Blog Archive

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Ted Glick: Helping in Puerto Rico

by Ted Glick, February 11, 2018

From January 28 to February 7, my wife and I were in Vieques, Puerto Rico, helping as best we could with recovery from Hurricane Maria, which hit on September 20th, almost five months ago.  Help is very much still needed. I don’t think I realized how much that is true until I got home to New Jersey and experienced all of the things I didn’t experience during those 10 days:
  • the lights and everything electrical turning on or being on all day and night whenever I need it;
  • a hot, not cold, water shower;
  • not worrying about hitting something or falling when I had to get up and go to the bathroom or move around at night;
  • not hearing (or smelling) loud gas generators behind the house where I was staying and several other places in the neighborhood as day turned into night;
  • not having to do extra-special filtering of the tap water because of concerns about its quality;
  • reliably accessing my cell phone apps, telephone and the internet whenever I want to.

These were the main differences.
I was staying at Casa de Kathy in Esperanza, the second largest town in Vieques. The only street in Esperanza that fully had electrical power when we were there was the Malecon, the downtown street next to the water where bars, restaurants, and hotels are, and they didn’t get that power until the fifth day we were there. What electrical power there was elsewhere in town came from gas-powered generators bought by residents who could afford them.
There was concern about the tap water. Neither the EPA nor anyone else had done tests to determine how safe it is to drink.
There were still piles of debris and branches that had been blown down by the storm, as well as collections of stoves and refrigerators disabled by it.
Despite all of these serious problems, the sense I had was that people in general were pulling together, some more than others, to climb out of the hole the hurricane put them in. They were doing so even though there was a lot of criticism of FEMA for its slowness and for it denying aid to a number of people whose homes had been damaged.
I was glad to learn that the use of solar energy, in different forms, is growing, from small solar lights, which are popular, to solar panels on roofs to provide an alternative to an unreliable electric grid.
One of the big takeaways for me was the reinforcement of something I have known intellectually for years, that extreme weather events, like the climate changing which makes them worse and more frequent, hurts low-income people the most. Middle- and upper-class people who have access to financial and other resources had found ways to lessen their suffering or discomfort, like through personal generators. But those without those resources were in a different situation. I heard of at least one family that was sleeping in a tent in their living room because there had been serious damage to their roof that they had not yet been able to afford getting fixed.
The pro-statehood Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, announced just before we got there that he wanted to privatize that electrical system, currently publicly owned, which would certainly lead to higher electrical rates for many struggling Puerto Rican consumers as the corporate buyer looks to make its profits.
Then there is the relatively large Puerto Rican debt (though hugely smaller than the US debt) of $73 billion. There have been calls for that debt to be forgiven, for obvious reasons. Lin-Manual Miranda, for example, creator and star of the Broadway hit “Hamilton,” called for that in a December opinion piece in the Washington Post. He wrote:
“Puerto Rico’s creditors should do the right thing and walk away. It is the only way forward. Anything short of full debt forgiveness would be a brutal form of economic punishment to a people already suffering.”
But to add insult to injury, the Republican tax bill passed at the end of 2017, unless challenged and changed, will make things even worse.
A December 20 Washington Post story reported that the Puerto Rican Governor “is calling on lawmakers to rewrite a key part of the tax bill that he says might cause the island’s hefty manufacturing sector to contract, jeopardizing hundreds of thousands of jobs. [It] includes a new 12.5% tax on profits derived from intellectual property held by foreign companies — a move designed to compel those companies to move back to the United States. The new tax ‘is a big hit, and Puerto Rico both fiscally and economically is downtrodden, and this is the last thing they need,’ said Federico de Jesus, a former Puerto Rico government official who has been tracking congressional relief efforts for the island.”
US citizens have a special responsibility to help Puerto Rico, which has been a colony of the United States since 1898. It is our humanitarian and moral responsibility, and it is our duty as citizens of the nation which has the power to help Puerto Rico either move forward or backwards after Maria. We must do what we can as far as practical hurricane recovery support but also support groups calling for a cancellation of the debt, changes to the Republican tax bill, and reform of the electric power system, not its privatization.

Ted Glick is a former activist with the Puerto Rico Solidarity Committee in the 1970s. He was a supporter of the historic civil disobedience campaign in Vieques in the early 2000s, which led to the removal of the US Navy. He has been a progressive activist and organizer since 1968. Past writings and other information can be found at http://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.
https://tedglick.com/future-hope-columns/helping-in-puerto-rico/

January 2018 posts

2018 (16)

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Bill Nye Does Not Speak for Us and He Does Not Speak for Science

by 500 Women Scientists, Scientific American, January 30, 2018

Tonight, Bill Nye “The Science Guy” will accompany Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Trump’s nominee for NASA Administrator, to the State of the Union address. Nye has said that he’s accompanying the Congressman to help promote space exploration, since, he asserts, “NASA is the best brand the United States has” and that his attendance “should not be … seen as an acceptance of the recent attacks on science and the scientific community.
But by attending the SOTU as Rep. Bridenstine’s guest, Nye has tacitly endorsed those very policies, and put his own personal brand over the interests of the scientific community at large. Rep. Bridenstine is a controversial nominee who refuses to state that climate change is driven by human activity, and even introduced legislation to remove Earth sciences from NASA’s scientific mission. Further, he’s worked to undermine civil rights, including pushing for crackdowns on immigrants,ban on gay marriage, and abolishing the Department of Education.
As scientists, we cannot stand by while Nye lends our community’s credibility to a man who would undermine the United States’ most prominent science agency. And we cannot stand by while Nye uses his public persona as a science entertainer to support an administration that is expressly xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic, racist, ableist, and anti-science.

Scientists are people, and in today’s society, it is impossible to separate science at major agencies like NASA from other pressing issues like racism, bigotry, and misogyny. Addressing these issues should be a priority, not only to strengthen our own scientific community, but to better serve the public that often funds our work. Rather than wield his public persona to bring attention to the need for science-informed policy, Bill Nye has chosen to excuse Rep. Bridenstine’s anti-science record and his stance on civil rights, and to implicitly support a stance that would diminish the agency’s work studying our own planet and its changing climate. Exploring other worlds and studying other planets, while dismissing the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change and its damage to our own planet isn’t just dangerous, it’s foolish and self-defeating. 
Further, from his position of privilege and public popularity, Bill Nye is acting on the scientific community’s behalf, but without our approval. No amount of funding for space exploration can undo the damage the Trump administration is causing to public health and welfare by censoring science. No number of shiny new satellites can undo the racist policies that make our Dreamer colleagues live in fear and prevent immigrants from pursuing scientific careers in the United States. And no new mission to the Moon can make our LGBTQ colleagues feel welcome at an agency run by someone who votes against their civil rights.
As women and scientists, we refuse to separate science from everyday life. We refuse to keep our heads down and our mouths shut. As someone with a show alleging to save the world, Bill Nye has a responsibility to acknowledge the importance of NASA’s vast mission, not just one aspect of it. He should use his celebrity to elevate the importance of science in NASA’s mission—not waste the opportunity to lobby for space exploration at a cost to everything else.
The true shame is that Bill Nye remains the popular face of science because he keeps himself in the public eye. To be sure, increasing the visibility of scientists in the popular media is important to strengthening public support for science, but Nye’s TV persona has perpetuated the harmful stereotype that scientists are nerdy, combative white men in lab coats—a stereotype that does not comport with our lived experience as women in STEM. And he continues to wield his power recklessly, even after his recent endeavors in debate and politics have backfired spectacularly.
In 2014, he attempted to debate creationist Ken Ham—against the judgment of evolution experts—which only served to allow Ham to raise the funds needed to build an evangelical theme park that spreads misinformation about human evolution. Similarly, Nye repeatedly agreed to televised debates with non-scientist climate deniers, contributing to the false perception that researchers still disagree about basic climate science. And when Bill Nye went on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to "debate" climate change in 2017, his appearance was used to spread misinformation to Fox viewers and fund raise for anti-climate initiatives.
Bill Nye does not speak for us or for the members of the scientific community who have to protect not only the integrity of their research, but also their basic right to do science. We stand with others who have asked Bill Nye to not attend the State of the Union. Nye’s complicity does not align him with the researchers who have a bold and progressive vision for the future of science and its role in society.
At a time when our ability to do science and our ability to live freely are both under threat, our public champions and our institutions must do better.
[The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.]

