Tag Archives: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Climate change : already happening too fast…!

Snow leopard

So it begins…. A study has shown that the speed of evolutionary change is far outstripped by the rate of global warming, meaning many creatures will face extinction. Robin McKie of The Observer reports

PS: The UK wanted to take climate change topic ‘out’ of the curriculum – but have now dropped these plans! NAEEUK says ‘just as well’ 

Among the many strange mantras repeated by climate change deniers is the claim that even in an overheated, climate-altered planet, animals and plants will still survive by adapting to global warming. Corals, trees, birds, mammals and butterflies are already changing to the routine reality of global warming, it is argued.

Certainly, countless species have adapted to past climate fluctuations. However, their rate of change turns out to be painfully slow, according to a study by Professor John Wiens of the University of Arizona. Using data from 540 living species, including amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, Wiens and colleagues compared their rates of evolution with the rates of climate change projected for the end of this century. The results, published online in the journal Ecology Letters, show that most land animals will not be able to evolve quickly enough to adapt to the dramatically warmer climate expected by 2100. Many species face extinction, as a result.

“We found that, on average, species usually adapt to different climatic conditions at a rate of only by about 1C per million years,” Wiens explained. “But if global temperatures are going to rise by about four degrees over the next 100 years as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that is where you get a huge difference in rates. What that suggests overall is that simply evolving to match these conditions may not be an option for many species.”

The study indicates there is simply not enough time for species to change their morphologies – for example, by altering their bodies’ shapes so they hold less heat – to compensate for rising heat levels. Too many generations of evolutionary change are required. Nor is moving habitat an option for many creatures. “Consider a species living on the top of a mountain,” says Wiens. “If it gets too warm or dry up there, they can’t go anywhere.”

The crucial point of the study is that it stresses a fact that is often conveniently ignored by climate change deniers. It is not just the dramatic nature of the changes that lie ahead – melting icecaps, rising sea levels and soaring temperatures – but the extraordinary speed at which they are occurring. Past transformations that saw planetary temperatures soar took millions of years to occur. The one we are creating will take only a few generations to take place. Either evolution speeds up 10,000-fold, which is an unlikely occurrence, or there will be widespread extinctions.

CLIMATE CHANGE : Global carbon dioxide in atmosphere passes milestone level

Mean surface temperature change for 1999–2008 ...

Mean surface temperature change for 1999–2008 relative to the average temperatures from 1940 to 1980 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

For the first time in human history, the concentration of climate-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has passed the milestone level of 400 parts per million (ppm). The Guardian reports

The last time so much greenhouse gas was in the air was several million years ago, when the Arctic was ice-free, savannah spread across the Sahara desert and sea level was up to 40 metres higher than today.

These conditions are expected to return in time, with devastating consequences for civilisation, unless emissions of CO2 from the burning of coal, gas and oil are rapidly curtailed. But despite increasingly severe warnings from scientists and a major economic recession, global emissions have continued to soar unchecked.

“It is symbolic, a point to pause and think about where we have been and where we are going,” said Professor Ralph Keeling, who oversees the measurements on a Hawaian volcano, which were begun by his father in 1958. “It’s like turning 50: it’s a wake up to what has been building up in front of us all along.”

“The passing of this milestone is a significant reminder of the rapid rate at which – and the extent to which – we have increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” said Prof Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which serves as science adviser to the world’s governments. “At the beginning of industrialisation the concentration of CO2 was just 280ppm. We must hope that the world crossing this milestone will bring about awareness of the scientific reality of climate change and how human society should deal with the challenge.”

The world’s governments have agreed to keep the rise in global average temperature, which have already risen by over 1C, to 2C, the level beyond which catastrophic warming is thought to become unstoppable. But the International Energy Agency warned in 2012 that on current emissions trends the world will see 6C of warming, a level scientists warn would lead to chaos. With no slowing of emissions seen to date, there is already mounting pressure on the UN summit in Paris in 2015, which is the deadline set to settle a binding international treaty to curb emissions.

Edward Davey, the UK’s energy and climate change secretary, said: “This isn’t just a symbolic milestone, it’s yet another piece of clear scientific evidence of the effect human activity is having on our planet. I’ve made clear I will not let up on efforts to secure the legally binding deal the world needs by 2015 to avoid the worst effects of climate change.”

Two CO2 monitoring stations high on the Hawaiian volcano of Mauna Loa are run by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and provide the global benchmark measurement. Data released on Friday shows the daily average has passed 400ppm for the first time in its half century of recording. The level peaks in May each year as the CO2 released by decaying vegetation is taken up by renewed plant growth in the northern hemisphere, where the bulk of plants grow.

Analysis of fossil air trapped in ancient ice and other data indicate that this level has not been seen on Earth for 3-5 million years, a period called the Pliocene. At that time, global average temperatures were 3 or 4C higher than today’s and 8C warmer at the poles. Reef corals suffered a major extinction while forests grew up to the northern edge of the Arctic Ocean, a region which is today bare tundra.

“I think it is likely that all these ecosystem changes could recur,” said Richard Norris, a colleague of Keeling’s at Scripps. The Earth’s climate system takes time to adjust to the increased heat being trapped by high greenhouse levels and it may take hundreds of years for the great ice caps in Antarctica and Greenland to melt to the small size of the Pliocence and sea level far above many of the world’s major cities.

But the extreme speed at which CO2 in now rising – perhaps 75 times faster than in pre-industrial time – has never been seen in geological records and some effects of climate change are already being seen, withextreme heatwaves and flooding now more likely. Recent wet and cold summer weather in Europe has been linked to changes in the high level jetstream winds, in turn linked to the rapidly melting sea ice in the Arctic, which shrank to its lowest recorded level in September.

“We are creating a prehistoric climate in which human societies will face huge and potentially catastrophic risks,” said Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics. “Only by urgently reducing global emissions will we be able to avoid the full consequences of turning back the climate clock by 3 million years.”

“The 400ppm threshold is a sobering milestone and should serve as a wake up call for all of us to support clean energy technology and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, before it’s too late for our children and grandchildren,” said Tim Lueker, a carbon cycle scientist at Scripps.

Professor Bob Watson, former IPCC chair and UK government chief scientific adviser, said: “Passing 400ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is indeed a landmark and the rate of increase is faster than ever and shows no sign of abating due to a lack of political committment to address the urgent issue of climate change – the world is now most likely committed to an increase in surface temperature of 3C-5C compared to pre-industrial times.”

The graph of the rising CO2 at Mauna Loa is known as the Keeling curve, after the late Dave Keeling, the scientist who began the measurements in March 1958. The isolated Hawaiian island is a good location for measurements as it is far from the main sources of CO2, meaning it represents a good global average.

Global warming is not due to the sun, confirms leaked IPCC report

Key Note presentation by Vicente Barros , Co-c...

Key Note presentation by Vicente Barros , Co-chair of Working Group II, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (Photo credit: Citt)

Climate sceptics’ claims that UN climate science panel’s AR5 report show the sun is causing global warming don’t stack up. The Guardian reports

La Niña Conditions. Warm water is farther west...

La Niña Conditions. Warm water is farther west than usual. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alec Rawls, an occasional guest poster on the climate contrarian blog WattsUpWithThat who signed up to review the upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (as anyone can), has “leaked” a draft version of the report and declared that it “contains game-changing admission of enhanced solar forcing.”  This assertion was then repeated by James Delingpole atThe Telegraph (with some added colorful language), and probably on many other climate contrarian blogs.

