When climate change predictions go wrong – ocean warming by 40%

Climate change predictions based on science, historical data, and models are always going to be a work in progress on subject to corrections. Some will eventually be found to have overstated possible effects, while it is just as likely that some will be found to have understated effects.

Observations claim that ocean warming has been hapening at a much faster rate than what was predicted in the 2013 U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

Axious:  Ocean heat is climbing 40% faster than thought

New, independent observations from ocean buoys and other data sources show Earth’s oceans are warming at a rate that’s about 40% faster than indicated in the 2013 U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

Why it matters: The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, resolves a key uncertainty in climate science by reconciling analyses from a variety of different scientific teams.

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The oceans are absorbing about 93% of the extra heat going into the climate system. So far, most of that heat resides in the upper ocean, and is only slowly diffusing down into deeper waters. Faster warming is already resulting in tangible, harmful impacts, from coral bleaching across the Great Barrier Reef to rapidly intensifying hurricanes.

  • Scientists describe the ocean as having a “long memory,” meaning that the heat going into the waters now will continue to be released long after humans cut greenhouse gas emissions (assuming we do take that course).

This may be adjusted again more observations are made and as more data is accumulated, but it does suggest real cause for concern.

The rate of change of acceleration of warming could as easily have been predicted too low as too high, but it seems that as the science progresses, the majority of concerns increase.

The study:  How fast are the oceans warming?

Climate change from human activities mainly results from the energy imbalance in Earth’s climate system caused by rising concentrations of heat-trapping gases. About 93% of the energy imbalance accumulates in the ocean as increased ocean heat content (OHC). The ocean record of this imbalance is much less affected by internal variability and is thus better suited for detecting and attributing human influences (1) than more commonly used surface temperature records. Recent observation-based estimates show rapid warming of Earth’s oceans over the past few decades (see the figure) (12). This warming has contributed to increases in rainfall intensity, rising sea levels, the destruction of coral reefs, declining ocean oxygen levels, and declines in ice sheets; glaciers; and ice caps in the polar regions (34). Recent estimates of observed warming resemble those seen in models, indicating that models reliably project changes in OHC.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), published in 2013 (4), featured five different time series of historical global OHC for the upper 700 m of the ocean.

Since then, the research community has made substantial progress in improving long-term OHC records and has identified several sources of uncertainty in prior measurements and analyses (268).

shii et al. (6) completed a major revision of their estimate in 2017 to account for the previous underestimation and also extended the analysis down to 2000 m and back to 1955.

All four recent studies (261011) show that the rate of ocean warming for the upper 2000 m has accelerated in the decades after 1991 to 0.55 to 0.68 W m−2 (calculations provided in the supplementary materials).

Studies, not models.

The ensemble average of the models has a linear ocean warming trend of 0.39 ± 0.07 W m−2 for the upper 2000 m from 1971–2010 compared with recent observations ranging from 0.36 to 0.39 W m−2.

The relatively short period after the deployment of the Argo network in the early 2000s has resulted in superior observational coverage and reduced uncertainties compared to earlier times. Over this period (2005–2017) for the top 2000 m, the linear warming rate for the ensemble mean of the CMIP5 models is 0.68 ± 0.02 W m−2, whereas observations give rates of 0.54 ± 0.02 (2), 0.64 ± 0.02 (10), and 0.68 ± 0.60 (11) W m−2. These new estimates suggest that models as a whole are reliably projecting OHC changes.

The fairly steady rise in OHC shows that the planet is clearly warming. The prospects for much higher OHC, sea level, and sea-surface temperatures should be of concern given the abundant evidence of effects on storms, hurricanes, and the hydrological cycle, including extreme precipitation events (315). There is a clear need to continue to improve the ocean observation and analysis system to provide better estimates of OHC, because it will enable more refined regional projections of the future. In addition, the need to slow or stop the rates of climate change and prepare for the expected impacts is increasingly evident.

 

2018 was second equal hottest year on record, ‘alarming trend’ – NIWA

NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) say that 2018 was the second warmest year on record, and four of the past six years were in the top five warmest.

RNZ:  2018 climate continues ‘alarming trend’ – NIWA

Temperatures in 2018 continued to hit record highs, with scientists calling the year a continuation of an “alarming trend”.

January was a record high, but for the year it wasn’t a record.

The year as a whole was the second-equal warmest on record, along with 1998.

The average temperature was 13.41C, not quite reaching the high set in 2016 with an average of 13.45C.

