An undercover sting by Greenpeace has revealed that two prominent climate sceptics were available for hire by the hour to write reports casting doubt on the dangers posed by global warming.
Posing as consultants to fossil fuel companies, Greenpeace approached professors at leading US universities to commission reports touting the benefits of rising carbon dioxide levels and the benefits of coal. The views of both academics are well outside mainstream climate science.
Every part of the mosaic of Earth's surface—ocean and land, Arctic and tropics, forest and grassland—absorbs and releases carbon in a different way. Wild-card events such as massive wildfires and drought complicate the global picture even more. To better predict future climate, we need to understand how Earth's ecosystems will change as the climate warms and how extreme events will shape and interact with the future environment. Here are seven pressing concerns.
Chapala, now the unprecedented 23rd category 4 or category 5 tropical cyclone to form during 2015, is bearing down on the nation of Yemen. A nation that is likely to experience hurricane force winds and may receive as much as 8 years worth of rainfall from Chapala’s intense spiral bands over a 24-48 hour period.
Now this is scary. A tragic development you’d tend to see in a disaster movie screenplay and not in any typical meteorological record for any 36 hour period. But here we have it.
Patricia, as of 36 hours ago, was a rather mild tropical storm churning through the human hothouse and El Nino warmed Eastern Pacific. The storm was predicted to make landfall in Western Mexico as a hurricane, then turn north into Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi — dumping extreme rains over a drought stricken region. But there was little hint as to what would happen next.
From end 2014 through Fall of 2015 global sea levels surged. Building heat hitting +1 C above 1880s averages in the atmosphere-ocean system continued to set off a range of what appear to be ramping impacts. Thermal expansion grew more dramatic as oceans continued to heat up during what may be a record El Nino year. Rates of land ice melt continued to increase — providing a greater and greater fraction of overall global sea level rise.
Back in 1990, as the debate over climate change was heating up, a dissident shareholder petitioned the board of Exxon, one of the world’s largest oil companies, imploring it to develop a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from its production plants and facilities.
The board’s response: Exxon had studied the science of global warming and concluded it was too murky to warrant action. The company’s “examination of the issue supports the conclusions that the facts today and the projection of future effects are very unclear.”
Before the Syrian uprising that began in 2011, the greater Fertile Crescent experienced the most severe drought in the instrumental record. For Syria, a country marked by poor governance and un- sustainable agricultural and environmental policies, the drought had a catalytic effect, contributing to political unrest. We show that the recent decrease in Syrian precipitation is a combination of natural variability and a long-term drying trend, and the unusual severity of the observed drought is here shown to be highly unlikely without this trend.
(Michael Mann is someone to listen to on climate science, but notice the typical nod to "market mechanisms" as solution. Another illustration how positivist natural science almost always leads to conflation with mainstream economic/political views. Why the whole tradition of marxist analysis based in dialectics and systemic analysis is so important to be brought into the analysis of climate science and political change.)
One of the most under-appreciated aspects of the climate change problem is the so-called "fat tail" of risk. In short, the likelihood of very large impacts is greater than we would expect under typical statistical assumptions.
We are used to thinking about likelihoods and probabilities in terms of the familiar "normal" distribution -- otherwise known as the "bell curve". It looks like this: