Arctic Hothouse Turns Europe into an Icebox

Here’s a temperature map from mid December illustrating the super warm Arctic region and the icy cold Europe in the mid-latitudes. [[ see also temp anomaly chart showing Hudson Bay to Greenland is 18C above normal this week]]

My previous post explains what is going on: East Coast Blizzard and Europe’s Snowmaggddon Reveal Fingerprints of Climate Change

— Stephen

And here is the Arctic sea ice extent – lowest ever for December.

As of Jan 2 Canada’s Hudson Bay is still not completely frozen over – likely the latest freeze up in a very long time. (10,000s of years?)



East Coast Blizzard and Europe’s Snowmaggddon Reveal Fingerprints of Climate Change

Coldest Christmas on Record on the UK -18C

In Oslo last June climate researcher’s told me the melting Arctic ice will likely produce colder winters in the eastern United States and Europe. Looks like they were right. Winter freeze up in the sunless Arctic ocean was two months late this year because of a near record ice loss last summer that is expected to continue if not accelerate in future years.

Several research programs have been studying the impacts of this huge loss in Arctic sea ice and presented their findings for first time at the International Polar Year Oslo Science Conference. My summary from 15 June:

Climate change has warmed the entire Arctic region, melting 2.5 million square kilometres of sea ice, and that, paradoxically, is producing colder and snowier winters for Europe, Asia and parts of North America.

“The exceptional cold and snowy winter of 2009-2010 in Europe, eastern Asia and eastern North America is connected to unique physical processes in the Arctic,” said James Overland of the NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in the United States.

In future, cold and snowy winters will be the rule rather than the exception” in these regions, Overland told IPS.

Thanks to support from readers and the organizers of the conference I was able to attend that polar science conference. No media/publication would front any travel money to help me get there. I was one of a small handful of jurnos there and the first to write a piece documenting the link between global warming and bitter winter weather.

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My full article from Oslo is here: Arctic Melt Down Is Bringing Harder Winters and Permanently Altering Weather Patterns

Final Update: COP 16 Cancun Climate Conference

19 Dec 2010

On reflection there was some progress at COP 16. Small island states, whose very existence is threatened, were satisfied the world is on its way to a significant climate treaty so that is something. Last year in Copenhagen, hardly anyone happy with the outcome. There is still a long and difficult road ahead. Not least because there remains a powerful and well-funded opposition to emission reductions in many countries.

In 2011 I hope to uncover more about that opposition while continuing to write about how the physical processes of climate change are not waiting for us to get our act together. Substantial changes are already underway. Changes to the global water cycle have been shown in the first global study of evapotranspiration rates as detailed in my article: “Climate Changes Herald a Future of Widespread Drought – Water Left High and Dry in Climate Talks”

The article also looks at some fairly dire drought projections for the coming decades.

For those experiencing a rough, early winter, I did the first article revealing how the melting Arctic may be bringing earlier and harsher winters to the UK, parts of Europe and North America. That story happened because of donations to help cover my costs of attending a polar science conference in Oslo were those new findings were presented. Science journalism isn’t easy or cheap to do. I was one of  few journalists in Oslo because hardly any media outlet covers travel costs any more – never mind paying a decent fee for a story. That’s why I am trying Community Supported Journalism where people support my efforts to inform people about the great issues of our time.

A warm thank you to those who sponsored some of the Cancun articles, contributing some much needed cash to help cover my costs.  Supporters names are prominently listed in the articles here. I can no longer continue to do environmental and science journalism without your help so thank you for helping out.

— Stephen

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Emission Reductions Punted to Durban, Breakthrough Seen on Forests

As carbon emissions bend upward Canada’s Harper government singled out as worst at climate talks. Again.

By Stephen Leahy*

CANCÚN, Mexico, Dec 11, 2010 (IPS/TerraViva)

If success is measured by delaying difficult decisions, then the Cancún climate meeting succeeded by deferring crucial issues over financing and new targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the next Conference of the Parties meeting a year from now in Durban, South Africa.

International negotiations to address climate change proceeded at a glacial pace in the palatial, over-air-conditioned Moon Palace Resort in Cancún. After two long weeks, final talks dragged on into the early hours of Saturday morning, with Bolivia’s refusal to accept a weak agreement that puts the world on a path that “could allow global temperatures to increase by more than four degrees”, said Pablo Solón, Bolivia’s chief negotiator.

In the end, Bolivia’s continued objections were drowned out by applause and cheering by more than 190 national delegations as the chair of the meeting, Mexico’s foreign secretary Patricia Espinosa, gaveled the meeting to a close declaring “a consensus without Bolivia”.