About the Authors:

Friday, January 26, 2018

Ben Santer: Our Coastlines Are Eroding, Along with Our Democratic Norms and Institutions

Civility and decency are crumbling on a daily basis, undercut and weakened by language emanating from the White House

Our Coastlines Are Eroding, Along with Our Democratic Norms and Institutions
Cliff erosion in Pacifica, California. Credit: Brocken Inaglory Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0) 

by Ben Santer, Scientific American, January 2018

About 15 years ago, a friend of mine—let’s call him Peter—bought a house in a coastal town north of San Francisco. The house is on a cliff overlooking the Pacific. The location is spectacular. Ospreys commute past it, carrying fish for breakfast. The steady background noise of waves on the beach is interrupted by the strange cries of seals. The view of the Pacific changes with the season and with the vagaries of light and weather. The view is never the same. It is always beautiful.
That physical beauty is why Peter and his wife bought the house. They made a bet. The bet was that they’d be able to enjoy the house for the rest of their lives. As a climate scientist, Peter understood that the gradual erosion of the cliff’s edge would be exacerbated by human-caused increases in sea level. The risk was visibly evident. A neighboring house closer to the cliff’s edge was already partly suspended over the void, awaiting the inevitable transition from the horizontal to the vertical.
Having seen the view from the house on the cliff, watched the ospreys, and listened to the seals, Peter and his wife took a risk that seems acceptable. We all need things of beauty in our lives.
Erosion does not gnaw away at their cliff at exactly the same rate each month, each season and each year. Heavy rains affect the stability of the cliff’s soil. High tides and large waves can take big bites out of the beach protecting the cliff. Given the complexity of erosion, it’s not possible to make a confident prediction about the lifetime of the house. But one prediction can be made with absolute certainty. Human activities are warming the world’s oceans, raising sea levels and bringing the Pacific Ocean closer to Peter’s front door.
Over the past year, the United States has witnessed a different kind of erosion. There has been an erosion of our democratic norms and institutions, with attacks on the legitimacy of courts and judges, the professionalism and integrity of intelligence agencies, and the fairness and patriotism of the press. Protections on clean air, clean water and human health are crumbling before our eyes. The boundaries of our national parks are eroding. The borders between what is real and what is imaginary are eroding, caving in to the relentless assault of “alternative facts,” outright lies and declared reality. Civility and decency are eroding on a daily basis, undercut and weakened by language emanating from the White House.
Trust is eroding. The rest of the world no longer trusts our word. They no longer believe that the United States is committed to solving the problem of global warming—a problem for which our country bears primary responsibility. Trust in our fellow citizens is being eaten away, undermined by the rhetoric of fear, of otherness, of “American carnage.” And trust in our political systems is eroding: achieving desired political ends seems to justify any means, and any meanness.
In the political world, as in the physical world, erosion creeps up on you. One day the United States is signing the Paris climate accord, part of the community of nations working to ensure the long-term habitability of this planet. A year later our country is alone, isolated, mistrusted, mocked for the ignorance and irrationality of our leaders. We are an object of pity and concern. Other countries witness this erosion of our centuries-old democracy and wonder how close the United States is to the cliff.
Peter and his wife had to decide whether they were comfortable living with coastal erosion. Soon, we must all decide whether we are comfortable living with a very different kind of erosion, which threatens something far more important than our houses—who we are, what we value and what type of world our descendants will inherit. 
The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/our-coastlines-are-eroding-along-with-our-democratic-norms-and-institutions/

Monday, January 22, 2018

Please sign petition: Bill Nye thinks he can convince nominated-for-NASA-head, climate-denier Brindenstine of the science



Bill Nye thinks he can convince nominated-for-NASA-head, climate-denier Brindenstine of the science, but we all know that's impossible (or about as much chance as the sun exploding tomorrow).

