Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Even 50-year-old climate models correctly predicted global warming
- Youth climate strikers gear up for Friday protests in Madrid
- Climate change is causing birds to shrink, study says
- Revealed: How UK banks are ‘threatening’ humanity with £25bn funding for dying coal industry
- Climate change: World must heed Margaret Thatcher’s prescient warning from 1989
- Climate change is accelerating, bringing world 'dangerously close' to irreversible change
- The case for a circular world
- The polar regions in a 2C warmer world
- Atmospheric rivers drive flood damages in the western United States
- Does daylight saving time save electricity? Evidence from Slovakia
Some 14 out of 17 climate models published since 1970 were accurate in their projections of the warming that would take place after they were first published, reports Science, picking up a new study from Geophysical Research Letters. The research was led by Carbon Brief’s climate science contributor Zeke Hausfather and is based on a 2017 piece he wrote for Carbon Brief. Climate scientists first began to use computers to predict future global temperatures in the 1970s, Science says, noting that: “As the issue gained public attention, critics questioned the reliability of rudimentary model predictions.” Explaining the new research, it continues: [T]he most sweeping evaluation of these older models – some half a century old – shows most of them were indeed accurate.“ The Guardian also covers the work, reporting that its findings “confirm [the] reliability of projections of temperature changes over the last 50 years”. It adds: “Since climate models have accurately anticipated global temperature changes so far, we can expect projections of future warming to be reliable as well…Based on modern climate model projections, if countries follow through with current and pledged climate policies, the world is on track for about 3C of warming.” The new research “refutes a common climate-change-denial talking point”, says the Washington Post. It explains that in most cases where earlier model projections have diverged from the actual temperature record, this is down to “overestimating warming because they assumed there would be even greater amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere than what actually occurred”. It quotes Hausfather saying that after controlling for this, 14 of the 17 model projections “were not differentiable from observations”. Coverage of the study at Vox says: “The first systematic review finds that climate models have been remarkably accurate.” It explains that the work focused on 17 models published between 1970 and 2007, with newer projections published too recently to be testable against decades of actual data. It concludes: “For five decades now, [climate models] have warned us that we are marching toward ruin, and we have, for the most part, ignored them. We cannot claim that we did not know what we were doing. We knew.” Mashable also has the story. In a blog for RealClimate, study co-author Gavin Schmidt writes: “While there are still real uncertainties in future warming associated with climate sensitivity, we can confidently state that the rate of surface warming we are experiencing today is pretty much what past climate models projected it would be.”
Youth climate strikers have arrived at the COP25 climate talks in Madrid ahead of a major protest march on Friday, reports Politico. Picking up on the conference slogan “time for action”, the one of the protestors is quoted saying: “It is time for action and it has been for too long. We are here together and continue to strike until world leaders not only hear us but listen to us.” Politico adds: “Chile’s COP presidency promised this COP would be all about ambition, having said it wants to push governments to increase their climate commitments next year.” Meanwhile, BBC News reports on the crew who helped climate activist Greta Thunberg to reach the COP from the US, by sail. Writing in the Guardian, Possible’s Alice Bell argues that the global climate protest movement must continue into 2020 and beyond, noting: “Public concern over climate change seems to bubble up every five to 10 years or so, with increasing levels of intensity, and has done since the 1950s. It’s vital that we keep this bubble going not just all the way until the Glasgow [COP26] talks [late next year], but afterwards, too.”
In other news from COP25, BusinessGreen has a summary of the Wednesday’s events, including a letter sent by Pope Francis calling for “clear, far-sighted and strong political will” and a press conference held by COP president Carolina Schmidt, where it reports her saying: “What we have recognised with the science is that the commitments that were done in 2015 are not enough to limit temperature rise to 1.5C…We need to update the commitment in 2020 in a more ambitious way.” Separately, Reuters covers a press conference held at COP25 by China, where it says an adviser to the country’s negotiating team argued that a planned EU carbon border tax “could bring uncertain and some harmful factors to the process…adopting this type of cross-border measure could influence the friendly atmosphere of cooperation in the process of confronting climate change”. Finally, MailOnline reports that Queen Letizia of Spain attended the COP25 summit yesterday where she “appeared captivated as she spent time talking to delegates”. Its story adds that Spain’s King Felipe reportedly told a reception: “No border can protect us from the effects of climate change…We must act with leadership, and we must act with resolve.”
Meanwhile, EurActiv reports that EU leaders will push for agreement on a draft plan to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at a summit on 12-13 December. It quotes European Council president Charles Michel saying he will work to “convince” all member states to sign up to the plan.
