A hint that things may not be as bad as we thought

I would be remiss if I didn’t direct your attention to a new paper in Science that concludes, however tentatively, that the global climate may not be as sensitive to rising atmosheric CO2 levels as everyone has assumed. It is, after all, a rare dose of optimism in a field that has been characterized by “it’s worse than expected” findings for pretty much its entire history.

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Canada and the Kyoto Protocol

Word is Canada will give the world a lump of coal tar for Christmas:

Canada will announce next month that it will formally withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, CTV News has learned.

The Harper government has tentatively planned an announcement for a few days before Christmas, CTV’s Roger Smith reported Sunday evening.

Given the Canada was never on track to come anywhere close to achieving its Kyoto target of a 6% reduction in greenhouse gases relative to 1990 levels, the only consequence of the decision will be political rather than climatological. It’s worth noting that it looks like the protocol will meet its modest goals, with or without Canada:

Even including the [non-signatory] USA, whose emissions in 2008-2010 are 11 percent more than in 1990, the industrialised countries have on average reduced greenhouse gas emissions by about 7.5 percent in the period 2008-2010, compared with 1990. Together they are well on course to achieve the [Kyoto] protocol, target of a collective average decrease in greenhouse gas emissions of 5.2 percent between 2008 and 2012 compared to the 1990 level. — PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency

Another round of (yawn) stolen emails

If this is the best they’ve got, it’s kind of sad, really.

Looks like the link to the zip file of what was left over from the 2009 release has been removed, just a few hours after the world became aware that the FOIA gang is at it again. But most of what found its way onto the web so far, tiny snippets without even a clue as to the subject matter that prompted the excerpts, doesn’t ever rise to the level of lame.

Of course, that won’t stop the denial punks from engaging in a display of juvenile histrionics. But still, after the embarrassment of the BEST study conclusions, it is beginning to look like the pseudoskeptics are beginning to get desperate.

I’m with Mike Mann:

who is quoted in the batch of released emails described the release as “truly pathetic”.

When asked if they were genuine, he said: “Well, they look like mine but I hardly see anything that appears damning at all, despite them having been taken out of context. I guess they had very little left to work with, having culled in the first round the emails that could most easily be taken out of context to try to make me look bad.”
The Guardian

Shawn Otto’s take is good, too.

Recapping …

In its latest Greenhouse Gas report, the World Meteorological Organization reminds us again that what really sets Homo sapiens apart from the other animals is an unparalleled talent for procrastination. Brad Johnson of Think Progress summarizes:

… since the global convention in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 at which the nations of the world pledged to prevent dangerous global warming, the intensity of global warming has increased by nearly a third. Most of the increase in pollution has come from the burning of fossil fuels, reaping untold profits for oil and coal magnates at the expense of civilization’s future. More than a quarter of all of the carbon pollution produced by the United States has come since then.

Which is why our grandkids will one day turn to us and say “Let’s me get this straight: you burned it all?”

A climate change report for the Tea Party

“Major storms could submerge New York City in next decade” cries a randomly selected mainstream media outlet over a story about a new report warning residents that climate change could make life difficult in the not-too-distant future. The report, from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, is pretty standard stuff for those who have been paying attention to the growing link between global warming and extreme weather. And maybe it will spur New Yorkers to take the subject a bit more seriously.

But there’s a certain set who will welcome this 600-page conpendium of alarming research. After all, most Tea Partiers aren’t living in NYC, and most members of the far right persuasion have contempt for those do call the city home. So when they read that

By the mid-2020s, sea level rise around Manhattan and Long Island could be up to 10 inches, assuming the rapid melting of polar sea ice continues. By 2050, sea-rise could reach 2.5ft and more than 4.5ft by 2080 under the same conditions.

In such a scenario, many of the tunnels – subway, highway, and rail – crossing into the Bronx beneath the Harlem River, and under the East River would be flooded within the hour, the report said. Some transport systems could be out of operation for up to a month.

they will probably just say: “Good serves ’em right.” Proving only the political climate is now so absurd that scientists can’t win whatever they do.

What if climatologists reversed the null hypothesis?

ResearchBlogging.orgKevin Trenberth’s latest paper, which appears in Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, is uncharacteristically and refreshingly blunt right from the first few words of the introduction:

Humans are changing our climate. There is no doubt whatsoever. There are arguments about how much and how important these effects are and will be in future, but many studies (e.g., see the summary by Stott et al.1) have demonstrated that effects are not trivial and have emerged from the noise of natural variability, even if they are small by some measures. So why does the science community continue to do attribution studies and assume that humans have no influence as a null hypothesis?

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A convert explains his return from the dark side

Barry Bickmore’s 40-minute explanation of why he stopped denying climate science is worth the time. As a a geochemistry professor, it should come as no surprise that he eventually came around, only that it took as long. But better late than never. He teaches at Brigham Young University in Utah, is an active Mormon, and an active Republican. So there you go.

The phony breakthrough vs deployment debate

David Roberts is, as usual, bang on in his latest Grist column, lamenting the pointlessness of the debate between those who insist we need more research and development before tackling climate change, and those who say we shouldn’t wait. (Roberts is among the best commenters around when it comes to the social and political context of climate change.)

For the amount of attention it gets, you’d think that settling this debate is the crucial first step in developing a policy plan or a political strategy. You’d think the “enough technology” question must be answered before anyone can move forward.

But as I see it, pretty much nothing hinges on the answer. Indeed, I find the whole debate baffling and confounding.

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