Tag Archives: the climate desk

Arctic Warming Could Cost the World $60 Trillion

Mother Jones

This story first appeared in the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Rapid thawing of the Arctic could trigger a catastrophic “economic timebomb” which would cost trillions of dollars and undermine the global financial system, say a group of economists and polar scientists.

Governments and industry have expected the widespread warming of the Arctic region in the past 20 years to be an economic boon, allowing the exploitation of new gas and oilfields and enabling shipping to travel faster between Europe and Asia. But the release of a single giant “pulse” of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost beneath the East Siberian sea “could come with a $60 trillion global price tag,” according to the researchers who have for the first time quantified the effects on the global economy.

Even the slow emission of a much smaller proportion of the vast quantities of methane locked up in the Arctic permafrost and offshore waters could trigger catastrophic climate change and “steep” economic losses, they say.

The Arctic sea ice, which largely melts and reforms each year, is declining at an unprecedented rate. In 2012, it collapsed to under 3.5 million square kilometers by mid-September, just 40 percent of its usual extent in the 1970s. Because the ice is also losing its thickness, some scientists expect the Arctic ocean to be largely free of summer ice by 2020.

The growing fear is that as the ice retreats, the warming of the sea water will allow offshore permafrost to release ever greater quantities of methane. A giant reservoir of the greenhouse gas, in the form of gas hydrates on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS), could be emitted, either slowly over 50 years or catastrophically fast over a shorter time frame, say the researchers.

The ramifications of vanishing ice will also be felt far from the poles, they say because the region is pivotal to the functioning of Earth systems, such as oceans and climate. “The imminent disappearance of the summer sea ice in the Arctic will have enormous implications for both the acceleration of climate change, and the release of methane from off-shore waters which are now able to warm up in the summer,” said Prof Peter Wadhams, head of the Polar ocean physics group at Cambridge University and one of the authors of the paper published in the journal Nature.

“This massive methane boost will have major implications for global economies and societies. Much of those costs would be borne by developing countries in the form of extreme weather, flooding and impacts on health and agricultural production,” he said.

According to the authors, who using the Stern review, calculated that 80 percent of the extra impacts by value will occur in the poorer economies of Africa, Asia, and South America. “Inundation of low-lying areas, extreme heat stress, droughts and storms are all magnified by the extra methane emissions,” the authors write. They argue that global economic bodies have not taken into account the risks of rapid ice melt and that the only economic downside to the warming of the Arctic they have identified so far has been the possible risk of oil spills.

But, they say, economists are missing the big picture. “Neither the World Economic Forum nor the International Monetary Fund currently recognize the economic danger of Arctic change. They must pay much more attention to this invisible time-bomb. The impacts of just one giant “pulse” of methane approaches the $70 trillion value of the world economy in 2012,” said Prof Gail Whiteman, at the Rotterdam School of Management, and another author.

The Nature report comes as global shipping companies prepare to send a record number of vessels across the north of Russia later in 2013, slashing miles traveled between Asia and Europe by over 35 percent and cutting costs up to 40 percent.

According to Russian authorities, 218 ships from Korea, China, Japan, Norway, Germany, and elsewhere have so far applied for permission to follow the “Northern sea route” (NSR) this year. This route uses the Bering Strait between Siberia and Alaska and is only open for a few months each year with an icebreaker.

But following 2012’s record collapse of the Arctic sea ice, shipping companies are gaining confidence to use the route. In 2012, only 46 ships sailed its entire length from the Atlantic to Pacific oceans and in 2011 only four. The route can save even medium-sized bulk carrier 10-15 days and hundreds of tons of bunker fuel on a journey between northern Norway and China.

Satellite data collated from the US National snow and ice data center in Boulder, Colorado this week showed ice loss now accelerating and, at 8.2 million square kilometers (3.2 million square miles), approaching the same extent as during last year’s record melt. Over 130,000 square kilometers of sea ice melted between July 1 and 15. “Compared to the 1981 to 2010 average, ice extent on July 15 was 1.06 million square kilometers (409,000 square miles) below average,” said a spokesman.