NIWA principal scientist Chris Brandolino said four of the past six years were now in the top five of warmest ever recorded, which was extremely concerning.

“[The year of] 2016 was the warmest, 2017 was the 5th warmest. This year equal-second warmest and I think 2015 was the third warmest,” Mr Brandolino said.

“So four out of the past six years we’ve finished top five and unfortunately part of a long-term and alarming trend.”

Mr Brandolino said there were 49 locations which reached record or near record temperatures around the country.

Mr Brandolino said the warm weather was due to three main components – sea surface temperatures, air flow from tropic and sub-tropic areas and an increase in greenhouse gasses.

“The increases in greenhouses that we continue to see is warming in the background,” he said.

“In other words, we are seeing a long-term tailwind of temperatures. Our changing climate is acting as a long-term tailwind for high temperatures.”

@NIWAWeather:

January 2018 was New Zealand’s warmest month on record, recording a remarkable 3.1˚C above average.

The rest of 2018:

  •   6 months saw above average temps.
  •   6 months saw near average temps.
  •   0 months saw below average temps.

♨️ 49 locations observed record or near-record high mean temperatures.

❄️ 0 locations observed record or near-record low mean temperatures.

For minimum temperatures, 2018 was the warmest on record at +0.94˚C above average in New Zealand. Research has shown that historical warming rates have been larger for overnight minimum temperatures compared with daytime maximum temperatures.

This is a bit misleading stating ‘warmest year on record’:

Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice

‘World Scientists’ (some scientists in the world) have issued a follow-up ‘warning to humanity twenty five years after the first warning was made.

Medium:  “This will lead to war over resources”

On 24 November, the Emergency Plan seminar was held in Stockholm, Sweden. The aim of the organisers — WeDontHaveTime, the Club of Rome and Global Utmaning, — was to present concrete ideas on how to rapidly reduce global emissions.

why the urgency? Why the desperate need for all these solutions?

The speaker who most clearly answered that question was Stuart Scott, executive director for ScientistsWarning.org and board member of the WeDontHaveTime foundation.

He started off by quoting a document written by the Union of Concerned Scientists in 1992.

“Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment. /…/ We the undersigned, senior members of the world’s scientific community, hereby warn all humanity of what lies ahead. A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.”

“My question is: Did we change?” Stuart Scott rhetorically asked the audience at the seminar. “Unfortunately, not much.”

So 25 years after the first warning was formulated, scientists have written a new one.

World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice, was signed by 15,364 scientists from 184 countries upon release. Another 8,000 have signed it since then.

The updated warning deals with ecological stressors: biodiversity loss, food systems, freshwater scarcity, marine life depletion, ocean pollution, forest destruction, air toxification, soil degradation, population and climate change.

“Many of these stressors interact, and they multiply one another”, says Stuart Scott.

But despite all the scientific evidence of how our lifestyle is destroying the planet, carbon emissions reached an all-time-high in 2018.

But there is still hope. If we choose to act. And if we do it now.

“I say: get angry. Get very angry. But not just angry. Do something. Take action. The time has come for civil disobedience”, he says. “The bottom line is we must all become active immediately to avert a catastrophe for us, our children and all of life on Earth.”

I don’t know what getting angry will achieve. I don’t know how many people will get angry about something that may play out over the next fifty years.

A problem with selling urgent climate change action is that people are used to experiencing weather changes all the time, especially those of us living in latitudes where significant seasonal changes are normal, and in southern New Zealand, where significant changes can occur on the same day. Small changes in overall temperatures and slight increases in storm intensity and adverse weather are difficult to perceive. The southerly blasting right now, or the wave of NW heat, is what we notice the most (actually yesterday and today have been very pleasant

I think there will be attempts in New Zealand this year to appear angry and to propose drastic action. there may even be civil disobedience.

But how this will impact on most people – whether they care or not let alone do anything – will have to be seen, if it happens at all.

I don’t want anger, I don’t want civil disobedience.

I want civil debate. And I want good arguments for actions.

And most of all I want a sensible, feasible plan from the Government, who should be leading the way on this.

Humans should do much better at looking after our planet and mitigating and minimising risks from our impacts.

But I haven’t seen anything yet that looks anything like being a convincing way to deal with things related to climate change and environmental issues.

Warning to climate change activists – you need to get your words and actions right focussed on what will bring people on board a campaign for significant change, and not abuse and shame and piss off people that need to be convinced.

Some scientists may be convinced that WeDon’tHaveTime, but they have to do a much better job at convincing most of ‘we’ that we have to make time to change the way we live.

