Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Climate Change Has Arrived

Coming up in this program: a new report from the World Meteorological Organization tallies the big weather hits in 2013. Is it rampant climate change? Norway decides how to spend almost a trillion petrodollars, and Indian solar loses out. Plus direct from Yokohama Japan, the IPCC press conference promising we can somehow "manage" climate change, a food crisis, and maybe the sixth great mass extinction. Science and hopium on Radio Ecoshock 140409

"Politicians discussing global warming" by Isaac Cordal of Berlin. Great stuff.

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


If you live in eastern north America, it felt like the ice age is returning. Meanwhile millions of people in Europe got a winter of mild rain. So what is it, global cooling or global warming? We don't have to guess. Scientists measure temperatures all over the world, on the ground and by satellite. That information pours into the U.S. National Climatic Data Center. Jessica Blunden is a climate scientist and lead editor writing reports there.

Here is a blurb from NOAA:

"Have you ever wondered who writes the monthly global climate reports? Her name is Jessica Blunden, and she is a climate scientist with ERT, Inc., working here, at NCDC. In addition to writing those reports, which analyze global temperature and precipitation, Jessica is a lead editor for the annual State of the Climate series that is a supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Jessica’s academic training is in atmospheric chemistry and air quality. She did her fieldwork and research in this area for both her Master’s and Doctorate degrees, but she wasn’t always an atmospheric scientist. Before she became a scientist, Jessica spent several years working in the hospitality and tourism industry. During that time, she always felt something was missing. 'I eventually came to the realization that atmospheric science was my true calling,' Jessica said. Her love of weather and climate first blossomed in Mrs. Heath’s eighth grade science class. Jessica found her teacher fascinating and loved studying clouds and weather phenomena.

The State of the Climate series doesn't attribute causes for changes in weather, doesn't suggest policy, and doesn't make predictions about the future. It's an accurate, triple-checked reliable assessment of Earth's climate, month by month, and year by year.

Although it was still pretty cold by our standards, the Arctic was way above average this past winter. The non-scientist, the average person, wonders whether that forced some wicked cold weather further south. What is behind the infamous Polar Vortex that kept pounding Eastern North America?

The World Meteorological Association just released their new report titled "WMO statement on the status of the global climate in 2013". Find a good meaty press release summarizing the report here.

Read the full WMO 2013 report online for free here.

You can also access a fascinating interactive map showing the extreme weather events here. Be patient. It takes a bit to load, but it's worth it.

Get the latest climate reporting about the past winter from NOAA here. Despite what you may have experienced, it was the 8th hottest winter Earth has seen since we began measurements.

Find all the global and national reports on climate from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center here.

Jessica edits the monthly and annual State of the Climate Report.

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock 18 minute interview with Jessica Blunden in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Norway, right up to the Prime Minister, made important promises this spring. With a state investment fund of almost a trillion dollars, Norway suggested they would divest from coal, and invest heavily in renewable energy.

Pundits estimated Norway could put 5 to 10% of it's oil and gas fund into solar and wind energy. That would be 50 to 100 billion dollars! Considering the whole world invested about $215 billion in renewables in 2013, that would be a boost of almost 20%. It could make a HUGE difference in the markets and progress toward safer energy.

Justin Guay of Sierra Club India, and author Jigar Shah invited Norway to plug the gap of a measely $500 million needed to finance solar power for about 200 million people in India. They didn't want a grant or charity, it would be a good investment which could change a lot of lives.

Came the day of the announcement last Friday April 4th, the Norwegians pulled back. Instead they promised to study the whole problem for another year (another year of record greenhouse gas emissions on Earth). Even the coal investments stayed in place. There will be plenty of pressure on Norway to keep to their former promises. And along the way, the Norwegians got rid of their pesky ethics committee too. That should solve the problem.

Groups from India have been seeking this $500 million all over. They tried the World Bank, which definitely should have funded this, instead of the failed and dangerous coal plants in India. No luck.

What we're talking about here are millions of people who have no light when the sun goes down. Children can't do homework, home business must close, there are no fans for the brutal summer heat.

Those who have light pay far more than your or I, being forced to buy polluting kerosene for lamps. That's the irony, the poorest people pay more for light than the richest.

