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Climate: action, impact, and geoengineering - May 24

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China agrees to impose carbon targets by 2016

Tom Bawden, The Independent
The battle against global warming has received a transformational boost after China, the world's biggest producer of carbon dioxide, proposed to set a cap on its greenhouse gas emissions for the first time.

Under the proposal China, which is responsible for a quarter of the world's carbon emissions, would put a ceiling on greenhouse gas emissions from 2016, in a bid to curb what most scientists agree is the main cause of climate change.

It marks a dramatic change in China's approach to climate change that experts say will make countries around the world more likely to agree to stringent cuts to their carbon emissions in a co-ordinated effort to tackle global warming...
(21 May 2013)


Warming to hit half of plants, a third of animals

AFP
More than half of common species of plants and a third of animal species are likely to see their living space halved by 2080 on current trends of carbon emissions, according to a climate study.

Output of man-made greenhouse gases is putting Earth on track for four degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming by 2100 compared with the pre-industrial 18th century, the report published Sunday said.

The unprecedented speed of warming will be a shock for many species, as it will badly affect the climatic range in which they can live, it warned.

Investigators from Britain's University of East Anglia looked at 48,786 species and measured how their range would be affected according to models of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions...
(13 May 2013)


Geoengineering: Can We Save the Planet by Messing with Nature?

Amy Goodman & Juan González, Democracy Now!
As the carbon dioxide in the air hits 400 parts per million for the first time in human history, some are arguing that the best way address climate change is to use the controversial practice of geoengineering — the deliberate altering of the Earth’s ecological and climate systems to counter the effects of global warming. Supporters of geoengineering endorse radical ways to manipulate the planet, including creating artificial volcanoes to pollute the atmosphere with sulfur particles. Many scientists and environmentalists have raised concerns about geoengineering technologies designed to intervene in the functioning of the Earth system as a whole. We’re joined now by Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, Australia. Hamilton’s new book, "Earthmasters: The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering," lays out the arguments for and against climate engineering, and reveals the vested interests behind it linking researchers, venture capitalists and corporations.

TRANSCRIPT

... AMY GOODMAN: The Heartland Institute describes geoengineering as, quote, "much less expensive than seeking to stem temperature rise solely through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions." The Cato Institute argues that, quote, "geo-engineering is more [cost]-effective than emissions controls altogether." And the Hudson Institute says geoengineering, quote, "could obviate the majority of the need for carbon cuts and enable us to avoid lifestyle changes." Why are all these groups proponents of geoengineering?

CLIVE HAMILTON: Well, one thing united about all of those groups is that they have a right-wing political vision. And so, what they like about geoengineering—bear in mind, incidentally, that the Heartland Institute, and another is—in this camp is the American Enterprise Institute, have spent many years repudiating climate science, attacking climate scientists and resisting all measures to reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions. And yet here they are endorsing geoengineering, so a response to a problem they say does not exist. And the reason is that, in some cases, if the medicine is palatable, then the patient is more likely to admit that there is a disease or an illness. And in this case, the technological intervention in the climate system is acceptable to a certain kind of conservative thinking, because it, in a way, refuses to vindicate the warnings of environmentalists that there’s something profoundly wrong in our economic and political system, because geoengineering comes along and says, "Well, look, the system can solve the problem."

...AMY GOODMAN: You write that "The potential risks are enormous: disrupting the food chain, damaging the ozone layer, the loss of monsoon rains in Asia." How?

CLIVE HAMILTON: Well, in the case of the monsoon, the Indian monsoon, which provides the annual water for a billion or more people, one of the—some of the early scientific work on the impact of installing this solar shield around the Earth through a sulfate aerosol layer is that it may—it will certainly cool the Earth, as David Keith said. He’s pretty confident of that, because it mimics volcanoes. But it will also affect and change global rainfall patterns. And one of—some of the studies suggest that it could shift the Indian monsoon.

And, of course, let’s say either the United States or China decides, in a desperate state, to install this solar shield, and it shifts the Indian monsoon, and there’s a massive continuing drought, and people are going hungry. So, here we have a—you start to get a sense of the geopolitical implications of this, because this is not—you know, everyone, through their greenhouse gas is, you know, as an unintended consequence, changing the climate of the Earth, which is happening now. Here you’ve got a government, probably, backed by the military, probably, or in collaboration with their military, actually setting out to regulate the temperature of the Earth, which may suit their interests. It may help fix their climate, but if it’s severely damaging the climate of another country, particularly a poor country, I mean, what are they going to do? If it’s a nuclear-armed country—you know, these are the kind of scenarios that are attracting the attention of the military planners, who are now—the Pentagon, for example, is taking an interest in geoengineering, because they can see some of these longer-term implications...
(20 May 2013)


Climate Denial's Death Knell: 97 Percent of Peer-Reviewed Science Confirms Manmade Global Warming, Consensus Overwhelming

Breden Demelle, DeSmogBlog

Climate Denial's Death Knell: 97 Percent of Peer-Reviewed Science Confirms Manmade Global Warming, Consensus Overwhelming (via Desmogblog)

A new survey conducted by a team of volunteers at Skeptical Science has definitively confirmed the scientific consensus in climate science literature - 97 percent of peer-reviewed papers agree that global warming is happening and human activities are responsible. It does not get any clearer than…


(15 May 2013)


Climate disasters displace millions of people worldwide

The Guardian
More than 32 million people fled their homes last year because of disasters such as floods, storms and earthquakes – 98% of displacement related to climate change. Asia and west and central Africa bore the brunt. Some 1.3 million people were displaced in rich countries, with the US particularly affected. Floods in India and Nigeria accounted for 41% of displacement, according to the International Displacement Monitoring Centre and Norwegian Refugee Council

View graphic
(20 May 2013)
Link to the report


For Insurers, No Doubts on Climate Change

Eduardo Porter, New York Times
If there were one American industry that would be particularly worried about climate change it would have to be insurance, right?

From Hurricane Sandy’s devastating blow to the Northeast to the protracted drought that hit the Midwest Corn Belt, natural catastrophes across the United States pounded insurers last year, generating $35 billion in privately insured property losses, $11 billion more than the average over the last decade.

And the industry expects the situation will get worse. “Numerous studies assume a rise in summer drought periods in North America in the future and an increasing probability of severe cyclones relatively far north along the U.S. East Coast in the long term,” said Peter Höppe, who heads Geo Risks Research at the reinsurance giant Munich Re. “The rise in sea level caused by climate change will further increase the risk of storm surge.” Most insurers, including the reinsurance companies that bear much of the ultimate risk in the industry, have little time for the arguments heard in some right-wing circles that climate change isn’t happening, and are quite comfortable with the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is the main culprit of global warming...

Yet when I asked Mr. Nutter what the American insurance industry was doing to combat global warming, his answer was surprising: nothing much. “The industry has really not been engaged in advocacy related to carbon taxes or proposals addressing carbon,” he said.
(14 May 2013)
Link to report 'Is the U.S. Insurance Industry Prepared for Climate Change?'

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