“This is an existential question for us, and our very survival as a culture and as a people is at stake”

Minister of Climate Change James Shaw has been at the COP24 conference in Poland (he is still there, having extended his stay in the hope that something might be decided). Anything agreed on will govern countries’ efforts in adhering to their commitments under the Paris Agreement.

RNZ – Climate talks: ‘The levels of concern are so different’ – Shaw

One of the sticking points is whether efforts under the Kyoto Protocol will count towards Paris. Essentially, countries can’t agree on how they’ll count their greenhouse gas emissions, or their efforts to reduce them.

Mr Shaw told reporters this morning these were technical matters negotiators had been grappling with for three years. “Frankly, they should’ve gotten past that kind of detail before all the ministers showed up for the final three days,” he said.

Broadly speaking, Mr Shaw said a big frustration for him was the differences in countries’ commitments to fighting the effects of climate change.

“On one side you’ve got countries who are saying that they want a set of rules that are quite permissive and lets them do things, because they’re worried about the potential impact on their Gross Domestic Product.

“On the other hand, you’ve got a group of countries who are saying ‘this is an existential question for us, and our very survival as a culture and as a people is at stake’.”

That’s a big statement. perhaps Shaw is right, or maybe he just believes that everyone has to change to his way of thinking and living or they are doomed. It’s a bit like a religious thing – if you don’t believe in Green heaven you will go to hell.

 

 

“Collapse of our civilisations” unless “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”

The climate change debate is ramping up internationally, and there are attempts to get a revolution off the ground here in New Zealand.

Rapid and far reaching changes in all aspects of society? Most people resist even moderate levels of change. And rapid change means high risks of unintended consequences.

Are we facing “the collapse of our civilisations” if we don’t accept rapid change?

Recent world headlines:

Deutsche Welle –  Germany protests call for leadership on climate action

From Berlin to Cologne, protesters have gathered to demand more from the government in the fight against climate change. Greenpeace said Germany must lead, and that means phasing out coal by 2030.

Euronews – COP24: Tens of thousands of climate change protesters march in Brussel

Tens of thousands of climate change protesters marched through Brussels on Sunday as the UN’s COP24 conference began in Poland.

The protest’s organisers estimated a record breaking 75,000 people took part, making it the biggest climate change march to have taken place in Belgium.

“We demand more ambition from our Belgian decision makers on the European and international level,” Climate Coalition Nicolas Van Nuffel said. “But this ambition also needs to be realised at the Belgian level. Since 2012, we have been waiting for a national plan for the climate which implies a strategy, in the short and long term.”

RNZ:  David Attenborough tells UN climate talks ‘time is running out’

The naturalist Sir David Attenborough has said climate change is humanity’s greatest threat in thousands of years.

The broadcaster said it could lead to the collapse of civilisations and the extinction of “much of the natural world”.

He was speaking at the opening ceremony of United Nations-sponsored climate talks in Katowice, Poland.

Sir David said: “Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change.

“If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

Once force behind this rise in activism: Extinction Rebellion

FIGHT FOR LIFE

We are facing an unprecedented global emergency. The government has failed to protect us. To survive, it’s going to take everything we’ve got.

Extinction Rebellion is a campaign by the  network. We aim to promote a fundamental change of our political and economic system to one which maximises well-being and minimises harm.

Here in New Zealand last year Jacinda Ardern said that climate change was our new ‘nuclear free moment’, and also talked our climate change stance up at the United nations, but has since been criticised for not matching her words with appropriate action.

(The Spinoff) – What’s behind the surge of new energy in the climate movement?

Tired of the procrastination and timidity of government-led change, climate rage is now ripe for rebellion. Cordelia Lockett explains why. 

All mouth and no trousers. That pretty much sums up New Zealand’s response to climate change. A lot of words but little demonstrable action.

Our new government is promising large but delivering light.

However, that may all be about to change. In the last month, there’s been a sudden surge of new energy in the climate movement. In the United States, several cities (sensibly circumventing any hope of leadership at a federal level) have declared a state of climate emergency. The dynamic new congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is championing a visionary Green New Deal: a mobilisation plan to rapidly reduce carbon while simultaneously addressing associated social problems.

Australian kids are skipping school to protest about the climate. And in Britain a new people’s movement has emerged – Extinction Rebellion – which is disrupting the streets and spreading like wildfire.

In early October this year, the IPCC released a special report highlighting the catastrophic consequences of allowing global temperature increase to exceed 1.5 degrees. The tone was stronger and scarier than previous reports, and the wording unequivocal.