If the IPCC were to report that the sun is a significant player in the current rapid global warming, that would indeed be major news, becausethe body of peer-reviewed scientific literature and data clearly show that the sun has made little if any contribution to the observed global warming over the past 50+ years (Figure 1).

contributors 50

Figure 1: Percent contributions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), sulfur dioxide (SO2), the sun, volcanoes, and El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) to the observed global surface warming over the past 50-65 years according to Tett et al. 2000 (T00, dark blue), Meehl et al. 2004(M04, red), Stone et al. 2007 (S07, green), Lean and Rind 2008 (LR08, purple)Huber and Knutti 2011 (HK11, light blue), Gillett et al. 2012(G12, orange), and Wigley and Santer 2012 (WS12, dark green).

So why would the latest IPCC report contradict these studies when its purpose is to summarize the latest and greatest scientific research?  The answer is simple — it doesn’t.  Rawls has completely misrepresented the IPCC report.

The supposedly “game-changing admission” from the IPCC report is this:

“Many empirical relationships have been reported between GCR [galactic cosmic rays] or cosmogenic isotope archives and some aspects of the climate system…The forcing from changes in total solar irradiance alone does not seem to account for these observations, implying the existence of an amplifying mechanism such as the hypothesized GCR-cloud link.”

This statement refers to a hypothesis of Henrik Svensmark from theDanish National Space Institute, who has proposed that galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) could exert significant influence over global temperatures. The GCR hypothesis suggests that when they reach Earth, GCRs (high-energy charged particles originating from somewhere in our galaxy) are capable of “seeding” clouds; thus at times when a lot of GCRs are reaching the Earth’s surface, more clouds will form.  Clouds generally have a cooling effect on the Earth’s temperature, because they reflect sunlight.

So the hypothesis goes like this: high solar activity means a strong solar magnetic field, which deflects more GCRs away from Earth, which means less cloud formation, which means less sunlight is reflected away from Earth, which means more warming.  This GCR-caused warming would amplify the warming already being caused by increased solar activity.  Conversely, cooling from decreased solar activity would hypothetically be amplified by more GCRs on Earth, more clouds, more reflected sunlight, and thus more cooling.

It’s important to note that so far virtually all scientific research on GCRshas shown that they are not effective at seeding clouds and thus have very little influence over the Earth’s temperature.  In fact, as Zeke Hausfather has noted, the leaked IPCC report specifically states this:

“…there is medium evidence and high agreement that the cosmic ray-ionization mechanism is too weak to influence global concentrations of [cloud condensation nuclei] or their change over the last century or during a solar cycle in any climatically significant way.”

But more importantly in this context, even if GCRs did influence global temperature, they would currently be having a cooling effect.

Rawls also provides the following quote from the IPCC report (emphasis added):

“There is very high confidence that natural forcing is a small fraction of the anthropogenic forcing. In particular, over the past three decades (since 1980), robust evidence from satellite observations of the TSI [total solar irradiance] and volcanic aerosols demonstrate a near-zero (–0.04 W m–2) change in the natural forcing compared to the anthropogenic AF increase of ~1.0 ± 0.3 W m–2.”

The term “radiative forcing” refers to a global energy imbalance on Earth, which may be caused by various effects like changes in the greenhouse effect or solar activity.  A positive forcing will result in warming temperatures, while a negative forcing will result in cooling.

Here the IPCC is saying that since 1980, the sun and volcanoes have combined to cause a slightly negative global energy imbalance, which means they have had a slight cooling influence on global temperatures over the past three decades.  Indeed, solar activity has decreased a bit over that timeframe (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Global temperature (red, NASA GISS) and Total solar irradiance (blue, 1880 to 1978 from Solanki, 1979 to 2009 from PMOD), with 11-year running averages.

As we would expect, lower solar activity including a weaker solar magnetic field has translated into a slight increase in GCR flux on Earth (Figure 3).  Note that on the left-hand axis of Figure 3, GCR countsdecrease going up the axis in order to show the relationship with temperature, since fewer GCRs hypothetically means fewer clouds, less reflected sunlight, and higher temperatures.

cosmic rays vs temps

Figure 3: Global average surface temperature (red, NASA GISS) vs. GCR flux on Earth (blue, Krivova & Solanki 2003), with 11-year running averages.