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Arctic Warming Could Cost the World $60 Trillion

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Climate Scientist Prevails in First Round of Defamation Suit Against Conservative Bloggers

Mother Jones

A judge in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia is allowing a defamation suit that climate scientist Michael Mann filed against conservative commentators to move forward.

Last year, Mann sued the National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute over blog posts accusing him of lying about climate science. The NRO post called his research “fraudulent,” and the CEI post accused him of “scientific misconduct.” NRO also twice quoted another blogger who referred to Mann as “the Jerry Sandusky of climate science,” comparing him to the Pennsylvania State University football coach convicted of child molestation last year.

Blue Marble readers have certainly heard Mann’s story before. The Penn State climate scientist has been the subject of a relentless assault from climate skeptics over the years, largely tracing back to a chart of global temperature records that he coauthored that showed a sharp uptick in the industrial era.

The judge issued two decisions on July 19 allowing Mann’s suits to go forward. The plaintiffs had each filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the First Amendment protects their right to say that sort of stuff online. But the judge didn’t agree. Here’s a key part of the decision on the CEI suit (via Climate Science Watch) in which the judge asserts that the blogger was not just stating opinions, but that he was making factual claims about Mann’s work that could be proven false:

Defendants argue that the accusation that Plaintiff’s work is fraudulent may not necessarily be taken as based in fact because the writers for the publication are tasked with and posed to view work critically and interpose (brutally) honest commentary. In this case, however, the evidence before the Court, at this stage, demonstrates something more and different than honest or even brutally honest commentary.

The judge continued:

Plaintiff has been investigated several times and his work has been found to be accurate. In fact, some of these investigations have been due to the accusations made by the CEI Defendants. It follows that if anyone should be aware of the accuracy (or findings that the work of Plaintiff is sound), it would be the CEI Defendants. Thus, it is fair to say that the CEI Defendants continue to criticize Plaintiff due to a reckless disregard for truth. Criticism of Plaintiff’s work may be fair and he and his work may be put to the test. Where, however the CEI Defendants consistently claim that Plaintiff’s work is inaccurate (despite being proven as accurate) then there is a strong probability that the CEI Defendants disregarded the falsity of their statements and did so with reckless disregard.

The full National Review ruling is here and the CEI ruling here. The parties are scheduled to be back in court on September 27.

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Climate Scientist Prevails in First Round of Defamation Suit Against Conservative Bloggers

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Here Is a Video of One Lobster Eating Another Lobster

Mother Jones

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Noah Oppenheim’s plan was simple: Rig a young lobster underneath a waterproof, infrared camera; drop the contraption overboard off the coast of Maine; and see who comes along for a bite to eat. The takers, he expected, would be fish: cod, herring, and other “groundfish” found in these waters that are known to love a good lobster dinner. Similar experiments conducted in the 1990s showed that apart from being snatched up in one of the thousands of traps that sprinkle the sea floor here—tools of this region’s signature trade—fish predation was the principle cause of lobster death. Instead, Oppenheim, a marine biology graduate student at the University of Maine, captured footage that looks like it comes straight from the reel of a 1950s B-grade horror movie: rampant lobster cannibalism.

Tim McDonnell

Warming waters can cause lobsters to grow larger and produce more offspring, and the last decade has been the warmest on record in the Gulf of Maine. That, combined with overfishing of lobster predators and an excess of bait left in lobster traps (see info box below), has driven the Maine lobster harvest to thoroughly smash records that stretch back to 1880. One of the side effects of this boom, Oppenheim says, is cannibalism: There are countless lobsters down there with nothing much to eat them and not much for them to eat, besides each other.