SIGN HERE PLEASE:  https://act.climatetruth.org/sign/billnye-sotu

Tell Bill Nye: Don’t support the Trump administration’s disastrous climate denial agenda

SIGN THE PETITION

Your letter will be delivered to Bill Nye the Science Guy:
Thank you for all of your important work standing up for science, fighting back against climate denial, and being a critical ally in the climate fight! I was greatly disappointed to find out that you are planning on attending the State of the Union on January 30 as a guest of climate denier Jim Bridenstine. I urge you to cancel these plans.

Jim Bridenstine is a fossil fuel industry-funded politician with no science background who denies the reality of climate change. He has no business running NASA.  As you know, NASA performs critical climate science research and if the Senate confirms Bridenstine's nomination he could work with President Trump to end NASA's earth science missions and ground essential research satellites.

Please do not support the Trump administration's disastrous climate denial agenda by attending the State of the Union as Jim Bridenstine's guest. I hope that you will cancel this unfortunate plan and instead speak out against this dangerous nomination.
News just broke that Bill Nye, the “Science Guy,” is planning to attend the State of the Union address on January 30th as a special guest of Trump’s anti-science, climate-denying NASA nominee Jim Bridenstine. Bill Nye has been a critical ally in the climate fight. We hope he’ll continue to be, and if he hears from enough of us we’re sure he’ll wisen up and cancel this unfortunate plan.
Bill Nye has been a stalwart voice against the Trump administration’s climate denial in the past year. Meanwhile, Jim Bridenstine is exactly the opposite: a climate denying, fossil-fueled politician who has no business running NASA. As a member of Congress from Oklahoma, Bridenstine has already racked up $170,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry. Even though he refutes the science of climate change and has no scientific background, he just moved one step closer to becoming the head of NASA.
NASA performs critical climate science research, and if the Senate confirms Bridenstine's nomination he could work with Trump to end NASA's earth science missions, and ground essential research satellites. In fact, in 2013 Bridenstine demanded that President Obama apologize for spending money on climate change research.
With his controversial nomination heading soon to the Senate floor, Bill Nye’s tacit endorsement could be just what Bridenstine needs to get enough votes to be confirmed. We have to stop this in its tracks.
Tell Bill Nye today: Don’t support the Trump administration’s disastrous climate denial agenda by attending the State of the Union as Jim Bridenstine’s guest.
SIGN HERE PLEASE:

Maize, rice, wheat: alarm at rising climate risk to vital crops leading to widespread famine

A villager lifts up fallen corn plants after a flood at a farm in Jianhe county, Guizhou province, China in July 2017.

by Robin McKie, Observer Science Editor, The Guardian, July 15, 2017
Governments may be seriously underestimating the risks of crop disasters occurring in major farming regions around the world, a study by British researchers has found.
The newly published research, by Met Office scientists, used advanced climate modelling to show that extreme weather events could devastate food production if they occurred in several key areas at the same time. Such an outcome could trigger widespread famine.
The scientists, led by Chris Kent, of the Met Office, focused their initial efforts on how extreme weather would affect maize, one of the world’s most widely grown crops. Heat and drought were the prime risks, although flooding was also included in the analysis.
The group found there is a 6% chance every decade that a simultaneous failure in maize production could occur in China and the US – the world’s main growers – which would result in widespread misery, particularly in Africa and south Asia, where maize is consumed directly as food.
“The impact would be felt at a global scale,” Kent told the Observer. “This is the first time we have been able to quantify the risk. It hasn’t been observed in the last 30 years, but the indications are that it is possible in the current climate.”
An example of the kind of disaster that could occur is provided by the maize harvests that failed last year in Africa. Communities in Zambia, Congo, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Madagascar were affected and six million people were left on the brink of starvation. A joint failure of China and America’s maize harvest would have a far greater impact.
Having studied the risks facing maize production, the group is now following up this work by studying climate impacts on the world’s other staple crops – in particular rice, wheat and soy beans – in order to assess how weather extremes could affect their production.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, maize, rice and wheat together make up 51% of the world’s calorie intake. Billions of people rely on these crops for survival. Any disruption to their production would have calamitous consequences.
The trouble is that crop-growing methods and locations have changed considerably over time, as has the climate and the probability of extreme events, Kent told the Observer. “This means the number of relevant observations to the present-day growing of stable crops has been reduced, and that limits our ability to have useful estimates of the risks to the growing of these crops.”
To get round this problem, the team ran 1,400 climate model simulations on the Met Office’s new supercomputer to understand how climate might vary in the next few years and found that the probability of severe drought was higher than if estimated solely from past observations. The scientists concluded that current agricultural policies could considerably underestimate the true risk of climate-related shocks to maize growing and food supply.
The particular risk outlined by the study envisaged simultaneous catastrophic disruptions in China and the US. In 2014, total world production of maize was around 1 billion tonnes, with the US producing 360 million tonnes and China growing 215 million. If production in these two countries were hit by simultaneous extreme weather events, most likely droughts, more than 60% of global maize production would be hit.
A double whammy like this has never happened in the past, but the work by the Met Office indicates that there is now a real risk. In addition, there may be risks of similar events affecting rice, wheat or soy bean harvests. These are now being studied by the Met Office, which is also working with researchers in China in a bid to understand climate risks that might affect agricultural production.
“We have found that we are not as resilient as we thought when it comes to crop growing,” said Kirsty Lewis, science manager for the Met Office’s climate security team. “We have to understand the risks we face or there is a real danger we could get caught out. For now we don’t have the means to quantity the risks. We have to put that right.”