To have any hope of getting climate change under control we need to halve emissions by about 2030 and then drive them steadily down to zero by 2050.

And to do so, it says, would require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. That sounds to me like systemic change: a social, political and economic transformation, no less.

Our Prime Minister regularly mentions the issue in her speeches, even saying climate change is her generation’s nuclear-free moment. I agree. But where’s the bold programme of policy initiatives to match the strong words and size of the problem? We need leaders who act, not just talk about acting. Let’s do this.

The government needs first to acknowledge the scale and urgency of the problem by declaring a climate emergency and develop a credible plan to decarbonise the economy as quickly and as justly as possible. To do this will require a decent-sized tax on carbon and methane. Cars and cows: a scary agenda for many Kiwis, admittedly.

A massive education and social marketing campaign would help communicate the need for widespread change. This should focus on the financial and other costs of inaction, as well as the multiple benefits of a comprehensive, transition to a fossil-free, climate-protecting society.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) is a mass movement emerging from the long-standing UK social justice network Rising Up. It’s a response to climate inaction and incrementalism by governments, and instead advocates non-violent direct action and civil disobedience. XR’s radical campaign is sweeping through Europe and beyond. Local groups have cropped up all over the UK, and the spark has already caught fire in Canada, Germany, Sweden, the United States, Australia, Denmark, Czech Republic, France, Netherlands, Finland, Ireland, Switzerland, Scotland, Spain, Norway, India, Italy, Solomon Islands.

And Aotearoa. Here, there are groups springing up in short order: Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Thames, Waihi, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Nelson and Tauranga.

But why now?  Was it that latest IPCC report? Or the WWF announcing that we’ve wiped out 60% of the world’s vertebrate animals? Or the wildfires in California killing 88 people – with 200 still missing – and demolishing a whole township? Or the record-smashing Northern Hemisphere summer temperatures? Or just an idea whose time has come?

The speed of the XR pile-on shows a thirst for something big, a grand project. And collective direct action is a great vessel in which to pour one’s climate-related anger, fear and despair. It’s collegial and energising. Tired of the procrastination and timidity of government-led change and frightened by what is being called a direct existential threat, climate rage finally has a home.

It’s something of a cliche, but New Zealand really could be world-leading in its climate response. We have a vibrant indigenous culture of kaitiakitanga, practical virtues of courage and hard work, moral values of equality and harmony with the environment, and a legacy of taking radical political initiatives which have global impact. We can do it again with the climate crisis. It’s not only necessary: it may just be possible.

Are we heading towards “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”, or, as Attenboriugh claims, we face “the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

 

More on Stuff’s climate change conversation control

Not surprisingly there has been a lot of discussion on Stuff’s decision to exclude climate change “scepticism” from articles and discussions. See Anti-climate change comments no longer allowed.

I linked to that post on Twitter and got this response:

In political debates ‘ignorance’ and ‘differing views’ are often confused. There seems to be increasing attempts to shut down discussion at variance to one’s political view – this is common from political activists, but when major media like Stuff do it, it becomes alarming.

A key quote from Stuff:

Mature adults can disagree about the impact of climate change and how we should react. We’ll feature a wide range of views as part of this project, but we won’t include climate change “scepticism”. Including denialism wouldn’t be “balanced”; it’d be a dangerous waste of time. The experts have debunked denialism, so now we’ll move on.

I think it is alarming that they implied that “scepticism” of an issue as reliant on science as climate change would be excluded. Scepticism is a fundamental tenet of science.

Using the term ‘denialism’ is also a concern – that is often used to dismiss any arguments that question and aspects of climate change and action to mitigate it.

It reminds me of people holding religious power condemning anyone who doesn’t by their dictates unquestioningly.

We welcome robust debate about the appropriate response to climate change, but do not intend to provide a venue for denialism or hoax advocacy. That applies equally to the stories we will publish in Quick! Save the Planet and to our moderation standards for reader comments.

Certainly “hoax advocacy” and arguments that aren’t based on facts or commonly accepted science should not be supported, but Stuff implies they are going much further than that.

Adam Smith:  Stuff admits it is a biased rag and not a newspaper

This is totally disgraceful. A newspaper now saying it will censor any views that differ from the viewpoint it chooses to advocate for.

It means that all stories in Stuff should be read as opinions not as fact. It means their journalists are advocates, not reporters.

Whilst this may well have been the case for many years, their blatant disregaard for alternative views, especially in such a public way is very concerning.