A project to install solar in Africa has really taken wings. It's called "Lighting Africa". Instead of having to buy panels up front, a prohibitive cost for the poor of sub-Saharan Africa - companies make loans so the consumer pays as they use the energy. That works!

Next door to India, the renewables company Grameen Shakti is installing solar in 30,000 to 40,000 homes a month. Bengladesh has over 1 million solar installations, already ahead of much bigger India.

As Justin Guay tells us, India doesn't need more centralized plants and money wasted on a huge inefficient grid. They've been trying that for decades, and failed for over 200,000 million residents still without power. Solar takes power right where it is needed, without the 50% loss of energy associated with big energy grids.

Tune in to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Justin Guay here in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

Here are some helpful links:

Jigar Shah is the solar entrepreneur and author of the influential book for developing countries, "Creating Climate Wealth".

Sierra Club India on the state of solar in that country. And this piece on solar in Uttar Pradesh, one of India's poorest states, with over 200 million people. Find Justin's piece on solar investment in India here and another here. These are all good reads with hard-to-find info seldom touched by the mainstream media.


IPCC REPORT - My take for Radio

No doubt you've heard the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has released it's second major report. This one is not about proving climate change is triggered by human emissions.

Nor does it suggest how to reduce that greenhouse gas pollution of the atmosphere and ocean.This report says climate change has arrived already, and that further warming will occur. It tries to use science to outline who is most vulnerable to coming impacts, where the greatest risks lie, and how humans can best adapt to changes in everything from rainfall to violent storms, rising seas and a hotter world.

The lead authors present very severe impacts, but remain strangely optimistic that humans will find a way to manage these risks. They assume global governments will react to public pressure, and find rational solutions. In the press conference, co-chair of Working Group II, Chris Field from the Carnegie Institute, still talked about making a better world, as did other speakers on the panel.


Let's go to my recording of the press conference held in Yokohama Japan on March 31st, 2014. First, Dr. Michel Jarraud of the World Meteorological Organization says we now have no excuse for ruining the planet. We cannot claim ignorance.

Then I play you about 10 minutes from the presentation by Co-Chair Dr. Christopher Field, founding director of the Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology.

As you hear, several lead authors remain optimistic we will somehow "manage" the risks of climate change, even as they conclude agricultural production could drop as much as 50% by the year 2100, even as human population increased by billions. At another point they admit some scientists fear we are already entering the sixth great mass extinction. One source of their optimism is due to the assumptions in the reporting process. Pressed by a reporter in the Q and A, Dr. Field admits they did not consider global warming beyond two degrees, because they had no dependable science to predict such a scenario. I've had dozens of scientists on Radio Ecoshock who fear we will go well beyond 2 degrees C of warming. That's a big one to leave out!

Remember that every word of this IPCC report has to be approved by consensus by all world governments. Of course it's going to be political, and watered down, despite this feel-good approach by Dr. Rajendra Pachauri.

To be fair, Dr. Pachauri was the most realistic in his other assessments of our predicament, and I regret we didn't have time to run more of what he said. Pachauri warned that if we cannot reduce emissions soon, the whole of human society is in grave danger. Considering emissions have continued to rise despite more than 20 years of IPCC reports, it's hard to know where he finds even "guarded optimism".

Is is part of a culture of "hopium" at the point where science interfaces with governments?

In a couple of weeks, we'll have another brief round of media attention, as Working Group three releases their report on how to cut emissions. For one day, and one day only, the words climate change made the Google list of top story topics in the news. Considering we risk our future, and the whole ecosphere, should it not be a permanent fixture? Instead of the Karadashians or the latest juicy murder story?

This newest IPCC report is an improvement over the past reports. It has more current reporting, and is more blunt about the challenges we are facing. Even in it's watered-down form, it should be taught in every classroom in the world, starting next week. But who can tell the children what we try so hard to hide from ourselves?

I suggest you spend an hour of your life to watch the IPCC press conference in Yokohama on You tube.

Find the full IPCC Working Group II report "Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability" free online here.

Get my full report on this IPCC release, complete with the key quotes from the Yokohama press conference, here in CD quality or Lo-Fi.

As always, you can help get the word out by reposting those links, or the whole audio piece.


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