“The Cancún text is a hollow and false victory that was imposed without consensus,” Bolivia said in a final statement.

Based on the science, Bolivia is not wrong.

The World Meteorological Organisation declared last week that the decade will close as the hottest 10- year period on record. The 100+ pages that form the “Cancún Agreements” will do nothing to curb greenhouse gas emissions warming the planet, but did revive the U.N. climate negotiation process after its near death in Copenhagen last year.

This article was made possible thanks to contributions from Janos Mate, James Creskey. Extra special thanks to monthly contributors Julie Davis, Aidan Constable, Patricia A Warwick, Judith A Leahy

[Due to the high costs of covering such important events, support is needed from readers like you. Please consider making a small automatic monthly contribution as a fair exchange for these articles – for more information.] Continue reading

Climate Changes Herald a Future of Widespread Drought – Water Left High and Dry in Climate Talks

Serious droughts expected in large parts of the world in coming decades

By Stephen Leahy

CANCÚN, Dec 8, 2010 (IPS/TerraViva)

As the world heats up, continents are drying up, with severe droughts forecast in the future. But negotiators at the climate summit here seem to have forgotten about water in their endless discussions over forests, carbon trading and finances.

“The main impact of climate change is on the planet’s water cycle,” said Henk van Schaik of the Cooperative Programme on Water and Climate, a foundation based in the Netherlands.

“Climate-driven changes in the water cycle will affect large regions of the world,” van Schaik told TerraViva at a side event meeting here at COP 16 in Cancún .

The impact of climate on the world’s water resources is not addressed within the U.N. climate framework, said Anders Berntell of the Stockholm International Water Institute.

“Negotiators here see it as just another sector of the economy but it is a basic element for life. Water is the bloodstream of our planet,” Berntell said.

This article was made possible thanks to contributions from Hugh & Jo-Ann Roberston, Kevin Toner, Michael Sweatman, Ann Wakelin, Lynn Carey, Leif Knutsen, Nan Nolan, Chris Conrad, Godo Stoyke.

[Due to the high costs of covering such important events, support is needed from readers like you.Please consider making a small automatic monthly contribution as a fair exchange for these articles – for more information.] Continue reading

As World Warms, Southern Africa Will Cook In Coming Decades

“A four-degree C world would be horrendous and must be avoided at all costs”

By Stephen Leahy*

MEXICO CITY, Dec 7, 2010 (IPS/TerraViva)

Africa will be amongst the hardest hit regions of the world as the climate heats up, threatening the continent’s food security, experts agree. If global temperatures rise 2.0 degrees C, southern Africa will warm an additional 1.5 degrees to a 3.5-degree increase on average.

Such temperatures could be reached as early as 2035. The Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Britain recently advised that a 4.0-degree C rise in the global average temperature could be reached as soon as 2060 if the ever-increasing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are not curbed.

The prognosis for agriculture and food security in SSA (Sub-Saharan Africa) in a 4°C+ world is bleak,” write the authors of a special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society to be published next month.

“A four-degree C world would be horrendous and must be avoided at all costs,” said Philip Thornton of the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya and co-author of a paper in the Royal Society special issue “Four degrees and beyond”.

“This special issue is a call to action so we can avoid such a future,” Thornton told TerraViva.

Even if a new climate treaty came out of the final week of the 16th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancún, 2.0 degrees C looks inevitable, he said. No one is realistically expecting a comprehensive climate treaty for several years. This means southern Africa can expect to be 3.5 degrees C hotter and much drier in future, he said.

“It is going to get very difficult for rain-fed agriculture in this region,” Thornton warned.

This article was made possible by a contribution from Brewster Kneen of Canada

Due to the high costs of covering such important events, support is needed from readers like you. Please consider making a small automatic monthly contribution as a fair exchange for these articles – for more information.

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Cancún Climate Summit Gives Fossil Fuels a Free Pass

Burning just 25 per cent of proven reserves is road to climate disaster scientists say

By Stephen Leahy*

CANCÚN, Mexico, Dec 7, 2010 (Tierramérica)

The main cause of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels, so why are billions of dollars being invested to find and produce more oil, coal and natural gas?

That is the question posed by Canadian indigenous representatives at the alternative civil society meet, Klimaforum, held parallel to the United Nations-sponsored climate summit under way in the Mexican resort city of Cancún.

“Canada’s tar sands project emits 40 million tonnes of carbon every year, with ambitious growth plans pushing that to nearly 140 million tonnes by 2020. The entire country of Denmark emits just 52 million tonnes,” said Melina Laboucan- Massimo.

