Global warming has not stalled, insists world’s best-known climate scientist

Global mean surface temperature difference fro...
Global mean surface temperature difference from the average for 1880–2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Suggestions that global warming has stalled are a “diversionary tactic” from “deniers” who want the public to be confused over climate change, according to the world’s best-known climate scientist. The Guardian reports Prof James Hansen, who first alerted the world to climate change in 1988, said on Friday: “It is not true that the temperature has not changed in the two decades.”

Since 1998, when the Niño climate phenomenon caused global temperatures to soar, the rate of increase in warming has slowed, causing some sceptics to suggest climate change has stopped or that the effect of rising carbon dioxide levels on climate is not as great as previously thought.

Prof Hansen, speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, rejected both arguments. “In the last decade it has warmed only a tenth of a degree compared to two-tenths of a degree in the preceeding decade, but that’s just natural variability. There is no reason to be surprised by that at all,” he said. “If you look over a 30-40 year period the expected warming is two-tenths of a degree per decade, but that doesn’t mean each decade is going to warm two-tenths of a degree: there is too much natural variability.”

Prof Hansen said the focus by some on “details” was a smokescreen. “This is a diversionary tactic. Our understanding of global warming and human-made climate change has not been affected at all,” he said. “It’s because the deniers [of the science] want the public to be confused. They raise these minor issues and then we forget about what the main story is. The main story is carbon dioxide is going up and it is going to produce a climate which is going to have dramatic changes if we don’t begin to reduce our emissions.” In 2008, scientists anticipated an upcoming slowing in temperature rises.

Prof Hansen, who recently stepped down from his Nasa post after almost 50 years to focus on communication, said the forecast impact of climate change was little affected by the recent slowdown in the rate of rising temperatures.

“Climate is a complicated system but there is no change at all in our understanding of climate sensitivity [to carbon dioxide] and where the climate is headed,” he said. “Our understanding of sensitivity is based on the Earth’s history, not on climate models, and we have good data on how the Earth responded in the past when carbon dioxide changed. So there is no reason to change the forecast for the long term.” On 9 May, a new study of lake sediments from a remote meteorite crater in Siberia showed temperatures in the region were 8C higher the last time CO2 levels were as high as they are today. Last week, atmospheric CO2 concentrations reached the milestone 400 parts per million, for the first time in millions of years.

Prof Hansen has caused controversy in the past with statements including “CEOs of fossil fuel companies should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature” and the assertion that “coal-fired power plants are factories of death“.

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Teach Your Children Well – About Climate Change

This carbon cycle diagram shows the storage an...
This carbon cycle diagram shows the storage and annual exchange of carbon between the atmosphere, hydrosphere and geosphere in gigatons – or billions of tons – of Carbon (GtC). Burning fossil fuels by people adds about 5.5 GtC of carbon per year into the atmosphere. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Logo of the Committee on Climate Change
English: Logo of the Committee on Climate Change (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the UK considering scrapping climate change from the curriculum altogether, this from ENN …. 

By the time today’s K-12 students grow up, the challenges posed by climate change are expected to be severe and sweeping. Now, for the first time, new federal science standards due out this month will recommend that U.S. public school students learn about this climatic shift taking place.

Mark McCaffrey of the National Center for Science Education says the lessons will fill a big gap.

“Only 1 in 5 [students] feel like they’ve got a good handle on climate change from what they’ve learned in school,” he says, adding that surveys show two-thirds of students say they’re not learning much at all about it. “So the state of climate change education in the U.S. is abysmal.”

We all learn the water cycle. But how many can draw a picture of the carbon cycle? It would include plants taking in carbon to grow, then dying, and eventually turning into fossil fuels like coal and oil, which then put carbon back into the atmosphere when burned.

Even when this is taught, McCaffrey says, climate is often sidelined. Why take Earth science, when what you need to get into college is biology and chemistry? A recent report on climate literacy recommends sweeping changes to address such issues.