Lenders' Guide for Considering Climate Risk in Infrastructure Investments, January 2018

AcclimatiseClimate Finance Advisors (CFA), and Four Twenty Seven have released a new guidance document to increase the climate resilience of large infrastructure investments. The “Lenders’ Guide for Considering Climate Risk in Infrastructure Investments” clearly breaks down the ways in which physical climate risks might affect key financial aspects of prospective infrastructure investments. 

This guide provides a framework for questioning how revenues, costs, and assets can be linked to potential project vulnerability arising from climate hazards and draws attention to the potential opportunities emerging from resilience-oriented investments in infrastructure.

Ten sub-sectors, including airports, marine ports, gas and oil transport and storage, power transmission and distribution, wind-based power generation, data centers, telecommunications, commercial real estate, healthcare, and sports and entertainment, are analysed and illustrated with topical examples.

To learn more about this document, please visit our website and download the publication here.

Download the guide at this link:

http://www.acclimatise.uk.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Lenders_Guide_for_Considering_Climate_Risk_in_Infrastructure_Investments.pdf

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Climate Code Red: What we learned about the climate system in 2017 that should send shivers down the spines of policy makers


by David Spratt, Climate Code Red, January 15, 2018

Much of what happened in 2017 was predictable: news of climate extremes became, how can I put it … almost the norm. There was record-breaking heat on several continents, California’s biggest wildfire (extraordinarily in the middle of winter), an ex-tropical cyclone hitting Ireland (yes, Ireland) in October, and the unprecedented Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria that swept through the Atlantic in August. The US government agency, the NOAA, reported that there were 16 catastrophic billion-dollar weather/climate events in the USA during 2017.

And 2017 “marks the first time some of the (scientific) papers concluded that an event could not have occurred — like, at all — in a world where global warming did not exist. The studies suggested that the record-breaking global temperatures in 2016, an extreme heat wave in Asia and a patch of unusually warm water in the Alaskan Gulf were only possible because of human-caused climate change,” Reuters reported.


At both poles, the news continues to be not good. At the COP23 in Bonn, Pam Pearson, Founder and Director of the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative, warned that the cryoshere is becoming “an irreversible driver of climate change.” She said that most cryosphere thresholds are determined by peak temperature, and the length of time spent at that peak, warning that “later, decreasing temperatures after the peak are largely irrelevant, especially with higher temperatures and longer duration peaks.” Thus “overshoot scenarios,” which are now becoming the norm in policy-making circles (including all 1.5 °C scenarios) hold much greater risks.

