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Climate - May 16

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Scientists Back Off Theory of a Colder Europe in a Warming World

Walter Gibbs, NY Times
Mainstream climatologists who have feared that global warming could have the paradoxical effect of cooling northwestern Europe or even plunging it into a small ice age have stopped worrying about that particular disaster, although it retains a vivid hold on the public imagination.

The idea, which held climate theorists in its icy grip for years, was that the North Atlantic Current, an extension of the Gulf Stream that cuts northeast across the Atlantic Ocean to bathe the high latitudes of Europe with warmish equatorial water, could shut down in a greenhouse world.

Without that warm-water current, Americans on the Eastern Seaboard would most likely feel a chill, but the suffering would be greater in Europe, where major cities lie far to the north. Britain, northern France, the Low Countries, Denmark and Norway could in theory take on Arctic aspects that only a Greenlander could love, even as the rest of the world sweltered.

All that has now been removed from the forecast. Not only is northern Europe warming, but every major climate model produced by scientists worldwide in recent years has also shown that the warming will almost certainly continue.
(15 May 2007)


California-Sized Area of Ice Melts in Antarctica

LiveScience
Warm temperatures melted an area of western Antarctica that adds up to the size of California in January 2005, scientists report.

Satellite data collected by the scientists between July 1999 and July 2005 showed clear signs that melting had occurred in multiple distinct regions, including far inland and at high latitudes and elevations, where melt had been considered unlikely.

"Antarctica has shown little to no warming in the recent past with the exception of the Antarctic Peninsula," said Konrad Steffen of the University of Colorado, Boulder. "But now large regions are showing the first signs of the impacts of warming as interpreted by this satellite analysis."

Changes in the ice mass of Antarctica, Earth's largest freshwater reservoir, are important to understanding global sea level rise. Large amounts of Antarctic freshwater flowing into the ocean also could affect ocean salinity, currents and global climate.
(15 May 2007)


An interview with renowned climate scientist James Hansen

Kate Sheppard, Grist
James Hansen, NASA's top climate expert, believes scientists have an obligation to speak out when their findings have important implications for the public -- and he certainly put that belief into practice last year when he told The New York Times that the Bush administration was trying to muzzle his calls for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

Hansen has been speaking publicly about the threats posed by climate change for more than two decades, though it's only in the last couple of years that the public has begun to listen. These days, Hansen is the closest thing climate science has to a celebrity. Lately, he's been using his star status to draw attention to the evils of coal-fired power plants and to chastise the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for not making strong enough statements on sea-level rise.

During a recent stop in Seattle, Hansen spoke with Grist about the growing urgency of global warming, why a molecule of CO2 from coal is worse than a molecule of CO2 from oil, and what we need to do to get the climate crisis under control.

...Q: You have a new paper that will be coming out on the implications of peak oil in the climate debate. Can you tell us a little about the conclusions of that report?

[Implications of "peak oil" for atmospheric CO2 and climate (PDF) ]

Hansen: The main point of that paper, which I think is fairly important, is that gas and oil already have enough CO2 in them to take us to approximately the dangerous level, and perhaps beyond the dangerous level. It's pretty clear we're going to use those fuels, and it's not practical to capture the CO2 in oil since it's used in mobile sources. Some of the CO2 from gas used in power plants, you could capture the CO2, but there are no plans to do that yet.

That means that the only way to keep CO2 from exceeding 450 parts per million would be to say we'll have no more emissions from coal, and that would mean that we should not be building any more coal-fired plants until we have the sequestration technology. A molecule of CO2 from coal, in a certain sense, is different from one from oil or gas, because in the case of oil and gas, it doesn't matter too much when you burn it, because a good fraction of it's going to stay there 500 years anyway. If we wait to use the coal until after we have the sequestration technology, then we could prevent that contribution. I don't think that has sunk in yet to policy makers, because there are many countries going right ahead and making plans to build more coal-fired power plants.
(15 May 2007)
The current version of this paper is online with the title Implications of "peak oil" for atmospheric CO2 and climate:

Abstract arxiv.org/abs/0704.2782

Full text (PDF) arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0704/0704.2782.pdf (PDF)


Deloitte's Joe Stanislaw says lack of corporate energy strategy detrimental to bottom line
(Video)
E&E TV
According to a recent survey by Hill and Knowlton, over 80 percent of global corporations say they closely monitor the issue of global warming, but 65 percent say they do not have a defined energy strategy to deal with climate change. During today's OnPoint, Joe Stanislaw, independent senior adviser to the Energy and Resources Practice at Deloitte and Touche, discusses the importance of corporate energy strategies. He highlights which companies he believes have done the best job in creating successful energy strategies and explains the role stakeholders will play in convincing companies to invest in green technologies.
(16 May 2007)


Climate change: A guide for the perplexed

Michael Le Page, New Scientist
...for those who are not sure what to believe, here is our round-up of the 26 most common climate myths and misconceptions.

There is also a guide to assessing the evidence. In the articles we've included lots of links to primary research and major reports for those who want to follow through to the original sources.

• Human CO2 emissions are too tiny to matter
• We can't do anything about climate change
• The 'hockey stick' graph has been proven wrong
• Chaotic systems are not predictable
• We can't trust computer models of climate
• They predicted global cooling in the 1970s
• It's been far warmer in the past, what's the big deal?
• It's too cold where I live - warming will be great
• Global warming is down to the Sun, not humans
• It's all down to cosmic rays
• CO2 isn't the most important greenhouse gas
• The lower atmosphere is cooling, not warming
• Antarctica is getting cooler, not warmer, disproving global warming
• The oceans are cooling
• The cooling after 1940 shows CO2 does not cause warming
• It was warmer during the Medieval period, with vineyards in England
• We are simply recovering from the Little Ice Age
• Warming will cause an ice age in Europe
• Ice cores show CO2 increases lag behind temperature rises, disproving the link to global warming
• Ice cores show CO2 rising as temperatures fell
• Mars and Pluto are warming too
• Many leading scientists question climate change
• It's all a conspiracy
• Hurricane Katrina was caused by global warming
• Higher CO2 levels will boost plant growth and food production
• Polar bear numbers are increasing
(16 May 2007)

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