Yet Stuff  should be applauded as well for openly stating their bias, but will they clearly state that bias when publishing articles on climate issues?

Clearly, they will not publish climate sceptical articles. In that regard it could well be argued, they are failing in a publication’s duty to hold authority to account.

That was also discussed at Reddit:

Stuff has a terrible comment section which does not encourage proper discourse, does not have adequate moderation against hate speech or racism, uses a completely pointless and easily rigged voting system, and only requires an email address to post anonymously.

For a news agency these are appalling standards in my opinion. As a news agency you should be holding yourself to certain standards when it comes to reporting the news and yet those standards are completely disregarded when it comes to their social media aspect. Why? Why work so hard on reporting in a quality fashion just to have all your readers scroll down to an absolute cesspit of a message board after they read the article and risk having that as their parting impression? Why open comments to controversial subjects when you’re well aware most people are just going to announce their opinion regardless of what your article has just said? Why claim you stand up for things you care about but allow users to post vile comments? Why close comments on hugely important but non-controversial issues?

Well, we know why. You don’t actually care. You want to retain visitors as long as possible and you know that engagement is the key and you clearly don’t give a fuck how they go about it. And this stand, this stand against climate deniers, is your attempt to try and claw back some iota of self-respect.

Your peers are closing their comment sections because they know it has failed miserably.

Like countless other news outlets, NPR found itself overwhelmed by trolls, anonymous contributors who had too often hijacked comment threads with offensive and inappropriate submissions.

Wise-up, Stuff.

I linked to my pos

Stuff seem to be limiting their coverage and discussion to “the appropriate response to climate change”. What an appropriate response is should still be very much up for discussion, and that should allow for questioning the responses that some advocate – some extreme responses are advocated by some, like rapidly eliminating the use of fossil fuels and halting meat production. Counter arguments should be allowed.

Anti-climate change comments no longer allowed

Anyone arguing against climate change happening can’t comment any more – don’t worry, not here, but that seems to be what Stuff are imposing on comments there.

I think that climate change is potentially a major problem facing our planet, and facing humankind. We are having a significant impact on the planet, and most probably on the climate.

I largely disagree with those who say there is nothing to worry about. We should be concerned, and we should be doing more to reduce the human impact on the climate and on the environment.

Not all climate change effects will be negative, some areas may benefit. But overall it poses a major risk, especially considering the huge and expanding human population and the need to feed everyone.

However we should not, must not close down arguments against climate change, or for natural climate change, or against doing anything. For a start, a basic premise of science is that it be continually questioned and challenged, no matter how strong the evidence is one way or another.

And there is a lot to debate about what we should be doing in response to our impact on the planet.

So censoring one side of a debate is a major concern to me. There are whacky extremes on both sides of the arguments. Why target just one side with censorship?

From The Standard: Stuff is banning climate change deniers from articles and comments

Congratulations to Stuff.  Instead of the endless on the one hand but on the other hand reporting, where on the other hand is nothing more than incomprehensible babble from the anti science right, they have adopted this policy:

Stuff accepts the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real and caused by human activity. We welcome robust debate about the appropriate response to climate change, but do not intend to provide a venue for denialism or hoax advocacy. That applies equally to the stories we will publish in Quick! Save the Planet and to our moderation standards for reader comments.

The change in policy is accompanied by the announcement of a new series of stories and opinion pieces under the title of Quick! Save the planet which is described in this way:

Quick! Save the Planet – a long-term Stuff project launching today – aims to disturb our collective complacency. With insistent, inconvenient coverage, we intend to make the realities of climate change feel tangible – and unignorable.

This project accepts a statement that shouldn’t be controversial but somehow still is: climate change is real and caused by human activity.

Mature adults can disagree about the impact of climate change and how we should react. We’ll feature a wide range of views as part of this project, but we won’t include climate change “scepticism”. Including denialism wouldn’t be “balanced”; it’d be a dangerous waste of time. The experts have debunked denialism, so now we’ll move on.

There were 268 comments to the editorial written by Editor in Chief Patrick Crewdson, mostly supportive, but a few were clearly testing the boundaries.

Well done Stuff.

It is great that the tide of opinion is flowing towards accepting climate change as a reality and working out what needs to be done.  The question will be is this too little too late.

Maybe, but it is not great to see a banning of opposing views. That is bad for debate, bad for democracy, and bad for science.

This is just one of a number of very concerning developments in trying to shut down free speech that are happening right now.

