Misleading information on climate change and corrections

· Australia, climate change, ecology, Economics, ethics
Authors

The media are full of incorrect information on climate change science, often financed by commercial interests that do not wish effective action against climate change. Media campaigns have repeatedly claimed that there has been no increase in temperatures over the last 18 years, in spite of an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, that sunspot cycles are responsible, etc. But scientific evidence leaves no doubt that human activities are largely responsible for an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, such as methane and carbon dioxide, which is to a great part responsible for an increase in temperature, and that  this needs to be addressed to prevent catastrophic consequences. In the following some recent developments in climate change science, taken from my posts at http://blog.une.edu.au/klausrohde/.

Corrected sunspot history suggests climate change not due to natural solar trends

August 10th, 2015 by Klaus Rohde

According to the International Astronomical Union (7 August 2015), sunspot activity over the last 300 years has remained more or less stable and cannot, therefore, be responsible for global warming since the industrial revolution.

“The Sunspot Number is a crucial tool used to study the solar dynamo, space weather and climate change. It has now been recalibrated and shows a consistent history of solar activity over the past few centuries. The new record has no significant long-term upward trend in solar activity since 1700, as was previously indicated. This suggests that rising global temperatures since the industrial revolution cannot be attributed to increased solar activity.” 

“The Maunder Minimum, between 1645 and 1715, when sunspots were scarce and the winters harsh, strongly suggests a link between solar activity and climate change. Until now there was a general consensus that solar activity has been trending upwards over the past 300 years (since the end of the Maunder Minimum), peaking in the late 20th century — called the Modern Grand Maximum by some.”

“This trend has led some to conclude that the Sun has played a significant role in modern climate change.”

 “The apparent upward trend of solar activity between the 18th century and the late 20th century has now been identified as a major calibration error in the Group Sunspot Number. Now that this error has been corrected, solar activity appears to have remained relatively stable since the 1700s.”

Full article (Science Daily) here:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150807220750.htm

A new book on the history of climate change politics in Australia

August 6th, 2015 by Klaus Rohde

A book on the history of climate change politics in Australia, describing the disastrous influence of the right wing media (particularly those controlled by Murdoch) and the big mining corporations has just been published. Author is Maria Taylor (“Global Warming and Climate Change. What Australia knew and buried….then framed a new reality for the public”).  http://press.anu.edu.au/titles/global-warming-and-climate-change/ : A free copy can be downloaded at this address.

The book is based on Taylor’s research for a PhD at the National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science of The Australian National University. From the ANU site on her book: “Her multi-disciplinary investigation of the public record and the input of science, politics, economics, journalism and contemporary mass media has revealed for the first time how and why Australia buried a once good understanding of global warming and climate change — to arrive after 25 years at the confusion and stalemate we are still in today. “

An outline and discussion of he book is available here:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/planet-oz/2015/aug/06/how-australians-were-ready-to-act-on-climate-science-25-years-ago-and-what-happened-next

Excerpts:

“In 1989 Hawke described a “growing consensus amongst scientists” showing there was a strong chance that major climate change was on its way, that this change was linked to human activity, and this could have “major ramifications for human survival” if nothing was done.”

‘The Howard government …….. cautious climate policy positions ……. to justify it through media articles. That modelling was supported financially by the likes of the Australian Coal Association, the oil giant Exxon Mobil and the mining majors BHP and Rio Tinto.”

” ……. by 1997, many political and economic reporters were “dutifully scribing the story established by the business and political elite”.

A point to make is the role of the media in Australia, which is so dominated by the Murdoch press. That played a key role, in a sense that as the 90s rolled on it was so much easier to get out a consistent narrative if you don’t have a really diverse press. From what I saw – and what the documentary evidence showed – the ABC did have a leadership role for a long time in informing the public about climate change, but it really drew back in the late 90s. There was no other story being told.

Free-market neoliberal thinktanks, including the Institute of Public Affairs, promoted climate science denialist views and industry talking points that were picked up by the media.”

Noam Chomsky über den Klimawandel und die Zukunft des intelligenten Lebens auf der Erde

July 23rd, 2015 by Klaus Rohde

Noam Chomsky, der berühmte Wissenschaftler und Politik-Kommentator, in einem Interview mit dem ‘Freitag’ im MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

Auszüge:

“Noam Chomsky: Die USA sind ein Schurkenstaat, Europa ist extrem rassistisch”

“Hoffentlich gibt es endlich einen Volksaufstand gegen die vernichtende, zerstörerische Wirtschafts- und Sozialpolitik, die von den Bürokraten und den Banken kommt.”

“Die menschliche Spezies gibt es schon vielleicht seit 100.000 Jahren und sie steht jetzt vor einem einzigartigen Moment in ihrer Geschichte. Diese Spezies ist jetzt an einem Punkt, an dem sich sehr bald entscheiden wird, in den kommenden Generationen, ob das Experiment des sogenannten intelligenten Lebens weitergehen wird oder wir fest entschlossen sind, es zu zerstören. Überwiegend erkennen Wissenschaftler, dass fossile Energieträger im Boden bleiben müssen, damit unsere Enkel eine Zukunft haben. Aber die institutionellen Strukturen unserer Gesellschaft versuchen, jeden Tropfen aus der Erde zu pressen. Die Folgen, die Auswirkungen der vorhergesagten Effekte des Klimawandels für die Menschheit in nicht sehr ferner Zukunft sind katastrophal und wir rasen auf diesen Abgrund zu.”