So, if GCRs really do amplify the solar influence on global temperatures, since 1980 they are amplifying a cooling effect.  In fact, GCRs reaching Earth recently hit record high levels (Figure 4), yettemperatures are still way up.

Figure 4: Record cosmic ray flux observed in 2009 by the Advanced Composition Explorer (NASA)

Rawls has argued to the contrary by claiming that the climate is still responding to the increase in solar activity from the early 20th century, and that GCRs are amplifying that solar warming from over 60 years ago.  This argument is simply physically wrong.  As Figure 2 illustrates, when solar activity rises, temperatures follow suit very soon thereafter.  In fact, during the mid-20th century, solar activity and global surface temperatures both flattened out.  Are we to believe that the planet suddenly began responding to the pre-1950 solar activity increase in 1975—2012, after not warming 1940—1975?  The argument makes no physical sense.

On top of that, the hypothetical GCR process is a relatively rapid one.  Cloud formation from GCR seeding should occur within days, and clouds have very short lifetimes.  For GCRs to have a warming effect, solar activity must be increasing right now.  It is not, in fact solar activity has been essentially flat and slightly declining in recent decades.  Changes in solar activity from 60+ years ago have no bearing whatsoever on GCRs today.

To sum up,

 

  • The leaked IPCC report states that there may be some connection between GCRs and some aspects of the climate system.

 

  • However, the report is also consistent with the body of scientific literature in stating that research indicates GCRs are not effective at seeding clouds and have very little influence on global temperatures.

 

  • Solar activity has been nearly flat and slightly decreasing in recent decades, meaning that if GCRs do amplify solar influences on climate, they are amplifying a cooling effect.

 

The body of peer-reviewed scientific literature is very clear: human greenhouse gas emissionsnot solar activity or galactic cosmic rays, are causing global warming.  The leaked IPCC report is entirely consistent with this conclusion.  In fact, in attempting to argue to the contrary, Rawls has scored an own goal by showing that if anything, GCRs are currently amplifying a solar cooling effect.

Sea-level rise from polar ice melt finally quantified

Subglacial topography and bathymetry of bedroc...

Subglacial topography and bathymetry of bedrock underlying Antarctica ice sheet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Melting of polar ice sheets has added 11mm to global sea levels over the past two decades, according to the most definitive assessment so far. From BBC News website 

A helicopter is taking off Greenland Ice Sheet

A helicopter is taking off Greenland Ice Sheet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More than 20 polar research teams have combined forces to produce estimates of the state of the ice in Greenland and Antarctica in a paper in Science.

Until now different measurement means have produced a wide range of estimates with large uncertainties.

But sea-level rise is now among the most pressing questions of our time.

Polar ice has a tremendous capacity to cause massive rises – with huge potential impacts on coastal cities and communities around the world.

But the remoteness and sheer size of the ice sheets mean accurate measurements are a serious challenge even for satellites which have to distinguish snow from ice, and the rise of the land from the shrinking of the ice.

One number

The new estimate shows that polar melting contributed about one-fifth of the overall global sea level rise since 1992; other factors include warming that causes the seawater to expand.

The study does not seek to forecast future change.

Supported by US and European space agencies Nasa and Esa, the research brought together data from satellites measuring the surface altitude, the flow of the glaciers and the gravitational effect of the ice mass to produce the first joint assessment of how the ice sheets are changing.

Prof Andrew Shepherd explains the findings to David Shukman

The results show that the largest ice sheet – that of East Antarctica – has gained mass over the study period of 1992-2011 as increased snowfall added to its volume.

However, Greenland, West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula were all found to be losing mass – and on a scale that more than compensates for East Antarctica’s gain.

The study’s headline conclusion is that the polar ice sheets have overall contributed 11.1mm to sea level rise but with a “give or take” uncertainty of 3.8mm – meaning the contribution could be as little as 7.3mm or as much as 14.9mm.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

The next big challenge… is to predict what will happen over the next century”

Hamish PritchardBritish Antarctic Survey

The combined rate of melting from all the ice sheets has increased over the past 20 years with Greenland losing five times as much now as in 1992.