Two contrasting comments early in the Standard discussion:

Robert Guyton:

Stuff’s sidelining of deniers is bold and decisive – good on them. I made this point at our regional council meeting yesterday, with any closet deniers who might be sitting around the table, in mind. There was a squirm 🙂

Chris T:

Totally and utterly disagree.

Deniers of climate change are blind, but to censor differing views that are being put foward (that aren’t breaking swearing rules etc), no matter how stupid they are, or no matter how they may differ from yours, on topics that are as contentious as this, is ridiculous.

There is another argument currently about whether media should provide ‘balance’ by giving a voice to whacky extremes, or at least whether they should provide a forum for minority views with significant slants – Bob McCoskrie comes to mind.

Media articles should be balanced towards factual and scientifically backed information. They shouldn’t give anyone a voice who wants to spout nonsense, or extreme views. Media can choose what they publish.

But when they start to censor comments – free speech – I think they are getting into worrying territory.

Chris T: Is there a master list of topics people aren’t allowed to disagree with or do we just make it up as we go along?

mickysavage: Claiming that climate science is a Soros funded attempt at world government would be a start, saying that scientists are engaged in scare mongering for money is another and claiming that ice cover is actually increasing and that temperature increases have stalled for years is a third topic.

Wayne: Your list, especially the last two, looks indistinguishable from censorship.

Banning arguments against “ice cover is actually increasing” is a particular worry.

Ice cover actually increases every winter. Obviously it decreases in summer. It always varies with seasons. Most science generally suggests that ice cover is decreasing overall, but even with climate change (warming) it can increase in some areas.

The biggest danger facing our planet

Some people are very concerned about the future of our planet due to the predicted effects of climate change. Given the strength of scientific concern I think this is to an extent justified, although I think the degree of threat is still debatable, as is what should be done to minimise adverse effects. We need to balance against this probably positive effects, in some parts of the world at least.

I have concerns about climate change, but I’m not convinced it will be catastrophic unless we make huge and urgent changes to how we live as some seem to think.

I think there are greater threats to the planet, and also to human civilisation.

There appears to be a slight chance of a collision with an asteroid or some other piece of debris speeding around or into our solar system, However i think the odds of

A nuclear holocaust is one threat that hasn’t gone away. All it may take is one leader making a stupid decision that escalates. Or one mistake. Oddly most people don’t seem to care about this much any more, while countries like Russia and the US are looking at increasing their destructive power.

But I think there is a bigger threat to our planet. The odds are it won’t happen in our lifetimes, or this century. But it is certain to happen sometime, and with the current levels of human population it could easily be catastrophic.

It has happened before numerous times, including about 1500 years ago – they actually had a double whammy then.

CNN: The worst year to be a human has been revealed by researchers

A team of historians and scientists has identified A.D. 536 as the beginning of a terrible sequence of events for humankind.

A massive volcanic eruption spewed a huge cloud of ash that shrouded the Northern Hemisphere in darkness and caused a drop in temperatures that led to crop failure and starvation, said co-lead study author Professor Christopher Loveluck of the University of Nottingham in the UK.

Then the misery was compounded in A.D. 542 as cold and hungry populations in the eastern Roman Empire were struck by the bubonic plague.

Now, in collaboration with glaciologist Paul Mayewski at the Climate Change Institute of the University of Maine in Orono, Loveluck’s team has identified the source of the cloud.

By analyzing ice samples from the Colle Gnifetti Glacier in the Swiss Alps, the researchers were able to identify atmospheric pollutants deposited over the past 2,000 years, according to the study, published last week in the journal Antiquity.

Substances found in the ice provide evidence that the eruption took place in Iceland.

The eruption and the 542 plague outbreak caused economic stagnation in Europe, which lasted more than 30 years until 575, when there were early signs of recovery, Loveluck said.

There is certain to be another massive volcanic eruption at some time in the future. It could happen in Iceland again. or the Mediterranean. Or Alaska. Or the US or South America. Or Indonesia.

Or New Zealand.

Lake Taupo is in a caldera created by a supervolcanic eruption which occurred approximately 26,500 years ago. According to geological records, the volcano has erupted 28 times in the last 27,000 years.

…several later eruptions occurred over the millennia before the most recent major eruption, which is traditionally dated as about 180 CE from Greenland ice-core records. Tree ring data from two studies suggests a later date of 232 CE ± 5. Known as the Hatepe eruption, it is believed to have ejected 100 cubic kilometres of material, of which 30 cubic kilometres was ejected in a few minutes.