Tim McDonnell

Lobsters are known to chomp each other in captivity (those rubber bands you see on their pincers are more for their own protection that the lobstermen’s), but Oppenheim says this is the first time this degree of cannibalism has been documented in the wild (oh, yes, we’ve got the footage; check out the video above). From his remote research station on rocky Hurricane Island, floating in the lobster-grabbing chaos off nearby fog-shrouded Vinalhaven Island (one of Maine’s top lobstering locales), Oppenheim has seen that young lobsters left overnight under his camera are over 90 percent more likely to be eaten by another lobster than by anything else.

Tim McDonnell

While the lobster boom is clearly a terror for the lobsters themselves, it’s no picnic for the people here whose families have made their livings off lobster since before the Revolutionary War. Lobster prices are down to lows not seen since the Great Depression, taking a serious pinch out of profit margins already made slim by high labor and fuel costs. Even more unsettling is the prospect that the boom could go bust: Southern New England saw a similar peak in the late 1990s, followed by a crash that left local lobstermen reeling for years. Maine’s lobster experts worry that their state is next.

A crash here could have devastating results. Starting in the late 1980s, lobsters began to dominate Maine’s seafood catch: In 1987, they made up 8.6 percent of the total haul; by last year, that number had climbed to more than 40 percent. In part, the industry’s dependence is due to the fact that, increasingly, there’s an abundance of lobsters and a deficit of anything else. But at the same time, the state’s fishing permit system favors single-species licenses, so many lobstermen are locked into that product, a change from earlier decades where fishermen changed their prey from season to season.

In order to survive, experts say, Mainers will need to get creative with their tastes. For that, maybe they can take a cue from the lobsters themselves.

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Here Is a Video of One Lobster Eating Another Lobster

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Pakistan’s New Big Threat Isn’t Terrorism—It’s Water

Mother Jones

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This story first appeared in The Atlantic and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

In a report released last week by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Pakistan was pinpointed as “one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, not far from being classified, ‘water-scarce.'” As water demand exceeds supply in the South Asian country, more and more water is being withdrawn from the nation’s reservoirs, leaving them in a critically precarious position. According to the ADB, Pakistan’s storage capacity, the amount of water it has on reserve in case of an emergency, is limited to a 30-day supply—far below the recommended 1,000 days for countries with similar climates. Without meaningful action, a water crisis could push the country into further chaos.

Consider what a water shortage means for Pakistan. The last several years have seen the country plagued by chronic energy scarcities. Power outages lasting up to 18 hours a day are routine throughout the country, and they have had damaging effects on the economy and on the wellbeing of Pakistanis. Citizens frequently take to the streets, demanding a solution from their government in protests that often turn violent, worsening an already tumultuous political environment. Deficiencies of another precious natural resource, such as water, have the potential to intensify the already unstable situation in the country.

Early signs of the potential imbroglio that could transpire are already beginning to take shape. Late last week, residents in Abbottabad vowed to hold mass demonstrations if the local government was unable to address rampant water shortages in the city. The city has lacked sufficient water for the past month, with over 5,000 homes impacted in the hottest months of the year.

At a conference organized around water shortages in the province of Sindh earlier this month, leaders of political parties and various trade organizations blamed a wide array of individuals, including former Pakistani heads of state, other provinces in the country, and even Pakistan’s neighbors, for the nation’s water woes.

Extremist groups, of which there is no dearth in Pakistan, have also weighed in on the matter, using it as an opportunity to garner support for their movement. Hafiz Saeed, the founder of the militant group, Lakshar-e-Taiba—the organization behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks—has unequivocally blamed India for Pakistan’s water crunch, accusing its government of committing “water terrorism.” By evoking an issue that is sensitive to millions of Pakistanis, Saeed’s rhetoric demonstrates the potential of militant groups to exploit this issue.

The country’s demographics make it seem as though this trend will only worsen over time. Pakistan’s population has grown exponentially over the past several decades. With two-thirds of the population currently under the age of 30, the nation of 180 million is expected to swell to 256 million by the year 2030, and demand for water will only grow. Meanwhile, climate change, which has reduced water flows into the Indus River, Pakistan’s main supply source, will continue to shrink the available water supply.