On top of this, there’s the political battle over how climate change is taught. Last month, Colorado became the 18th state in recent years — including seven this year — to consider an “Academic Freedom Act.”

Read more at NPR – http://www.npr.org/2013/03/27/174141194/a-hot-topic-climate-change-coming-to-classrooms?ft=1&f=1025

CLIMATE CHANGE : Predictions prove accurate

English: Animated global map of monthly long t...
English: Animated global map of monthly long term mean surface air temperature (Mollweide projection). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Predictions of rising temperatures due to human-induced climate change have proved accurate. The Guardian reports

Forecasts of global temperature rises over the past 15 years have proved remarkably accurate, new analysis of scientists’ modelling of climate change shows.

The debate around the accuracy of climate modelling and forecasting has been especially intense recently, due to suggestions that forecasts have exaggerated the warming observed so far – and therefore also the level warming that can be expected in the future. But the new research casts serious doubts on these claims, and should give a boost to confidence in scientific predictions of climate change.

The paper, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature Geoscience, explores the performance of a climate forecast based on data up to 1996 by comparing it with the actual temperatures observed since. The results show that scientists accurately predicted the warming experienced in the past decade, relative to the decade to 1996, to within a few hundredths of a degree.

The forecast, published in 1999 by Myles Allen and colleagues at Oxford University, was one of the first to combine complex computer simulations of the climate system with adjustments based on historical observations to produce both a most likely global mean warming and a range of uncertainty. It predicted that the decade ending in December 2012 would be a quarter of degree warmer than the decade ending in August 1996 – and this proved almost precisely correct.

The study is the first of its kind because reviewing a climate forecast meaningfully requires at least 15 years of observations to compare against. Assessments based on shorter periods are prone to being misleading due to natural short-term variability in the climate.

 Climate forecast and observed temperature graphic from Nature GeoscienceThe climate forecast published in 1999 is showed by the dashed black line. Actual temperatures are shown by the red line (as a 10-year mean) and yellow diamonds (for individual years). The graph shows that temperatures rose somewhat faster than predicted in the early 2000s before returning to the forecasted trend in the last few years. Photograph: Nature Geoscience

The new research also found that, compared to the forecast, the early years of the new millennium were somewhat warmer than expected. More recently the temperature has matched the level forecasted very closely, but the relative slow-down in warming since the early years of the early 2000s has caused many commentators to assume that warming is now less severe than predicted. The paper shows this is not true.

Allen said: “I think it’s interesting because so many people think that recent years have been unexpectedly cool. In fact, what we found was that a few years around the turn of the millennium were slightly warmer than forecast, and that temperatures have now reverted to what we were predicting back in the 1990s.”

He added: “Of course, we should expect fluctuations around the overall warming trend in global mean temperatures (and even more so in Britishweather!), but the success of these early forecasts suggests the basic understanding of human-induced climate change on which they were based is supported by subsequent observations.”

CLIMATE CHANGE: The world is hottest it has been since the end of the ice age – and the temperature’s still rising…

Climate Change is no joke.
Climate Change is no joke. (Photo credit: hmcotterill)

The world is now warmer than at almost any time since the end of the last ice age and, on present trends, will continue to reach a record high for the entire period since the dawn of civilisation, a study has found. The Independent reports

A reconstruction of global temperatures going back 11,300 years, which covers the historical period from the founding of the first ancient cities to the space age, has concluded the biggest and most rapid change in the climate has occurred in the past century.

Scientists found that the warm period following the end of last ice age, called the Holocene, peaked about 5,000 years ago when the world began to get cooler. However, this cooling went into a dramatic and sudden reversal about a century ago when global temperatures shot up to levels not seen for thousands of years, the scientists found.

The study, published in the journal Science, further undermines the frequent argument put forward by climate “sceptics” that global temperatures now are no higher than they were in previous centuries, long before the increase in industrial emissions of carbon dioxide.