The lead author of the research, Prof Andrew Shepherd of Leeds University, said the study brought to an end 20 years of disagreement between different teams.

“We can now say for sure that Antarctica is losing ice and we can see how the rate of loss from Greenland is going up over the same period as well,” he added.

“Prior to now there’d been 30 to 40 different estimates of how the ice sheets are changing, and what we realised was that most people just wanted one number to tell them what the real change was.

“So we’ve brought everybody together to produce a single estimate and it turns out that estimate is two to three times more reliable than the last one.”

Graph

Prof Shepherd said the measurements were in line with climate change predictions.

“We would expect Greenland to melt more rapidly because the temperatures have risen,” he said.”We would expect West Antarctica to flow more quickly because the ocean is warmer. And we would also expect East Antarctica to grow because there’s more snowfall as a consequence of climate warming.”

Dr Erik Ivins, a co-author from Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said one issue that had “plagued” ice-sheet studies was land springing up in a process called “post-glacial rebound” – with effects as high as 1cm per year.

But the use of GPS to measure vertical motion and estimates of the ice sheets’ movements over the past 21,000 years had allowed the rebound effect to be properly understood.

“The new estimates from space gravity for Antarctica’s ice sheet loss rates are lowered by using these improved post-glacial rebound models,” Dr Ivins said.

“The results, then, are more consistent with other space observations that were taken over the past decade. This is one of the major findings in the inter-comparison effort by this international team of scientists.”

The findings are in line with the broad range of forecasts in the 2007 assessment by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

And they were completed in time to be considered for the next report, due in September next year.

Another author, Dr Hamish Pritchard of the British Antarctic Survey, said: “The next big challenge – now that we’ve got quite a good understanding of what’s happened over the last 20 years – is to predict what will happen over the next century.

“And that is going to be a tough challenge with difficult processes going on in inside the glaciers and ice sheets.”

Spiegel: ‘The Truth Peddlers’ – Smoke and Mirrors in the Climate Debate

Reduction of flood and associated extreme weat...

Image via Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From http://junkscience.com/ | Follow the discussions also on my  twitter .

A new book by an executive at a major German power ultility claims we aren’t facing a climate catastrophe and rejects current mainstream ideas on global warming. Both climate change skeptics and those who warn of global warming profit from such controversies — so who should we believe?

Science can be so easy — at least when it is stripped of its nuances. Fritz Vahrenholt and his colleague, geologist Sebastian Lüning, say the world isn’t facing a climate catastrophe. The two are peddling precisely the kind of theory that generates publicity and allows both sides of the debate to profit. But it also leaves people wondering who they should believe.

The authors both work for German electric utility company RWE, where Vahrenholt is an executive. In their book “Die Kalte Sonne” (“The Cold Sun”), they claim that important research about climate change has been kept under wraps and that cries of an impending climate catastrophe are misleading. Their book arrived in book stores in Germany last week, with considerable media attention.

Following their statements, newspapers like the conservative tabloid Bild are dismissing what they call the “CO2 lie.” This camp says it’s not greenhouse gases that are behind the problem. It’s the sun that determines climate change, they argue.

The book is the latest salvo in the ongoing debate over global climate change. It’s a perpetual conflict that leaves people asking questions like: What’s really going on with the climate? What kind of picture can you draw from current research? The most reliable source on the topic is the climate report produced by the United Nations. The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) puts together a report every few years about the state of knowledge in the field. The report documents in detail where researchers are unsure or just don’t know. Contrary to what many IPCC critics say, however, the report reads like a book filled with doubts. But there’s also a “summary for political decision makers” section, which is put together by civil servants rather than researchers, and which can appear to be biased in places.

Source : http://junkscience.com/2012/02/17/spiegel-the-truth-peddlers-smoke-and-mirrors-in-the-climate-debate/

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