The response to any crisis is likely to play out, in part, through Pakistan’s foreign policy. For starters, the government has been pushing to redefine the terms of the Indus Water Treaty of 1960—the water-sharing plan struck between India and Pakistan that outlines how the six rivers of the Indus basin would be shared. Pakistan has recently contested the construction of Indian dams on rivers that begin in India but flow into Pakistan, arguing that the dams would restrict Pakistani supply.

The dispute, which is currently being reviewed by the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague, will clearly impact the relationship between the two historic rivals, as water demand increases in both countries. But with pressure mounting from various groups within Pakistan, and the likelihood of instability increasing due to shortages, the Pakistani government may find itself in a difficult position when negotiating with India—it will have limited bargaining room against an Indian government that may be reluctant to renegotiate a treaty that has been in place for 53 years.

There are other ways, outside of India, for Pakistan to alleviate the problem. Requiring and enforcing updated, modern farming techniques is a start. Pakistan’s agriculture industry is notorious for its inefficient irrigation and drainage processes, which have contributed to the scarcity. The government will also need to reach out beyond its borders to create solutions. The Memorandum of Understanding between the Karachi Water and Sewage board and the China International Water and Electric Corporation, which strives to make Karachi self-sufficient in water supply, is one example of how deliberate international efforts can help the situation.

Water deficiency, and how Pakistan responds to it, has the propensity to shape the country significantly over the next several years and decades. Without any meaningful action, the future looks alarming. A growing population without the resources it needs to survive, let alone thrive economically, will throw the country into a period of instability that may be far worse than anything we see today.

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Pakistan’s New Big Threat Isn’t Terrorism—It’s Water

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Could Photosynthesis Be Our Best Defense Against Climate Change?

Mother Jones

This story first appeared in Slate and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

A gigantic, steaming-hot mound of compost is not the first place most people would search for a solution to climate change, but the hour is getting very late. “The world experienced unprecedented high-impact climate extremes during the 2001-2010 decade,” declares a new report from the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization, which added that the decade was “the warmest since the start of modern measurements in 1850.” Among those extreme events: the European heat wave of 2003, which in a mere six weeks caused 71,449 excess deaths, according to a study sponsored by the European Union. In the United States alone, 2012 brought the hottest summer on record, the worst drought in 50 years and Hurricane Sandy. Besides the loss of life, climate-related disasters cost the United States some $140 billion in 2012, a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council concluded.

We can expect to see more climate-related catastrophes soon. In May scientists announced that carbon dioxide had reached 400 parts per million in the atmosphere. Meanwhile, humanity is raising the level by about 2 parts per million a year by burning fossil fuels, cutting down forests, and other activities.

At the moment, climate policy focuses overwhelmingly on the 2 ppm part of the problem while ignoring the 400 ppm part. Thus in his landmark climate speech on June 25, President Obama touted his administration’s doubling of fuel efficiency standards for vehicles as a major advance in the fight to preserve a livable planet for our children. In Europe, Germany and Denmark are leaving coal behind in favor of generating electricity with wind and solar. But such mitigation measures aim only to limit new emissions of greenhouse gases.

That is no longer sufficient. The 2 ppm of annual emissions being targeted by conventional mitigation efforts are not what are causing the “unprecedented” number of extreme climate events. The bigger culprit by far are the 400 ppm of carbon dioxide that are already in the atmosphere. As long as those 400 ppm remain in place, the planet will keep warming and unleashing more extreme climate events. Even if we slashed annual emissions to zero overnight, the physical inertia of the climate system would keep global temperatures rising for 30 more years.

We need a new paradigm: If humanity is to avoid a future in which the deadly heat waves, floods, and droughts of recent years become normal, we must lower the existing level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. To be sure, reducing additional annual emissions and adapting to climate change must remain vital priorities, but the extraction of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere has now become an urgent necessity.

Under this new paradigm, one of the most promising means of extracting atmospheric carbon dioxide is also one of the most common processes on Earth: photosynthesis.