As well, Pearson said that 2100 is a misleading and minimizing measure of cryosphere response: “When setting goals, it is important to look to new irreversible impacts and the steady state circumstances. The end of the century is too soon to show that before but inevitable response especially for sea level rises.” Pearson added that: “What keeps cryosphere scientists up at night are irreversible thresholds, particularly West Antarctica and Greenland. The consensus figure for the irreversible melting of Greenland is at 1.6 °C.”

So what did we learn about the climate system in 2017? Here’s three that stand out, that should send shivers down the spines of policy makers. 


1.  2017 was the second hottest year on record and the hottest non-El Nino year on record

Whilst not all sources have yet released data on annual warming for last year, the Copernicus Climate Change Service, the first major international weather agency to report global 2017 temperatures, said they averaged 1.2 °C above pre-industrial times. 2017 was slightly cooler than the warmest year on record, 2016, and warmer than the previous second warmest year, 2015, Reuters reported.

Other organisations have unofficial figures which either agree with this assessment, or say that 2017 has tied with 2015. And last year was Australia's third-warmest year on record.

It is no surprise that the last three years have been the hottest on the instrumental record. What is remarkable is that 2017 was as hot, or hotter than 2015, because 2015 and 2016 were both El Nino years, and the evidence shows that El Nino years are, on average, about 0.15 °C warmer than La Nina years.In fact, a remarkably hot 2017 crushed the old record for hottest non-El Niño year (2014) by an astounding 0.17 °C.

The underlying temperature trend is being driven by continuing high levels of climate pollution: The UN says carbon dioxide levels grew at record pace in 2016. The atmospheric carbon dioxide  averaged 403.3 parts per million (ppm) over the year, up from 400 ppm in 2015. The growth rate was 50% faster than the average over the past decade.

And global carbon emissions are headed up again after three years in which human-caused emissions appeared to be leveling off. A 2% increase is projected overall, with the highest rise coming in China, according to new research presented at the climate talks in Bonn.

In 2017, we also learned that there was no pause in global warming: the so-called ’slow down' in climate change between 1998 and 2012 was caused by a lack of data from the Arctic.

2. It is likely to get hotter than we think

Two significant pieces of work released towards the end of 2017 suggest that warming is likely to be greater than the projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on which climate policy-making and carbon budgets are generally based. 

This is because what is called Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS), an estimate of how much the planet will warm for a doubling in the level of greenhouse gases, is higher than the median of the IPCC’s modelling analysis. 

In “Greater future global warming inferred from Earth’s recent energy budget” published in Nature in December 2017, Brown and Caldeira compared the performance of a wide range of climate models (raw model projections) with recent observations (especially on the balance of incoming and outgoing top-of-the-atmosphere radiation that ultimately determines the Earth’s temperature), in order to assess which models perform best.

The models that best capture current conditions (the “observationally-informed” models) produce 15% more warming by 2100 than the IPCC suggests, hence reducing the “carbon budget” by around 15% for the 2C target.

 For example, they find the warming associated by the IPCC with RCP 4.5 emissions scenario would in fact “follow the trajectory previously associated with (higher emissions) RCP 6.0” scenario. 

They also find that the observationally-informed ECS prediction has a mean value of 3.7 °C (for a doubling of the atmospheric greenhouse gas level), compared to 3.1 °C used in raw models, and in the carbon budget analyses widely used by the IPCC, the UN and at climate policy conferences.

In “Well below 2C: Mitigation strategies for avoiding dangerous to catastrophic climate changes,” published in September 2017, Xu and Ramanathan look at what are called the “fat tail” risks. These are the low-probability, high-impact (LPHI) consequences (“fat tails”) of future emission scenarios; that is, events with a 5% probability at the top end of the range of possible outcomes. 

These “top end” risks are more likely to occur than we think, so “it is important to use high-end climate sensitivity because some studies have suggested that 3D climate models have underestimated three major positive climate feedbacks: positive ice albedo feedback from the retreat of Arctic sea ice, positive cloud albedo feedback from retreating storm track clouds in mid-latitudes, and positive albedo feedback by the mixed-phase (water and ice) clouds.” 