Vollständiger Artikel hier:

http://de.euronews.com/2015/04/17/noam-chomsky-die-usa-sind-ein-schurkenstaat-europa-ist-extrem-rassistisch/

Solar activity and new “little” ice age, and another interpretation

July 20th, 2015 by Klaus Rohde

The Lomonosov State University Moscow has published a press release that presents evidence for the possibility of a small “little” ice age developing in about fifteen to twenty years. The evidence is that the sun undergoes cycles in activity indicated by the number of observed sun spots (50 per year during the previous little ice age lasting from 1645 to  1700, and 40 – 50 000 during the warmer period after it), and that we are approaching a point when activity should decrease.

“In 17th century, though, there was a prolonged reduction in solar activity called the Maunder minimum, which lasted roughly from 1645 to 1700. During this period, there were only about 50 sunspots instead of the usual 40-50 thousand sunspots. Analysis of solar radiation showed that its maxima and minima almost coincide with the maxima and minima in the number of spots.”

“If the similar reduction will be observed during the upcoming Maunder minimum this can lead to the similar cooling of the Earth atmosphere. According to Dr Helen Popova, if the existing theories about the impact of solar activity on the climate are true, then this minimum will lead to a significant cooling, similar to the one occurred during the Maunder minimum.

However, only the time will show soon enough (within the next 5-15 years) if this will happen.

Full article here:

http://astronomynow.com/2015/07/17/diminishing-solar-activity-may-bring-new-ice-age-by-2030/

I have asked Professor Michael Box, a renowned climate physicist from the University of NSW, Sydney, to comment on this post and he has given me permission to add his comments here.

Klaus,
Yes, it is causing quite a stir, isn’t it? Let me see how much light I can shed.

The analysis techniques used to underpin the prediction of very low sunspot numbers (principal component analysis) is well known and ‘valid’ as to what it does. Using it to project into the future is somewhat less valid, as other factors which have not shown up in the past data may be waiting in the wings. I guess I would rate the chances of very low sunspot numbers in the 2030s as less than 50-50, but certainly not at, or close to, zero.
So that brings us to the more important issue of the impacts. The Little Ice Age (so-called) is certainly ‘real’, although many questions remain.
When did it begin? I’ve seen dates of anywhere from 1300 to 1450 – both well before the start of the Maunder Minimum in 1645.
When did it end? Again I’ve seen dates as late as 1850 (well after the end of the MM in 1715), which might well imply that the only reason it did end is the onset of global warming!
Was it global, or regional? There is plenty of evidence from Europe and some from North America. I’ve seen a suggestion of some evidence from New Zealand. However there do seem to be many questions around the uniformity of the cooling.
So that brings us to the really key question of the causes/drivers. Solar activity is certainly one possibility, although as I’ve indicated the MM certainly couldn’t have started it. It may have made things just a little bit cooler – say 0.2 C – but it wasn’t the cause! Other suggestions have been a slowing of the Gulf Stream (it has slowed significantly in the past. ~11,000 years ago); volcanic activity (a couple of major eruptions followed by some feedbacks); and ‘orbital forcing’. We know that changes in the Earth’s orbit are the drivers of the glacial-interglacial cycle (something one of the authors of the paper in question is clearly ignorant of!), and these drivers don’t stop and start, but are on-going. We probably are heading ever so slowly for the next glacial.
Like most scientists who have made ‘meaningful’ comments, my view is that, if it does happen, it will reduce global warming by ~0.1 C – or delay it by ~10 years. And that delay would only be temporary, and temperature would zoom ahead in the years that followed.

Interesting to compare this critical account with a story published in news.com.au (a Murdoch site), in which the ‘coming ice’ age is more or less presented as a fact (“Earth heading for ‘mini ice age’ within 15 years’) and rounded up with drawing attention to the present cold front affecting SE Australia:

“Tropical-style thunderstorms, accompanied by heavy snowfalls, roared through the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, and towns as far as Orange on Saturday night.”

Full story here:

http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/earth-heading-for-mini-ice-age-within-15-years/story-e6frflp0-1227439329592

Urgent action necessary: Contrasting futures for ocean and society from different anthropogenic CO2 emissions scenarios

July 8th, 2015 by Klaus Rohde

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Director of the Global Change Institute and Professor of Marine Science at The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Deputy Director of James Cook University’s Centre for Excellence in Coral Reef Studies, and an ARC Laureate Fellow in 2013, is one of the authors of a paper just published in Science vol. 349, 3 July 2015, no. 6243, DOI: 10.1126/science.aac4722: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/349/6243/aac4722. in which the effects of climate change on the oceans are discussed under two scenarios, one if we continue as now, the other if we reduce temperature rise to 2 degrees.