An analysis of 70,716 bird specimens from 52 North American species collected over 40 years shows they are shrinking as the world warms, reports BBC News. The birds had died after colliding with buildings in Chicago, it says, adding: “The authors say the study is the largest of its kind and that the findings are important to understanding how animals will adapt to climate change.” Reuters reports the findings and explains: “The results suggest that a warming climate is driving down the size of certain bird species in North America and perhaps around the world, the researchers said. They cited a phenomenon called Bergmann’s rule, in which individuals within a species tend to be smaller in warmer regions and larger in colder regions, as reason to believe that species may become smaller over time as temperatures rise.” The Times coverage quotes the study’s lead author saying: “I was surprised that all of these species are responding in such similar ways.” The Washington Post also says the the changes measured were found in “nearly all the species” included in the study. The Daily Telegraph and MailOnline also have the story.
Major UK banks are propping up the global coal industry, having given £25bn in finance, loans and underwriting over the past three years, the Independent reports, picking up data released by Greenpeace. The support came from HSBC, Barclays, Standard Chartered and Royal Bank of Scotland, it explains. Bloomberg notes that since 2016, all four banks “have said they’ve stopped lending to new coal-fired power plants”, with some also moving away from other fossil-fuel lending. It adds: “When contacted by Bloomberg News for comment on Greenpeace’s data, all four banks’ press officers pointed to these policies and simultaneous efforts to finance renewable energy.” The news site continues: “Barclays, however, disputed some of Greenpeace’s methodology. The group’s data on coal lending would count a Barclays loan to a coal-producing conglomerate’s renewable division, for instance, even if the bank had no relationship financing coal production, according to a spokeswoman for the lender.” BusinessGreen also has the story.
“If we trust in science, humanity will be able to prevent the worst effects of global warming and look forward to a bright future,” says an editorial in the Scotsman. It adds: “If not, we face catastrophe.” It recalls the “prescient address” to the UN in 1989 from former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, where she said: “Every country will be affected and no-one can opt out. Those countries who are industrialised must contribute more to help those who are not.” Writing in the New York Times, climate scientists Pep Canadell and Rob Jackson discuss what is “fair when it comes to carbon emissions”. They note that the average American and Australian generate nearly three and a half times the global average amount of CO2 per person.
A feature in the New York Times by Henry Fountain says: “Climate change and its effects are accelerating, with climate related disasters piling up, season after season.” It quotes Petteri Taalas, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization saying: “Things are getting worse.It’s more urgent than ever to proceed with mitigation…The only solution is to get rid of fossil fuels in power production, industry and transportation.” Another New York Times feature reports from the low-lying Florida Keys, where officials “announced what many coastal governments nationwide have long feared, but few have been willing to admit: as seas rise and flooding gets worse, not everyone can be saved”.
A Financial Times “special report” explores the circular economy, an approach that it describes as “an approach to industrial and consumption systems that shifts from linear ‘take-make-dispose’ models to circular ones that return what comes from nature to the production cycle”. Its series of eight articles include a report from China, where a company is looking to use bamboo waste in infrastructure, replacing steel, cement or plastic, cutting CO2 emissions in the process. Another piece in the series looks at carsharing schemes that can help address transportation being the “largest contributor to US greenhouse gas emissions”. It explains: “The average car is unused 92% of the time, according to McKinsey, the management consultancy. Given the carbon intensity of producing vehicles, this stunning underutilisation suggests that far too many cars are built relative to society’s transport needs.”
A new review paper in Science Advances summarises the latest research on the “expected consequences” at the Earth’s poles of a 2C warmer world. It says: “As Earth approaches 2C warming, the Arctic and Antarctic may reach 4C and 2C mean annual warming, and 7C and 3C winter warming, respectively.” Impacts of this warming “include ongoing loss of land and sea ice, threats to wildlife and traditional human livelihoods, increased methane emissions, and extreme weather at lower latitudes”, the researchers say, adding: “Land ice loss in both regions will contribute substantially to global sea level rise, with up to 3 m rise possible if certain thresholds are crossed.”
Atmospheric rivers (ARs) – extratropical storms that produce extreme rainfall on the west coasts of the world’s major landmasses – are the “primary drivers” of flood damages in the western US, a new study says. Using 40 years of data from the National Flood Insurance Program and a “recently developed AR scale, which varies from category 1 to 5”, the researchers find that “flood damages increase exponentially with AR intensity and duration”. Each increase in category corresponds to a roughly 10-fold increase in damages, the study finds, with Category 4 and 5 ARs typically causing “damages in the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars, respectively”.
With the European Union recently deciding to stop the police of biannual clock changes in 2021, a new study assesses the impact of daylight savings time in Slovakia. Using hourly data from the 2010-17 period, the researchers apply a mix of approaches to find that the policy brings energy savings of 0.5-1% of annual electricity consumption. The researchers also note that “daylight saving time smooths the electricity demand curve”.
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