Which is how I came to find myself plunged forearm-deep into the aforementioned mound of compost. It was a truly massive heap, nearly the length of a football field, 5 feet tall and 10 feet wide, and a second equally large pile lay nearby. It all belonged to Cornell University, one of the powerhouses of agricultural research in the United States. Michael P. Hoffmann, the associate dean of Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, told me it was comprised mainly of food scraps from Cornell’s dining halls and detritus from its groundskeeping operations.

“You don’t want to leave your hand in there too long,” Hoffmann cautioned as I felt around inside the steaming mass of brown. Sure enough, although it was a cool, cloudy day, my forearm soon felt almost uncomfortably warm. “The microbes in there generate a fair amount of heat as they break down the organic materials,” he explained.

Compost is but one of the materials that can be used to produce biochar, a substance that a small but growing number of scientists and private companies believe could enable extraction of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at a meaningful scale. Biochar, which is basically a fancy scientific name for charcoal, is produced when plant matter—tree leaves, branches and roots, cornstalks, rice husks, peanut shells—or other organic material is heated in a low-oxygen environment (so it doesn’t catch fire). Like compost, all of these materials contain carbon: The plants inhaled it, as carbon dioxide, in the process of photosynthesis. Inserting biochar in soil therefore has the effect of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it underground, where it will not contribute to global warming for hundreds of years.

Johannes Lehmann, a professor of agricultural science at Cornell, is one of the world’s foremost experts on biochar. He has calculated that if biochar were added to 10 percent of global cropland, it would store 29 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent—an amount roughly equal to humanity’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. This approach would take advantage of a physical reality often overlooked in climate policy discussions: the capacity of the Earth’s plants and soils to serve as a climate “sink,” absorbing carbon that otherwise would be released into the atmosphere and accelerate global warming. Oceans have been the most important sink to date, but their absorption of CO2 is acidifying the sea—threatening the marine food chain—and raising water temperatures, which is causing sea levels to rise (because warm water expands). Meanwhile, the Earth’s plants and soils already hold three times as much carbon as the atmosphere does, and scientists believe that they could hold a great deal more without upsetting the balance of natural systems.

Using photosynthesis and agriculture to extract carbon should not be confused with other methods that sound similar, such as “carbon capture and sequestration.” CCS, as experts call it, is a technology that would capture carbon dioxide released when a power plant burned coal (or, in theory, other fossil fuels) to generate electricity. A filter would collect the CO2 before it exited the smokestack; the CO2 would then be transformed into a solid and stored underground. CCS assumes that coal burning would continue; the CCS technology would simply cancel out most of the CO2 emissions this coal burning would produce—and that’s assuming the technology will actually work. So far, no nation on Earth has managed to operate a commercially viable CCS plant, despite an estimated $25 billion in subsidies.

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Could Photosynthesis Be Our Best Defense Against Climate Change?

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US Won’t Fund a Massive Coal Plant in Vietnam

Mother Jones

On Thursday, the board of the US Export-Import Bank voted against backing a new coal-fired power plant in Vietnam. The 1,200 megawatt Thai Binh Two plant was the first test of one of the policy changes President Barack Obama laid out in his big climate speech last month.

Reuters reports that Ex-Im said the decision came after “careful environmental review.” In his speech, Obama called for an end to public funding for new coal plants “unless they deploy carbon-capture technologies, or there’s no other viable way for the poorest countries to generate electricity.”

As I’ve reported here before, the US has loaned millions of dollars to energy projects abroad through Ex-Im, like the $805 million it loaned to a massive coal plant in South Africa in 2011. Despite a stated commitment to evaluating the greenhouse gas emissions from each project, Ex-Im loaned $9.6 billion to fossil-fuel projects in 2012, which was almost twice as much as it gave in 2011, according to data that the environmental group Pacific Environment compiled.

Earlier this week, five environmental groups wrote to President Obama, the head of Ex-Im, and its board members asking the bank to turn down the request for Thai Binh Two. “This dirty coal plan will emit unacceptable air pollution that will worsen climate disruption and poison local communities,” they wrote. The decision, they said, would be “the first crucial test case” for Obama’s climate plan.