The activist comes from the Lake Lubicon Cree band of First Nations in the province of Alberta, where thousands of square kilometres of tar-laden soil and sands underlying pristine boreal forests and marshes are being mined.

Canada is not being censured for this flagrant disregard for the global climate at the 16th Conference of Parties (COP 16) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, she said.

The nearly 200 national delegations gathered for COP 16 (Nov. 29-Dec. 10) aim to stabilise emissions of greenhouse- effect gases to prevent climate change, but there is little hope of success.

In fact, at the Cancún summit no country is being challenged for expanding operations of oil, coal or natural gas or looking for new deposits.

Burning just one-quarter of the proven reserves of oil, gas and coal will push the global climate beyond the two degrees Celsius of average warming, scientists have predicted.

This article was brought to you in part by J. Bowers of the United Kingdom

Due to the high costs of covering such important events, support is needed from readers like you. Please consider making a small automatic monthly contribution as a fair exchange for these articles – for more information.

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Will Year of Climate Extremes End Without Progress on Tackling Climate Change?

By Stephen Leahy*

CANCÚN, Mexico, Nov 29, 2010 (IPS/TerraViva)

This year will likely be the warmest ever recorded, with soaring ocean temperatures resulting in a near record die-off of tropical corals, extreme heat and drought in Russia and massive flooding in Pakistan – all signs that climate change has taken hold.

But despite the ever more compelling science regarding the urgency and risks of climate change and growing public support for action, representatives from nearly 200 countries meeting here in Cancún for the next two weeks are unlikely to produce a new binding agreement.

At best, matters such as forestry, climate finance and mitigation commitments will be further developed in the faint hope that the next big meeting in South Africa might produce some kind of deal.

“Carbon emissions continue to climb despite the economic recession and yet I have never seen such low expectations for a COP (Conference of the Parties),” said Richard Somerville, an eminent climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California.

“The science is quite compelling regarding the need for urgent action. We don’t have another five years to reach an agreement,” Somerville told TerraViva.

In 2009, Somerville and others co-authored an update on the latest climate science called ‘The Copenhagen Diagnosis’ which concluded that global carbon emissions had to peak and begin to decline before 2020 to have any hope of keeping global warming to less than 2.0 degrees C.

However, the negotiators in Cancún will mostly not be acting on the science but on their national interests as directed by their political leadership, who largely do not understand climate change, he said.

“Developed countries think they can adapt to warmer temperatures. I don’t see how we can keep warming below 2.0 degrees C.,” Somerville said.
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Only China Can End Fossil Fuel Industry’s Iron Grip on Governments — James Hansen, Climate Scientist

In a stunning opinion piece  (pdf) NASA’s chief climate scientist James Hansen, acting a private citizen, asks China to take the lead on combating climate change. The US government is too fractured and too beholden to the fossil fuel interests to take action. “Big money” is also behind the lack of action in many other industrialized countries including Canada and Norway while they expand production of tar sands he writes.

He says China is the world’s best hope to end the rule of the world by fossil fuel interests.

Like most governments the Obama administration says climate change is a crisis, claims to have a plan and does little  to nothing. Hansen calls this “green washing”. (FYI this is a wide spread practice that most people are unaware of.)

In this picture Hansen, one the world’s most acclaimed climate scientists, is being handcuffed and arrested in front of the White House during a protest to urge the US government to end the coal industry practice of blowing off the tops of mountains to mine coal. Such practices are extremely damaging to the environment and local communities he says.

Moreover to prevent catastrophic climate change coal must stay in the ground Hansen said.

There is plenty of scientific evidence to back up that last statement. See my previous articles below — Stephen

Why Are We Looking for More Oil & Coal? We Already Have Enough to Cook the Planet 4X

Heading for +2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) Carbon Use Must Peak by 2015 Scientists Warn

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Watch This Video Before You Buy Any New Electronic Stuff


Consumption — buying so much stuff — is one things we have to do differently in 21st century. see Rising Wealth Spells Disaster for the Planet, Study Finds

Electronic gadgets, toys, TVs. phones, computers, IPods and so on are made of toxic and sometimes rare materials. There is lack of proper recycling programs as I have documented in several articles below. But there is an absolutely brilliant new video on all this from the Story of Stuff folks. This is best introduction to the real costs and consequences of the fact that most our electronics stuff  are actually “designed for the dump”  — Stephen.

Tsunami of E-Waste Could Swamp Developing Countries

Is Your Old TV Poisoning a Child in China? Where Your e-waste Goes

30 Million Lead-laden TVs Dumped on Poor Countries

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