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Climate - May 7

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


Mediterranean nations face up to threat of climate change

Marlowe Hood, AFP
Global warming threatens to wreak economic havoc across the Mediterranean basin, warned scientists from 62 research institutes who have banded together to study the regional consequences of climate change and propose ways to adapt.

Increasing temperatures over the coming decades will likely provoke water shortages, crippling heat waves and extreme weather, the experts from Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East said at their inaugural gathering last week in Bologna, Italy.

"The Mediterranean is especially vulnerable, and faces the threat of large-scale human migration and the disruption of local economies," geophysicist Antonio Navarra, who spearheaded the initiative and heads Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, told AFP.
(5 May 2007)


City wakes up to economic threat of global warming

Richard Wachman, The Observer
Higher temperatures could mean disruption to crops, a rapid rise in inflation and catastrophic famine. Richard Wachman on how the business world is at last taking extreme weather seriously
----
In 1798 Thomas Malthus forecast that a huge increase in population would outpace food production by the mid-19th century, leading to a catastrophic famine. He was wrong. Malthus could yet be proved right, though not in the way he envisaged.

Today, scientists worry that global warming will lead to the sort of disaster Malthus predicted. If average temperatures keep rising, drought could devastate arable areas in developing countries where population growth is most pronounced, leading to widespread starvation. If the earth gets hotter, the polar ice caps will melt, causing sea levels to rise. The result will be floods that disrupt food production, and threaten life itself.

It may sound like a scene from a Hollywood disaster movie, but sober-headed City economists are beginning to publish reports that look at the implications of climate change as 'extreme weather events' become more commonplace.
(6 May 2007)
Also at Common Dreams.


The rich world's policy on greenhouse gas now seems clear: millions will die

George Monbiot, Guardian
Our governments have set the wrong targets to tackle climate change using outdated science, and they know it
----
The rich nations seeking to cut climate change have this in common: they lie. You won’t find this statement in the draft of the new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was leaked to the Guardian last week. But as soon as you understand the numbers, the words form before your eyes. The governments making genuine efforts to tackle global warming are using figures they know to be false.

The British government, the European Union and the United Nations all claim to be trying to prevent “dangerous” climate change. Any level of climate change is dangerous for someone, but there is a broad consensus about what this word means: two degrees of warming above pre-industrial levels. It is dangerous because of its direct impacts on people and places (it could, for example, trigger the irreversible melting of the Greenland ice sheet(1)and the collapse of the Amazon rainforest(2)) and because it is likely to stimulate further warming, as it encourages the world’s natural systems to start releasing greenhouse gases.

The aim of preventing more than 2°C of warming has been adopted overtly by the UN(3) and the European Union(4) and implicitly by the British, German and Swedish governments. All of them say they are hoping to confine the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to a level which would prevent 2°C from being reached. And all of them know that they have set the wrong targets, based on outdated science. Fearful of the political implications, they have failed to adjust to the levels the new research demands.

This isn’t easy to follow, but please bear with me, as you cannot understand the world’s most important issue without grappling with some numbers.
(1 May 2007)


Artefacts in ocean data hide rising temperatures

Quirin Schiermeier, Nature
According to the myth - and a classic movie - Jason and his shipmates on the Argo suffered more than their fair share of reverses before bringing home the Golden Fleece. The international team of oceanographers working on the ambitious ARGO programme can surely sympathize. Instrumentation flaws have been discovered that undercut the programme's most striking finding to date. The problems have reinforced calls for caution when interpreting 'real-time' environmental data.

ARGO is an array of floats drifting freely around the oceans, 2,800-strong so far and still growing. Each float shuttles back and forth between the surface and the ocean depths measuring temperature and salinity, then sending data home via satellite when it is at the surface.

In 2006, data from the array led a team of scientists to the surprising conclusion that the world's oceans had cooled during 2003-05 - exceptionally warm years in terms of global surface temperature. The team published its findings in Geophysical Research Letters1. Such apparent cooling was seized on by people keen to highlight the uncertainties in forecasts of global warming2.

That cooling has now been shown to be an artefact. In some of the buoys - they are manufactured in separate batches - a software glitch caused the temperature and salinity data to be associated with the wrong depths. When the problem data are excluded from the analysis, the cooling trend drops below the level of statistical significance.
(3 May 2007)
UPDATE: A reader writes:
The paper is available free from climate.envsci.rutgers.edu/pdf/RahmstorfScienceIPCC.pdf

Excerpt only. The original is behind a paywall. Contributor SP writes:
Maybe something that Real Climate will cover. And maybe not totally relevant, but interesting.


Recent Climate Observations Compared to Projections

Stefan Rahmstorf, Anny Cazenave, John A. Church, James E. Hansen, Ralph F. Keeling, David E. Parker, Richard C. J. Somerville; Science Magazine
Abstract:
We present recent observed climate trends for carbon dioxide concentration, global mean air temperature, and global sea level, and we compare these trends to previous model projections as summarized in the 2001 assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC scenarios and projections start in the year 1990, which is also the base year of the Kyoto protocol, in which almost all industrialized nations accepted a binding commitment to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The data available for the period since 1990 raise concerns that the climate system, in particular sea level, may be responding more quickly to climate change than our current generation of models indicates.

Conclusion:
Overall, these observational data underscore the concerns about global climate change. Previous projections, as summarized by IPCC, have not exaggerated but may in some respects even have underestimated the change, in particular for sea level.
(4 May 2007)
Article is behind a paywall, but an Abstract is viewable.

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