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg has also published an article in Conversation accessible to the wider public, in which he emphasises the need for urgent action if we want to avoid disaster: “……..the ocean system could not be more important: it regulates the global temperature and atmosphere, feeds 3 billion people, and largely determines our weather. The ocean also has lots of “inertia” – which means that getting the ocean to change takes a lot of energy, but once it begins to change, slowing it down becomes more or less impossible…..” . Full article here:

https://theconversation.com/new-report-the-chance-to-rescue-the-worlds-oceans-from-climate-change-is-drifting-away-43257

The Chief Business Adviser to the Prime Minister on Climate Change, and Continuing Rise in Global Carbon Dioxide Levels

May 9th, 2015 by Klaus Rohde

According to the Sydney Morning Herald 9.5.2015, ”

“Climate change is a hoax led by the United Nations so that it can end democracy and impose authoritarian rule, according to Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s chief business adviser.

Maurice Newman, the chairman of the Prime Minister’s business advisory council, has written in The Australian that scientific modelling showing the link between humans and climate change is wrong and the real agenda is a world takeover for the UN.

This is not about facts or logic. It’s about a new world order under the control of the UN “

Full article here:

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/climate-change-a-unled-ruse-says-tony-abbotts-business-adviser-maurice-newman-20150508-ggwuzt.html

Perhaps Maurice Newman can explain the following:

The Global Monitoring Division of NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory has published data which show that for the first time since measurements began, the global monthly mean carbon dioxide level has exceeded 400 parts per million in March 2015, a rise of more than 120 parts per million during the industrial age.

 

 

co2_trend_gl

 

(Graph from Ed Dlugokencky and Pieter Tans, NOAA/ESRL (www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/)

For methods, interpretation and links to other relevant sites see:

http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/global.html

Climate change sets stage for droughts of unprecedented proportions

An article in Science Advances published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (link below) predicts that large parts of the United States will this century experience droughts much stronger than previously predicted, unprecedented in American history during the last millenium.

http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/1/e1400082

“Abstract

In the Southwest and Central Plains of Western North America, climate change is expected to increase drought severity in the coming decades. These regions nevertheless experienced extended Medieval-era droughts that were more persistent than any historical event, providing crucial targets in the paleoclimate record for benchmarking the severity of future drought risks. We use an empirical drought reconstruction and three soil moisture metrics from 17 state-of-the-art general circulation models to show that these models project significantly drier conditions in the later half of the 21st century compared to the 20th century and earlier paleoclimatic intervals. This desiccation is consistent across most of the models and moisture balance variables, indicating a coherent and robust drying response to warming despite the diversity of models and metrics analyzed. Notably, future drought risk will likely exceed even the driest centuries of the Medieval Climate Anomaly (1100–1300 CE) in both moderate (RCP 4.5) and high (RCP 8.5) future emissions scenarios, leading to unprecedented drought conditions during the last millennium.”

For a brief summary see also here:

http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/02/12/climate-change-sets-stage-droughts-unprecedented-proportions

A quote from the latter: “The coming drought age—caused by higher temperatures under climate change—will make it nearly impossible to carry on with current life-as-normal conditions across a vast swath of the country,….”

Similar studies have not been made for Australia, but – considering the generally drier and more extreme conditions in Australia than the US – it seems likely that effects of climate change on drought conditions here will be at least as severe.

Climate models do not overestimate long-term effects of increasing greenhouse gas concentration

 Thursday, January 29th, 2015

The apparent “pause”, i.e. a smaller than predicted increase in air temperature over the last years in spite of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations has led some to believe that climate models are incorrect and that we should not worry too much about global warming. An important study by two leading climate researchers just published in Nature has now shown that the so-called pause is due to short-term chaotic fluctuations and that predictions for long-term trends are correct. We must expect serious global warming in future years. Abstract of the paper, published online 28 January 2015, below:

Jochem Marotzke & Piers M. Forster

Nature
517,
565–570
(29 January 2015)
doi:10.1038/nature14117

Most present-generation climate models simulate an increase in global-mean surface temperature (GMST) since 1998, whereas observations suggest a warming hiatus. It is unclear to what extent this mismatch is caused by incorrect model forcing, by incorrect model response to forcing or by random factors. Here we analyse simulations and observations of GMST from 1900 to 2012, and show that the distribution of simulated 15-year trends shows no systematic bias against the observations. Using a multiple regression approach that is physically motivated by surface energy balance, we isolate the impact of radiative forcing, climate feedback and ocean heat uptake on GMST—with the regression residual interpreted as internal variability—and assess all possible 15- and 62-year trends. The differences between simulated and observed trends are dominated by random internal variability over the shorter timescale and by variations in the radiative forcings used to drive models over the longer timescale. For either trend length, spread in simulated climate feedback leaves no traceable imprint on GMST trends or, consequently, on the difference between simulations and observations. The claim that climate models systematically overestimate the response to radiative forcing from increasing greenhouse gas concentrations therefore seems to be unfounded.

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