Thus, turning down the Vietnam plant is a pretty big deal. “It has significance far beyond this project because it sends a message to the international community that financing dirty coal is no longer acceptable practice,” said Doug Norlen, policy director at Pacific Environment. “The impact will spread.”

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US Won’t Fund a Massive Coal Plant in Vietnam

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Climate-Related Power Outages Aren’t Just a Coastal Problem

Mother Jones

This story first appeared in The Atlantic Cities and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Eerie images of flooded, pitch-black lower Manhattan following Superstorm Sandy made it clear just how stark an effect climate change and extreme weather can have on our everyday access to electricity.

A report from the US Department of Energy released on last week shows that New York City and other coastal regions aren’t the only ones at risk. And it’s not just a question of the future. No American region, it turns out, has been exempt from the possibility of mass power outages. The report focuses on three major causes: rising temperatures; wider-spread, more severe droughts; and more devastating flooding, storms, and sea level rises.

DOE also created a map of energy and power-related disruptions over the past decade that experts have attributed to large-scale, long-term disruptions in climate and weather patterns (for the full, interactive map, click here).

Department of Energy

Several memorable mass power failures make the list, including Sandy, 2004’s Hurricane Jeanne, and this February’s major New England blizzard. The map also includes less-publicized and less obviously catastrophic events in which climate change had an impact on the US power grid. For example, drought conditions and low water levels on the Mississippi River last summer made it difficult for barges to transport resources like coal and petroleum. On the other end of the spectrum, flooding of the Yellowstone River in Montana ripped open an oil pipeline in July 2011, causing $135 million in property damages.

Droughts and extreme heat have made it more difficult for power plants to do their job. Storms and rising sea levels put the physical power grid, including power plants and individual power lines, at risk in places ranging from coastal communities to Tornado Alley. And, to make it all worse, rising temperatures will continue to put an ever-increasing strain on electricity resources.

As part of the climate change initiative launched in June by President Obama, the report offers several recommendations to help mitigate these trends. Long-term suggestions include new technologies to make power plants more efficient, increased emergency back-up systems for local power grids, and strategies to reduce the amount of energy consumers need.

In the meantime, it’s clear that inland communities have as much to worry about in terms of climate change as the coasts.

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Climate-Related Power Outages Aren’t Just a Coastal Problem

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Map: Oysters, Reefs, and Swamps Protect Billions’ Worth of Real Estate—for Free

Mother Jones

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Among the hundreds of recommendations listed in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s $20 billion plan to protect New York from climate change is a call to stock up on oysters. Not the kind you’d want to knock back with a nice pilsner on a Friday afternoon: The idea is to build large underwater oyster reefs around the harbor that could prevent coastal erosion and absorb storm surges. “Soft” infrastructure like this—reefs, wetlands, dunes, and other “natural” systems—is gaining in popularity over “hard” levees and sea walls as an effective way to insulate cities from sea level rise.

Turns out, some of the best of these defenses might already be in place: Yesterday the journal Nature published the first-ever nationwide maps that reveal just how much existing coastal habitats are going to save our butts from rising seas and wild storms. Remove reefs, coastal forests, marshes, kelp beds, and other coastal habitats, the study finds, and twice as much coastline and 1.4 million more people will be highly exposed to climate risks.

Stanford marine ecologist Katie Arkema and her colleagues pulled a vast trove of data—Census Bureau population stats; property values from real estate site Zillow; wave and wind exposure data from NOAA; published climate models; and maps of coastal ecosystems from the scientific literature—and mixed them together to visualize where these natural systems offer the most, or least, protection.