It also found that if carbon dioxide emissions continue to increase, even at the more moderate levels predicted by some climatologists, global temperatures by 2100 will have reached levels not seen at all during the entire period when humans developed agriculture, invented writing, first practised science and started the industrial revolution.

“We are heading for somewhere that is far off from anything we have seen in the past 10,000 years – it’s through the roof. In my mind, we are heading for a different planet to the one that we have been used to,” said Jeremy Shakun of Harvard University, a co-author of the study.

Previous studies have attempted to estimate global temperatures over the past 2,000 years using “proxy” records, such as tree rings and pollen samples, in place of direct readings, which only began with the invention of thermometers in the 19th Century.

“We already knew that on a global scale, Earth is warmer today than it was over much of the past 2,000 years,” said Shaun Marcott of Oregan State University in Corvalis, the lead author of the study of global temperatures.

“Now we know that it is warmer than most of the past 11,300 years. This is of particular interest because the Holocene spans the entire period of human civilisation,” Dr Marcott said.

The latest study extended the proxy temperature record back to the end of the ice age using data gathered from 73 sites around the world, based mainly on extrapolations of temperatures from fossils recovered from cores drilled into ocean sediments, as well as other terrestrial archives.

The scientists said that the chemical and physical characteristics of the fossils, which included the type of species and the isotopic composition of the material, can provide a reliable estimate of surface temperatures at that site when these life-forms were alive.

The study concluded that global temperatures gradually rose after the end of the ice age for about 6,000 years due to changes in the tilt of the Earth’s axis, which brought more solar radiation to the northern hemisphere in summer.

This warming trend reached a peak about 5,000 years ago when cooling began to lower average global temperatures by about 0.8C. However, around the start of the 20th Century this trend went into reversal, with global temperatures increasing by 0.8C – but over decades rather than millennia.

Global temperature, therefore, has risen from near the coldest to the warmest levels of the Holocene within the past century, reversing the long-term cooling trend that began about 5,000 years before present,” the study says.

Candace Major, program director of the US National Science Foundation, which funded the study, said: “This research shows that we’ve experienced almost the same range of temperature change since the beginning of the industrial revolution as over the previous 11,000 years of Earth history – but this change happened a lot more quickly.”

GM & WILDLIFE UPDATE : Ready to eat: the first GM fish for the dinner table…

Atlantic salmon
Atlantic salmon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

US decision after 17-year battle over fast-growing salmon could pave way for same step in Britain. In my book, this is all a bot weird – no, I’m NOT convinced re Genetically Modified food, sorry! The Independent reports

A GM salmon which grows twice as fast as ordinary fish could become the first genetically-modified animal in the world to be declared officially safe to eat, after America’s powerful food-safety watchdog ruled it posed no major health or environmental risks.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it could not find any valid scientific reasons to ban the production of GM Atlantic salmon engineered with extra genes from two other fish species – a decision that could soon lead to its commercial production.

The verdict clears one of the last remaining hurdles for GM salmon to be lawfully sold and eaten in the US and will put pressure on salmon producers in Britain and Europe to follow suit.

Successive chief scientists to the UK Government, as well as science institutions such as the Royal Society, have endorsed the concept of GM technology as a tool for increasing food production in the 21st Century, but consumer opposition has so far blocked the approval of GM food for the dinner table.

Several government bodies including the advisory committees on the release of GM organisms and on novel foods and processes would have to review the technology before it was approved in the UK.

Supporters of the technology believe the GM salmon will make it not only easier and cheaper to produce farmed salmon, but that it could also be better for the environment because they can be grown on land-based fish farms.

Sir John Beddington, the current chief scientist, warned two years ago of a “perfect storm” of growing human numbers, climate change and food shortages, where it would be “very hard to see how it would be remotely sensible to justify not using new technologies such as GM”.

GM opponents, however, argue that the introduction of the fast-growing salmon creates risks for both human health and the environment. They also argue that the salmon will be the start of concerted efforts to create other GM animals for human consumption, which could raise serious questions about animal welfare.

The FDA had already indicated the salmon was fit for human consumption. But in a draft environmental assessment written in May and published on Friday following inquiries by The Independent, it goes further by declaring that the production of the GM fish is unlikely to have any detrimental impact on the wider environment.

Opponents of the GM salmon – which some have dubbed the “Frankenfish” – have argued it could escape into the wild, interbreed with wild fish and undermine the genetics of the endangered Atlantic salmon, the “king of fishes” grown on fish farms in the UK.

However, the company behind the GM AquAdvantage salmon emphasised that the genetically engineered fish will be only be grown as sterile females and kept in secure containers on land.

In its draft assessment prepared as part of a New Animal Drug Application (NADA), the FDA agrees that the possibility of GM salmon escaping from fish farms is extremely remote and that interbreeding with wild salmon is equally unlikely.

The possibility of the GM salmon escaping into rivers and the sea from land-based fish farms is “extremely remote”, the FDA said.

“[The] FDA has made the preliminary determination it is reasonable to believe that approval of the AquAdvantage salmon NADA will not have any significant impacts on the quality of the human environment of the United States (including populations of endangered Atlantic salmon) when produced and grown under the conditions of use for the proposed action,” it concludes.

Anti-GM groups last night raised concerns about the report. Peter Riley, of the pressure group GM Freeze, said: “The sterility system does not guarantee that there will be no escapes into the wild and some of them will be fully fertile. It’s also debatable whether anyone wants to buy GM salmon, even in the US, if it is properly labelled.”

The FDA also states the two other US Government agencies responsible for overseeing laws on endangered species – the National Marine Fisheries Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service – have agreed with the FDA’s assessment that there will be “no effect” on wild Atlantic salmon or its habitat.

In its report, the FDA warns that if final approval is not given by the US Government, other countries may still develop GM Atlantic salmon.

The research into the GM salmon goes back to the late 1980s and it has gone through 17 years of bureaucratic wrangling over whether it should be approved for human consumption. The FDA indicated in 2010 that it would declare the GM salmon safe to eat but the issue was then kicked into the Washington long grass, which some have put down to nervousness on the part of the White House in the run-up to this year’s Presidential election.

AquaBounty Technologies, the Massachusetts biotechnology company that developed the GM salmon, has become increasingly irritated by the delays to its application, which have caused severe strains on its finances.

Last September, the company’s chief executive, Ron Stotish, expressed his anger with the FDA, which promised in May this year that it would soon publish its environmental assessment, on which the approval of the application rests.

“We are frustrated and disappointed in the delay, and we feel the FDA and US administration have a responsibility to inform us why they have not yet released the environmental assessment and moved forward our application,” Mr Stotish said.

A spokeswoman for the FDA said: “The draft environmental assessment is an interim step in the overall evaluation of the application and is not a decision on the application itself.”

Animal farm: a technological revolution

1972: Scientists use special enzymes to snip fragments of DNA – genes – from one microbe and insert or “recombine” them into another microbe. The revolution in recombinant DNA begins with the creation of the first GM organism.

1980: Laboratory mice with genes inserted from other individuals become the first genetically modified “transgenic” animals. Dozens of other experimental species, from pigs and chickens to frogs and fish, follow over the next two decades.

1989: The AquAdvantage founder salmon is created by micro-injecting a fragment of DNA from an ocean pout fish and a Chinook Pacific salmon into a fertilised Atlantic salmon egg.

1995: AquaBounty Technologies begins the lengthy process of applying for official US Government approval to develop the AquAdvantage salmon commercially.

2002: The first commercially viable GM animal is created from two species by Nexia Biotechnologies in rural Quebec. The “spider-goat” has a single gene from a golden orb-weaving spider which means its milk contains spiders silk, five times the strength of steel, which is used for making bullet proof vests.

