AcClimate is going on vacation

December 8, 2008 at 4:42 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This will be my last posting for at least a month, and maybe forever.  

I have been writing this blog for a journalism class at Northwestern University.  The class comes to an end today, and I am about to graduate and enter the currently uninviting job market.  

While I have enjoyed writing about climate change this fall, it is time for a few weeks of reading fiction, taking walks and the other simple pleasures that get laid to the side during graduate school programs.   

I hope you have enjoyed my blog while it has been active.  I may start it up again in January if I can find the time.  If I do, however, I think I would change a few things.  For one I’m not a big fan of simple news aggregation, and a number of my posts were just that.  

And I guess I’m still a sucker for original reporting, too.  So, I think if I make AcClimate live again I would like to write more posts about interviews with scientists and others.

In any case, thanks for reading.  And if you sent me a positive comment that I did not respond to, please accept my apologies for not getting back to you personally.

Happy Holidays!

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Conference on climate change in Poland

December 1, 2008 at 3:30 am | Posted in Climate and economy, Climate and politics | Leave a comment
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Photo by Marcin Wichery.

Coal, cars and climate. Photo by Marcin Wichery.

This week delegates from more than 190 countries will meet in Poland to discuss climate change and a successor treaty for the expiring Kyoto Protocol.

In a sign of the challenges associated with forging any international agreement about how to act, they will find a country – and a region – that are torn by internal quibbles over climate change policies.

The Poznan meeting has been organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and takes place in preparation for a planned climate change conference in Copenhagen in 2009.  At the Copenhagen meeting, a new international climate change treaty may be ratified to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.  

Bridging the differences of opinion about how to respond to climate change, however, could take at least another year or longer.

On the eve of next week’s Poznan conference, The New York Times’ blog Green Inc. has reported a squabble in Poland over the economic costs of implementing an emissions permitting system proposed for the European Union.  

The tiff began with the release of a September report that argued the permitting system would curb the country’s economic growth.  

Along with Italy, Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk campaigned at a EU meeting in October against a new package of climate change policies, including the more stringent permitting platform.

Continue Reading Conference on climate change in Poland…

Busy week for climate change

November 20, 2008 at 5:28 pm | Posted in Climate and economy, Climate and politics | Leave a comment
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It’s been another busy week for pronouncements and announcements about climate change.  Indeed, it seems with each passing day since Senator Barack Obama was declared President-elect, the Google alert lists for ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ grow longer.

At the start of the week, President-elect Obama signaled that climate change is a priority issue for his administration by addressing via video message an international conference on global warming hosted by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in California. 

In his message, Obama reiterated his plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and pave the way for deeper reductions by 2050 with investments in clean energy. 

According to The Boston Globe, Obama said in his message:

“Few challenges facing America – and the world – are more urgent than combating climate change,” he said in the video. “Climate change and our dependence on foreign oil, if left unaddressed, will continue to weaken our economy and threaten our national security.”

Obama continued that “too often, Washington has failed to show the same kind of leadership. That will change when I take office. My presidency will mark a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change that will strengthen our security and create millions of new jobs in the process.”

Continue Reading Busy week for climate change…

Obama gets a wish list from green groups

November 15, 2008 at 3:45 am | Posted in Climate and politics | Leave a comment
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More than 30 leading environmental groups endorsed a set of recommendations on climate and energy policy delivered to President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team in the days after the election.

The groups involved include the Environmental Defense Fund, the League of Conservation Voters, the National Audubon Society, and the National Wildlife Federation, among others.

According to the groups, the policy changes proposed are necessary to stem increases in the earth’s average surface temperature to 2 degrees Fahrenheit, a threshold that many scientists think it would be dangerous to cross.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that temperatures can likely be held below a 2-degree rise if developed countries cut their emissions by 25 percent to 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, and by 80 percent by 2050.

Continue Reading Obama gets a wish list from green groups…

Leaders call for climate change leadership

November 12, 2008 at 5:36 am | Posted in Climate and politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Four world leaders urged representatives to take action on climate change at the recent G-20 summit convened to discuss the global financial crisis. As reported by The Times of India, the leaders made their plea in a joint op-ed published in The International Herald Tribune.

“The global financial crisis is most immediate; the more existential is climate change. The urgency of the first is no excuse for neglecting the second. To the contrary, it is an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone,” reads the op-ed written by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Continue Reading Leaders call for climate change leadership…

Two new scary climate studies

November 9, 2008 at 4:15 am | Posted in Climate science research | 1 Comment
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Photo by Nick Russill, Flickr Creative Commons.

Photo by Nick Russill, Flickr Creative Commons.

People who are skeptical that global warming is something to worry about like to point out that the earth’s climate has gone through many warmings and coolings.  Hence, the term ‘ice age.’

Most scientists, however, agree that today’s climate change is different.  In the first place, it’s human-caused, brought on by increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.  And, as far as we know, it’s happening faster than has occurred in the past. 

A new study from Cornell University gives further proof for this point.  As reported by Agence France-Presse, the study found that the current rate of warming is more dramatic than in any other period over the last 5,000 years.  