This was one of the most violent eruptions in the last 5000 years (alongside the Minoan eruption in the 2nd millennium BCE, the Tianchi eruption of Baekdu around 1000 CE and the 1815 eruption of Tambora), with a Volcanic Explosivity Index rating of 7; and there appears to be a correlation, to within a few years, of a year in which the sky was red over Rome and China.

The eruption devastated much of the North Island and further expanded the lake. The area was uninhabited by humans at the time of the eruption, since New Zealand was not settled by the Māori until about 1280. Possible climatic effects of the eruption would have been concentrated on the southern hemisphere due to the southerly position of Lake Taupo.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Taupo

An only southern hemisphere effect would have a major impact on the whole planet – but as “the sky was red over Rome and China” suggests it may not be limited to that.

There is nothing we can do to prevent a major eruption. Can we do anything to prepare, or to mitigate the effects? It could have an immediate and potentially catastrophic effect via sudden natural climate change.

Or should we just carry on arguing about what we are doing to affect climate change?

NZ scientists call for faster action on climate change

Again the Government is being pressured to live up to it’s hype on climate change. Jacinda Ardern said that climate change was her generation’s ‘nuclear free moment’.

A hundred and fifty ‘academics and researchers’ are ‘demanding bold and urgent action to tackle climate change’.

In August 2017: Jacinda’s speech to Campaign Launch

There will always be those who say it’s too difficult. There will be those who say we are too small, and that pollution and climate change are the price of progress.

They are wrong.

We will take climate change seriously because my Government will be driven by principle, not expediency. And opportunity, not fear.

And there is an opportunity, that we can turn into our advantage, and shape our identity. It is a transition that can, and must, be just.

This is my generation’s nuclear free moment, and I am determined that we will tackle it head on.

Last month (October 2018):  Jacinda Ardern ‘upgrades position’ on climate change as nuclear-free moment

Jacinda Ardern says she has “upgraded my position” on her characterisation of climate change as her generation’s “nuclear-free moment”.

As part of a wide-ranging interview with the Spinoff, the prime minister said the challenge of climate change had one critical difference to the nuclear-movement. Then, “we were unified”, she said. “And yet what we’re doing on climate change – it is just that much harder, because it’s a call to action for everyone. And so I’m hoping we can get to the place of having that same unified moment that we had around nuclear free for climate change.”

It was an elaboration of a position she outlined in a speech to the One Planet Summit in New York last month. Then she identified the “stark difference between the nuclear free movement and climate change: unity”, adding: “In the past we were defined as a nation by the coming together for a cause, and now, as a globe, we need to do the same again. Not because of the benefits of unity, but because of the necessity of it.”

But ‘academics and researchers’ want action rather than words – Top academics call on government to take climate action

One hundred and fifty academics and researchers from around Aotearoa, including Dame Anne Salmond, Emeriti Professors and several Fellows of the Royal Society, have signed a strongly-worded open letter to the Government demanding bold and urgent action to tackle climate change.

I don’t know why Salmond has been highlighted – her own description: Distinguished Professor Dame Anne Salmond, FNAS, FRSNZ, FBA, FAHNZ, DBE, CBE, Department of Māori Studies, University of Auckland.

The letter refers to the recent Special Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which contains its strongest message yet about the seriousness of the situation and the importance of limiting global warming to 1.5C. The report says we have about 12 years to make the dramatic reduction in global net carbon emissions necessary to get climate change under control. And, it says that to do so will require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.

“There’s a big gap between the severity of the warnings from the world’s most authoritative scientific body on climate change and the actions of our government. They need to be honest with us about the risks we’re facing and act accordingly” says senior lecturer Cordelia Lockett, who wrote and coordinated the letter.

“Cordelia Lockett, Senior Lecturer, Bridging Education, Unitec”

“Clearly, academics and researchers around the country are deeply concerned about climate breakdown and want the government to act swiftly and decisively.

“But it’s the wider New Zealand public as well. A survey from earlier this year showed that 79 percent of people believed climate action needs to start immediately. A large majority also said we need to meet or exceed our international commitments, and that we should act even if other countries don’t. The message is clear.”

Climate scientist Professor James Renwick:

“This government has shown a commitment to addressing climate change, including the Zero Carbon Bill and steps to limit fossil fuel prospecting, but it needs to ensure that its policies actually produce the deep and lasting emissions reductions required, especially in the transport, industry and agriculture sectors” .