The map below shows where the greatest risk from sea level rise and storm surge will be in 2100, based on models from the 2013 National Climate Assessment. Red areas represent not just places where sea levels are projected to rise the most, but also factor in the presence of protective offshore habitats; the type of shoreline (beach, cliff, etc.); and the spot’s exposure to wind, waves, and other weather. Coastal southern Florida, for example, which is generally expected to get inundated by sea level rise, actually appears yellow, because of its abundant ocean-absorbing wetlands. Except Miami, that is: That city, the little red dot at the bottom right corner of the state, is still screwed. But things could be worse. The inset bar graph shows how many more people would be in high-risk red areas if those natural barriers were removed; in Florida, roughly an additional 300,000 people would be exposed, in New York another 300,000.

Courtesy Nature

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Map: Oysters, Reefs, and Swamps Protect Billions’ Worth of Real Estate—for Free

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Burning Trees for Energy and Capturing CO2 Could Reverse Global Warming

Mother Jones

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The story first appeared on the Guardian website and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Global warming could be reversed using a combination of burning trees and crops for energy, and capturing and storing carbon dioxide underground (CCS), according to an analysis by scientists. But experts cautioned that trying such an approach after temperatures had passed dangerous levels could be problematic, as climate change reduced the number of trees available for “bioenergy”.

The bioenergy and CCS method was the most cost-effective way of tackling carbon emissions, said the team at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, publishing their research in the journal Environmental Research Letters on Thursday. Such an approach could offset and even reverse other emissions from fossil fuels, they claimed.

The lead author of the study, Prof Christian Azar, said it could help bring temperatures down even if they rose above the 2C level that world leaders have agreed to avoid: “Even if current political gridlock causes global warming in excess of 2C, we can reverse the temperature trend and reach targets later. This means that 2C targets, or even more ambitious targets, can remain on the table in international climate negotiations.”

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Burning Trees for Energy and Capturing CO2 Could Reverse Global Warming

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Conservative Climate Hawks to GOP: Wake the Hell Up

Mother Jones

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Eli Lehrer wants conservatives to take global warming seriously. He’s the president of the R Street Institute, a free-market think tank whose board includes former South Carolina Republican Rep. Bob Inglis—a celebrated conservative apostate on climate change—and another freethinking conservative, David Frum.

Recently, Lehrer took to the pages of the Weekly Standard to make the conservative case for a carbon tax (while also criticizing President Obama’s recent climate proposals). “Rather than pretend climate change isn’t a problem, there are ample opportunities for Republicans to point out the obvious flaws in the left’s plans to deal with it and offer alternatives of their own,” writes Lehrer. He adds that the scientific debate over whether humans are causing climate change is pretty much over:

Nobody seriously involved in the policy debate over climate change—not even those the left unfairly labels as “deniers”—actually denies that humans influence global climate. There’s also no dispute that the Earth is warmer than it was before the Industrial Revolution or that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases can trap heat energy.

Unfortunately, however, it looks like many other influential voices on the right are still trying to find “scientific” reasons to discount or minimize global warming.

Lately, a favored argument is to suggest that global warming may have stopped after the year 1998. Versions of this claim were articulated by Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and numerous others in response to Obama’s recent climate speech. Or as Krauthammer put it: “Global temperatures have been flat for 16 years—a curious time to unveil a grand, hugely costly, socially disruptive anti-warming program.”

This is very misleading. First, if you’re simply looking at record temperature years, then 2010 and 2005 both beat 1998 for the highest global average temperature, according to NASA. The World Meteorological Organization agrees that 2010 is the hottest year on record, “followed closely by 2005.” The WMO also notes that the 2000s were the hottest decade on record (see graphic above).

A more sophisticated version of this latest “skeptic” argument is to note that the rate of global warming in the last 15 years has been slower, or has been “leveling off.” But as the blog Skeptical Science points out, that’s only true for atmospheric temperatures—which, in turn, only reflect a small part of the overall global warming picture. Warming of other parts of the planet, and especially the oceans, proceeds apace.

“Conservatives should care about global warming,” writes Lehrer at the end of his Weekly Standard article. Alas, many still seem to be looking for a reason not to.

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Conservative Climate Hawks to GOP: Wake the Hell Up

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