For the study, researchers looked at temperatures, oceanic circulation and changes in migration patterns, and then compared their findings to the paleoclimate record. 

Scientists are able to understand paleoclimate, dating back to millions of years ago, by studying ice cores, lake levels, and cave deposits, among other natural records. 

The Cornell research team found that the melting of Arctic ice has brought on significant shifts in the location of plants and animals in the North Atlantic.  Of particular note, the researchers found that microscopic algae have moved from the Pacific to the Atlantic for the first time in 800,000 years. 

Continue Reading Two new scary climate studies…

How “enviro” were Tuesday’s votes?

November 7, 2008 at 5:45 am | Posted in Climate and politics | 1 Comment
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After two long years of electioneering, the American political climate seemed to change in a moment on Tuesday night when Barack Obama became the next president-elect of the United States. 

And although he won’t officially take the reins until January, world leaders are already calling for him to act fast on climate change. 

On Wednesday, The Globe and Mail reported that Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper is “proposing to strike a joint climate-change pact” with Obama.  Such a pact could establish common standards for carbon emissions trading systems, and meet some of U.S. energy demand with supplies from oil sands in Ottawa. 

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Germany’s Foreign Minister called for Obama to work closely with Europe to tackle climate change at a conference today. 

While international cooperation will be critical to deal with climate change, cooperation between the White House and Congress, as well as with state-level officials across the country, will be equally important.

So, now that America will soon have a president who is likely to act on climate change, will it have a Congress and state leaders who are ready to do the same?

It’s not a question with an easy answer.  But a new Web site, Envirovote, takes a first step toward assessing what the new political climate will mean for the world’s natural climate. 

The site is tracking gubernatorial and U.S. congressional races across the nation, and as the results continue to come in from Tuesday’s votes, rating what they mean for the environment on a “green meter.”

Continue Reading How “enviro” were Tuesday’s votes?…

Adding climate change into the economic forecasts

November 3, 2008 at 1:36 am | Posted in Climate and economy | Leave a comment
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Once again it’s been a week of numbers.  The Dow Jones stock index rallied 11.3 percent over the last week, along with other stock measures around the world.  The Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan cut interest rates to grease lending and spending.  Consumer spending declined in the U.S. for the first time in 17 years, and a bailout’s now being considered for Detroit’s Big Three automakers. 

Courtesy of thisbluedot.net.

Courtesy of thisbluedot.net.

Despite – and perhaps because of – the maelstrom of mostly dark economic news over the last few weeks, there is now more and more talk about how dealing with climate change should figure into economic planning. 

On Monday former World Bank economist Nicholas Stern issued a warning that ignoring the risks posed by climate change could result in far greater consequences than ignoring risks in the financial system. 

Stern is famous for a 700-page economic report he released in 2006, which claimed inaction on climate change could result in disasters on the scale of the Great Depression or World Wars I and II. 

Continue Reading Adding climate change into the economic forecasts…

Supercomputer launched to study sea level rise

November 2, 2008 at 5:48 am | Posted in Climate science research | Leave a comment
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If temperatures increase and ice sheets continue to melt, it’s certain sea level will rise.  What’s less certain is by how much and how much fast.

Answering those number questions will take more study of the ice sheets that sit atop Greenland and the Antarctic.

And lots of math.    

A new supercomputer being deployed in Wales is about to be set to work running the many numbers involved. 

The computer – called Blue Ice – will be used to study the behavior of melting polar ice sheets. 

Continue Reading Supercomputer launched to study sea level rise…

Understanding bathtubs and climate change

October 31, 2008 at 4:57 pm | Posted in Climate understanding | Leave a comment
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Photo by Bombardier, Creative Commons.

Photo by Bombardier, Creative Commons.

It’s been common to blame the media and global-warming “deniers” for the public’s confusion about climate change.  

The media, it has been said, feel they must always represent opposite sides of opinion. It’s a laudable goal, but not if it results in a distorted picture of scientific consensus.

I.e. two “experts” presented as equals, one whose statements represent a position a hypothetical 90 percent of the scientific community would agree with, and another whose statements represent the thoughts of a spare 5 percent.   

In such cases, media efforts to produce balance lead to accidental misrepresentations. The “denialists,” on the other hand, are accused of deliberate distortions. 

A new article in the most recent issue of Science, however, suggests there may be more to blame for public confusion about climate change than inaccurate portrayals of scientific opinion. 

The article – “Risk Communication on Climate: Mental Models and Mass Balance” – links a failure to perceive the urgency of reducing carbon emissions to a poor understanding of stocks and flows.

Stocks and flows, as the author John D. Sterman points out, are all about the concept of accumulation, which is a common everyday experience:

“Our bathtubs accumulate the inflow of water through the faucet less the outflow through the drain, our bank accounts accumulate deposits less withdrawals … Yet, despite their ubiquity, research shows that people have difficulty relating into and out of a stock to the level of a stock …,” Sterman writes.

Sterman, along with colleague Booth Sweeney, tested a group of highly educated MIT students’ understanding of stocks and flows as it relates to climate change. 

Continue Reading Understanding bathtubs and climate change…

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