When these are taken into account, the researchers find that the ECS is more than 40% higher than the IPCC mid-figure, at 4.5-4.7 °C. And this is without taking into account carbon cycle feedbacks (such as melting permafrost and the declining efficiency of forests carbon sinks), and increase methane emissions from wetlands, which together could add another 1 °C to warming be 2100. 

This work complements other recent work which also suggests a higher climate sensitivity:
  • Fasullo and Trenberth found that the climate models that most accurately capture observed relative humidity in the tropics and subtropics and associated clouds were among those with a higher sensitivity of around 4 °C.
  • Zhai et al. found that seven models that are consistent with the observed seasonal variation of low-altitude marine clouds yield an ensemble-mean sensitivity of 3.9 °C. 
  • Friedrich et al. show that climate models may be underestimating climate sensitivity because it is not uniform across different circumstances, but in fact higher in warmer, inter-glacial periods (such as the present) and lower in colder, glacial periods. Based on a study of glacial cycles and temperatures over the last 800,000 years, the authors conclude that in warmer periods climate sensitivity averages around 4.88 °C. Professor Michael Mann, of Penn State University, says the paper appears "sound and the conclusions quite defensible."
  • Lauer et al. found that climate models that most accurately simulate recent cloud cover changes in the east Pacific point to an amplifying effect on global warming and thus a more sensitive climate. 
And the bottom line?  If this work is correct, then the pledges made under the Paris Accord would not produce warming of around 3 °C as is widely discussed, but a figure closer to and even above 4 °C. And the total carbon budget would a quarter smaller than is generally accepted, or even less.

3. Climate models under-estimate future risks

This year, the Breakthrough Centre for Climate Restoration in Melbourne, published What Lies Beneath, on the scientific understatement of climate risks. The report found that human-induced climate change is an existential risk to human civilization, yet much climate research understates climate risks and provides conservative projections. Reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that are crucial to climate policymaking and informing public narrative are characterized by scientific reticence, paying limited attention to lower-probability, high-risk events that are becoming increasingly likely. (Disclosure: I was a co-author of this report.) 

But don’t take my word.  At the climate policy conference in Bonn, Phil Duffy, the Director of the Woods Hole Institute, explained the scientific reticence regarding the biggest system feedback issues:

"The best example of reticence is permafrost…  It’s absolutely essential that this feedback loop not get going seriously, if it does there is simply no way to control it… The scientific failure comes in because none of this is in climate models and none of this is considered in the climate policy discussion… climate models simply omit emissions from the warming permafrost, but we know that is the wrong answer because that tacitly assumes that these emissions are zero and we know that’s not right…"

And the problems of underestimation of future climate impacts from current models was explicitly recognized by the US government in its Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment. In a chapter on “Potential Surprises: Compound Extremes and Tipping Element,” two key findings were:

Positive feedbacks (self-reinforcing cycles) within the climate system have the potential to accelerate human-induced climate change and even shift the Earth’s climate system, in part or in whole, into new states that are very different from those experienced in the recent past (for example, ones with greatly diminished ice sheets or different large-scale patterns of atmosphere or ocean circulation). Some feedbacks and potential state shifts can be modeled and quantified; others can be modeled or identified but not quantified; and some are probably still unknown. (Very high confidence in the potential for state shifts and in the incompleteness of knowledge about feedbacks and potential state shifts).
  • While climate models incorporate important climate processes that can be well quantified, they do not include all of the processes that can contribute to feedbacks, compound extreme events, and abrupt and/or irreversible changes. For this reason, future changes outside the range projected by climate models cannot be ruled out (very high confidence). Moreover, the systematic tendency of climate models to underestimate temperature change during warm paleoclimates suggests that climate models are more likely to underestimate than to overestimate the amount of long-term future change (medium confidence).
  • The problem is that the notion that future climate changes may be faster and hotter than those projected by climate models is one rarely understood by climate policy-makers, and rarely discussed by those who do understand.
If climate policymaking is to be soundly based, a re-framing of scientific research within an existential risk-management framework is now urgently required. This must be taken up not just in the work of the IPCC, but also in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations if we are to address the real climate challenge.

http://www.climatecodered.org/2018/01/what-we-learned-about-climate-system-in.html