2009: The US Food and Drug Administration issues its final guidance to the GM industry on rules governing the regulation of genetically engineered animals, which clarifies its status as the chief statutory and regulatory body for GM animals.

2011: British scientists create chickens which don’t spread bird flu by inserting an artificial gene that introduces a small part of the flu virus into the bird. This gives them the virus, but prevents them from spreading it.

2012: A genetically modified cow in New Zealand is the first to produce milk with no Beta-lactoglobulin (BLG), the protein that is thought to be responsible for allergic reactions. Meanwhile, Chinese scientists create a GM cow whose milk includes omega-3 fats, normally found in fish.

May 2012: The US Food and Drug Administration completes its environmental assessment of the GM salmon but delays publication of the draft report until 21 December 2012.

CLIMATE CHANGE : Problem ‘likely to be more severe than some models predict’

Climate change
Climate change (Photo credit: jeancliclac)
Scientists analysing climate models warn we should expect high temperature rises – meaning more extreme weather, sooner. The Guardian reports

Climate change is likely to be more severe than some models have implied, according to a new study which ratchets up the possible temperature rises and subsequent climatic impacts.

Scientific studies on climate helped establish...
Scientific studies on climate helped establish a consensus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The analysis by the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) found that climate model projections showing a greater rise in global temperature were likely to be more accurate than those showing a smaller rise. This means not only a higher level of warming, but also that the resulting problems – including floods, droughts, sea level rise and fiercer storms and other extreme weather – would be correspondingly more severe and would come sooner than expected.

Scientists at the NCAR published their study on Thursday in the leading peer-reviewed journal Science. It is based on an analysis of how well computer models estimating the future climate reproduce the humidity in the tropics and subtropics that has been observed in recent years. They found that the most accurate models were most likely to best reproduce cloud cover, which is a major influence on warming. These models were also those that showed the highest global temperature rises, in future if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to increase.

John Fasullo, one of the researchers, said: “There is a striking relationship between how well climate models simulate relative humidity in key areas and how much warming they show in response to increasing carbon dioxide. Given how fundamental these processes are to clouds and the overall global climate, our findings indicate that warming is likely to be on the high side of current projections.”

Extreme weather has been much in evidence around the globe this year, with superstorm Sandy’s devastating impact on New York the most recent example. There has also been drought across much of the US’s grain-growing area, and problems with the Indian monsoon. In the UK, one of the worst droughts on record gave way to the wettest spring recorded, damaging crop yields and pushing up food prices.

The new NCAR findings come just weeks ahead of a crucial UN conference in Doha, where ministers will discuss the future of international action on greenhouse gas emissions. The ministers will have to take the first steps to a new global climate treaty, to kick in from 2020, but so far have shown little sign of urgency.

The next comprehensive study of our knowledge of climate change and its effects will come in 2014, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change publishes its fifth assessment report. Before that, next September, the first part of the report will deal with the science of climate change and predictions of warming.

There has already been increasing evidence of a warming effect this year – the Arctic’s summer ice sank to its lowest extent and volume yet recorded, and satellite pictures showed that surface ice melting was more widespread across Greenland than ever seen in years of observations. Experts have predicted that the Arctic seas could be ice-free in winter in the next decade.

The International Energy Agency warned earlier this year that on current emissions trends the world would be in for 6C of warming – a level scientists warn would lead to chaos. Scientists have put the safety limit at 2C, beyond which warming is likely to become irreversible.

Given this year’s extreme weather, the results of the NCAR may not surprise some. But for scientists, narrowing down the uncertainties in climate models is a key activity. “The dry subtropics are a critical element in our future climate,” Fasullo says. “If we can better represent these regions in models, we can improve our predictions and provide society with a better sense of the impacts to expect in a warming world.”

Battle between climate deniers and school science!

The stage is set for a showdown between the EcoWatch and Heartland Institute

For my blog on this, click here 

Source: http://ecowatch.org/2012/heartland-institute-keep-climate-denial-out-of-our-schools/