regime in terms of multi-decadal rates of change that are unprecedented for at least the past 1,000 years.”

In the best-case scenario PNNL modeled, with atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations stabilizing at about 525 parts per million (the RCP4.5 scenario), the four-decade warming trend hits 0.45°F (0.25°C) per decade. That means over a 4-decade period, the Earth would warm 1.8°F (4 x 0.45) or 1°C (4 x 0.25). This is a faster multi-decadal rate than the Earth has seen in at least a millennium.

Because of Arctic amplification, the most northern latitudes warm two times faster (or more) than the globe as a whole does. As this figure from the study shows, the rate of warming for the Arctic is projected to quickly exceed 1.0°F (0.55°C) per decade.

The decadal rate of temperature change for 40-year periods over various regions — if humanity takes moderate climate action. Rates of change are averages over land plus ocean in each region. Via PNNL.

Such rapid Arctic warming would be ominous for several reasons. First, it would likely speed up the already staggering rate of loss of Arctic sea ice. Second, if, as considerable recent research suggests, Arctic amplification has already contributed to the recent jump in extreme weather, then the next few decades are going to be utterly off the chats.

Third, such rapid Arctic warming implies that the rapidly-melting Greenland ice sheet — already made unstable by human-caused warming — is likely to start disintegrating even faster, which in turn will push sea level rise higher than previously estimated, upwards of six feet this century.

Fourth, such rapid warming would serve to accelerate the release of vast amounts of carbon from defrosting permafrost — the dangerous amplifying carbon cycle which has already been projected to add up to 1.5°F to total global warming by 2100.

There is, of course, “internally generated variability” in the Earth’s climate system — which has been linked to variability in the Pacific Ocean — that can cause the rate of warming to slow down or speed up for a decade (and occasionally longer). That was the point of a February study on what has mistakenly been called the “hiatus” in global warming.

That hiatus was in fact merely an apparent slowdown in the rate of warming, primarily found in the U.K. Met Office’s dataset. But the Met Office uses the Hadley temperature record, which excludes the Arctic (!) — the very place on the planet that has been warming the fastest. When scientists incorporated Arctic warming into the Met/Hadley record using other data sources (such as the satellites), the slowdown all but vanished.

With 2014 setting the record for warmest year, NASA (and NOAA) data make crystal clear that there was no actual pause even in the rate of warming, as this NASA chart shows:

The latest NASA temperature data.
NASA temperature data how neither a recent “pause” in surface temperature warming or even been a significant change in trend.

The new study makes clear that the only “pause” there has been was in the long-expected acceleration of warming. That is, while the rate of global warming has been roughly constant for the last few decades, it should have started to speed up (see chart below). But multiple studies, include this latest one, say that we should expect a speed up very soon.

The new study notes that when the “variability-driven” apparent slowdown ends, “we also show that there is an increased likelihood of accelerated global warming associated with release of heat from the sub-surface ocean and a reversal of the phase of decadal variability in the Pacific Ocean.”

Here is what has happened so far — and what we can expect if we keep taking little or no action to reduce carbon pollution (the RCP8.5 scenario):

Decadal change RCP8.5
Global rates of decadal temperature change over 40-year periods. Results are shown for: central climate assumptions (thick solid line), range due to uncertainty in aerosol forcing (grey shading), and range due to uncertainty in climate sensitivity (blue shading). The outer bounding cases are shown as dotted lines. The thin solid black line shows the historical rate of change using the HADCRU4 observational data. The vertical dashed line indicates 2014. Via PNNL.

This chart shows that the observed decadal warming rate (temperature rise per decade) has been constant for the past decade in the Met/Hadley record. While this is within the range of model uncertainty, the study suggests it should have kept increasing. Many recent studies project that will happen very soon — and indeed it may already have started.

In the do-little RCP8.5 scenario, the rate of warming post-2050 becomes so fast that it is likely to be beyond adaptation for most species — and for humans in many parts of the world. The warming rate in the central case hits a stunning 1°F per decade — Arctic warming would presumably be at least 2°F per decade. And this goes on for decades.

No rational civilization would ever risk anything like that happening. Nor would they even risk the “moderate” warming of the RCP4.5 case. So let’s not!

CO2 levels make largest recorded annual leap, Noaa data shows
The last time the Earth saw such a sustained increase was over 11 millennia ago, says US science agency. Climate Home reports

10 March, 2016

Fossil fuel burning and a strong El Niño weather pattern pushed CO2 levels 3.05 parts per million (ppm) on a year earlier to 402.6 ppm, as measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) said on Wednesday.

Carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years,” said Pieter Tans, lead scientist at Noaa’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network. “It’s explosive compared to natural processes.”
The big jump in CO2 broke a record held since 1998, also a powerful El Niño year.

Drought and erratic rainfall caused less carbon to be stored by parched forests and drylands, on top of the effect of fossil fuel emissions, Noaa said.

CO2 levels in the air have increased over 40% since 1880, as industry ramped up emissions. The build-up of those gases traps heat, which warm the planet and stoke extreme weather. Last year was the hottest year on record, according to multiple weather agencies.

The last time the Earth experienced such a sustained CO2 rise was between 11,000 and 17,000 years ago, in which period CO2 jumped by 80ppm. Today’s rate is 200 times faster, said Tans.

Scientists at the remote Hawaii site have plotted global CO2 levels since 1958, in what is known as the Keeling Curve.

The annual growth rate of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose more in 2015 than scientists have ever seen in a single year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday.

It was the fourth year in a row that carbon dioxide concentrations grew by more than 2 parts per million, with an annual growth rate of 3.05 parts per million in 2015. The spike comes in the same year that Earth reached an ominous global warming milestone -- scientists last year measured the highest atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide ever recorded.

Alex Smith of Radio Eco Shock interviews Dr. Peter Gleick

Extreme Arctic Fear

Abrupt warming in Arctic could lead to catastrophic consequences says top scientist Dr. Peter Gleick, ICCI Director Pam Pearson, and the founder of Paleoceanography, Dr. James Kennett. Three must-listen interviews

This interview was done in January.

Professor Kevin Anderson - Impacts Of Climate Change

In this extended interview, Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre on Climate Change, Professor Kevin Anderson discusses a wide range of issues relating to climate change, associated impacts, policy and social implications.

Professor Anderson speaks very lucidly about the mistakes that have been made regarding economic policy, such as bailing out the banks when a true stimulus could have been achieved by giving the capital directly to the people in order to increase residence and energy efficiency in our homes. The effects of a policy of this nature would have created jobs and a true value stimulus.

Professor Anderson also speaks about climate engineering emphasising that we must do the research but there can be no climate engineering without real cuts to emissions. If we have to wilfully engineer our climate then it must be done hand in hand with curbing emissions.

This interview was conducted by Mike Coe and gratefully shared with Envisionation

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