An open letter to the NZ Government urging immediate action on climate change:

We the undersigned, representing diverse academic disciplines, call on the government to take robust and emergency action in response to the deepening ecological crisis. The science is clear, the facts are indisputable, and it is unacceptable to us that future generations in Aotearoa and globally should have to bear the terrifying consequences of climate breakdown.

Infinite economic growth on a planet with finite resources is not viable. And yet successive governments have promoted free-market principles which demand rampant consumerism and endless economic growth, thus allowing greenhouse gas emissions to rise. If we continue on our current path, the future for our species is disastrous.

The recent special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is unequivocal. The world’s leading climate scientists warn that we have only 12 years to halve global emissions and get on track to avoid warming of more than 1.5C and catastrophic environmental breakdown. They have advocated urgent and unprecedented global action. As Debra Roberts, co-chair of the IPCC working group says: “this is the moment and we must act now”. The message could not be clearer.

New Zealand has a history of taking courageous political initiatives which have had global influence. We can, and must, do it again with bold and urgent action on climate. New Zealand could lead the world by immediately developing a data-informed plan for rapid decarbonisation of the economy. We demand that the government meets its duty to protect its citizens from harm and to secure the future for generations to come.

Letter with 150 signatories (.docx)

They describe themselves as ‘top academics’ – I am not able to judge that – but their areas of speciality are diverse, including (words in their descriptions):

  • 1 with ‘climate’
  • 22 with ‘environment’
  • 5 with ‘psychology’
  • 2 with ‘creative arts’
  • 3 with ‘philosophy’
  • 5 with ‘sport’ or ‘physical education’
  • 8 with ‘architecture’
  • 4 with ‘community development’
  • 2 with ‘nursing’
  • 22 with ‘health’

Some have general descriptions that don’t rule out climate expertise.

Diversity of expertise could be a good thing but not all of the academics appear to be ‘top’ in climate science.

Also yesterday: Joint Statement by His Excellency Sebastián Piñera, President of the Republic of Chile, and the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern

The Leaders shared their concerns on climate change, noting the need to take urgent action.  They undertook to work together during the upcoming COP24 in December in Poland, in order to achieve an ambitious outcome that includes clear rules and procedures for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Chile and New Zealand share a common interest in collaborating to develop better climate policies, including carbon pricing mechanisms and developing national legal frameworks that address the specific needs of each country.

Note “noting the need to take urgent action”.

What urgent action is New Zealand taking?

Effects of climate change in the mountains and elsewhere

The effects of climate change are not just predicted and theoretical, they are real and observable. I have noticed changes here – more mild winters, the decrease in number and severity of frosts, and earlier flowering.

Not so visible changes from Reuters:

We know that the iconic Fox and Franz Josef glaciers are receding.

And observations from New Zealand mount climbers (in relation to the avalanche that killed two people in the Southern Alps this week) – Climbing tragedies: Why climate change is becoming a factor

Climbing guides Martin Hess and Wolfgang Maier were killed on Mt Hicks yesterday – and adventurer Jo Morgan was lucky to survive – after an early morning avalanche.

Climate change has become a factor in climbers’ decisions about when to venture into the Southern Alps.

While climbing in spring risks avalanches, climate change is – more frequently than in the past – presenting another obstacle for climbers who wait for summer.

Owner of Wanaka guiding company Adventure Consultants, Guy Cotter, said yesterday this is the time of the year when climbing begins to “ramp up”.

“This whole November, early December period is a very popular time for climbing the big mountains here.”

“With the snow left over from winter we have very good access around the glaciers and up the mountains.”

But, he said, “glacial recession” meant some areas are not accessible from about New Year, because of crevasses opening up in glaciers “a lot more quickly than what they used to”.

“The crevasses open up because the snow melts that’s covering them … and filling them up.

“That all ablates over the summer and we’re down to the raw skeleton of the glacier with all of its crevasses.

“So it really does make a very big difference in what you can access.”

Cotter said Mt Hicks was one of those mountains where there was now an issue with access in summer and it was “very rarely climbed” for that reason.

Cotter said the loss of snow was happening earlier than it did 30 years ago when he started climbing.

“We could access most places all through the summer.

“Now it’s a lot more difficult to get to some of the mountains and get off.

“It’s definitely part of climate change and the glaciers are definitely disappearing.

“Anyone who’s denying global warming is not a mountaineer because we can see it first hand.”

Of course this won’t stop arguments about climate change caused by humans versus normal cyclical climate change, but it all adds weight to the fact that our world is changing. and we need to be able to adapt to it. If we can mitigate the impact, then we should be doing what is possible and practical to do that.