Changing Planet

Reports, Website Document Effects of and Need for Dialogue on Climate Change

Last year, carbon dioxide briefly passed the 400 parts per million milestone. Now, says Ralph Keeling of the Scripps Institution for Oceanography, we’re on track to “see values dwelling over 400 in April and May. It’s just a matter of time before it stays over 400 forever.”

This pronouncement comes the same week the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) released a report and the White House, a website, that seek to illustrate the effects of climate change and advance dialogue about it.

“We believe we have an obligation to inform the public and policymakers about what science is showing about any issue in modern life, and climate is a particularly pressing one,” said AAAS CEO Alan Leshner. “As the voice of the scientific community, we need to share what we know and bring policymakers to the table to discuss how to deal with the issue.”

The AAAS report offers three messages about climate change: (1) it is happening, and humans are the cause; (2) risks posed by climate change are high and potentially damaging; and (3) the sooner we act, the lower the risks and costs. The report takes readers through a series of potential consequences of climate change that include accelerated sea level rise and food shortages as a result of the increasing difficulty of growing crops.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s next report, due out at the end of the month, is expected to touch on one of these topics. A leaked draft obtained by The Independent suggests that climate change will reduce crop yields by 2 percent per decade for the rest of the century. One study out now in the journal Nature Climate Change finds crop yields—specifically rice, corn and wheat—will decline more than 25 percent as a result of climate change.

Navy Tests Space Solar Idea

California and Texas topped a list of the 10 best states for clean energy jobs last year. The largest job creator? The solar industry.

Now, the impact of solar technology could extend into outer space. The United States Navy is working on a project that could, in theory, allow for the capture of enough solar power to run military bases and even cities. The Navy is working on “sandwich” modules or prototypes far larger than the International Space Station that would collect solar power while aboard an orbiting satellite. Specifically, a photovoltaic panel atop the satellite would absorb the sun’s energy. An electronics system would convert the energy into a radio frequency sent back to Earth.

“People might not associate radio waves with carrying energy, because they think of them for communications, like radio, TV, or cell phones,” said Paul Jaffe, a spacecraft engineer leading the project. “They don’t think about them as carrying usable amounts of energy.”

The idea of capturing solar power in space is not a new idea. The International Academy of Astronautics recently suggested that space solar technology would be viable in the next 30 years.

Decision on U.S. Oil Exports Complex

In 2013, crude oil production in the United States reached its highest level since 1989—a roughly 15 percent increase from 2012, according the Energy Information Administration.

The Ukrainian crisis and record-setting levels of U.S. oil production have some policymakers and industry officials calling for the reversal of a ban on most crude oil exports. Opponents and proponents disagree about the impact to consumers should the ban be lifted.

“I think it is realistic that the U.S. could be energy self-sufficient by the end of this decade,” said Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson. “We’re already the world’s largest natural gas producer (and) last year crude oil production surpassed levels not seen since the 1980s.”

The topic’s varying angles dominated discuss at the annual IHS CERAWeek energy conference in Houston recently.

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

Tim Profeta is the founding director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. The Nicholas Institute is part of Duke University and focuses on improving environmental policy making worldwide through objective, fact-based research in the areas of climate change, the economics of limiting carbon pollution, oceans governance and coastal management, emerging environmental markets and freshwater concerns at home and abroad. In his role at the Nicholas Institute, Profeta has continued to use his experience on Capitol Hill to engage in climate change debates. His research has focused, specifically, on market-based approaches to environmental regulations—particularly energy and climate change policy. Other projects engage his expertise in environmental law and air pollution regulation under the Clean Air Act.
  • ReduceGHGs

    Too few are doing anything about climate change. We need to end the gridlock on Congress so meaningful emission-reducing laws can be passed. Contact your Congressmen/women. Insist they pay more attention to what the world’s scientific community has been saying for years. If they drag their feet, confront and expose them, then help drag their feet out of office in the next election. Our future generations are worth some effort. Apathy/inaction effectively advocates more of the same destructive behaviors. We can and MUST do better.


  • William Holder

    With RSS satellite data confirming no warming for over 17 years and various studies suggesting as many as 9 different reasons for the hiatus to include the most recent – the fragrance from pine needles – it’s clear our CO2 emissions are not the primary driver of climate. As a result global warming has become climate change – a natural and ongoing process. CO2 a gas required to sustain life, is now referred to as Carbon a solid and equated with soot.
    It’s shocking that countless young adults will graduate high school this year believing the world is dangerously warming even though temperatures have been stable during the entirety of their lives. It is shocking these kids believe our co2 emissions present a great threat to the environment and are largely ignorant of the fact that all environmental damage to date is the result of hunting, habitat encroachment and habitat destruction. A generation of resources and talent wasted on this folly.

    Here is what the climate has looked like over the last 10,000 years.

    Freeman Dyson says it best, Climatologists are no Einsteins.

  • Doc Climate

    The Earth is gaining heat faster than ever. according to global ocean heat content records from the US National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC). The rapid heating in 2013 occurred six times faster than since records began in 1955.

    The vast majority of heat from global warming goes into the oceans, so ocean heat content is a more reliable indicator of climate than surface or atmospheric temperature. This data shows global warming has accelerated in the last 15 years, contrary to denialist claims that global warming has “slowed”, “paused”, or “stopped” because the upper ocean, atmosphere, and surface have warmed more slowly in recent years. Warming oceans fuel hurricanes, raise sea level, melt sea ice, devastate coral reefs, and force fish to migrate to cooler waters.

    Satellite measurements confirm Earth is gathering heat at the rate indicated by ocean heat content. This can be expected to continue as atmospheric CO2 is currently at 400 ppm and rising (its highest level in at least 13 million years and well above the estimated safe level of 350 ppm).

    Some of the heat also goes into melting ice. The disappearance of Arctic sea ice has accelerated dramatically, hitting record low minimum volume in 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, and 2012. At its 2012 minimum, Arctic sea ice volume was a mere 20% of the 1979 minimum volume. In 2013 it was 30% of the 1979 volume, which deniers spun as a “recovery” from 2012, but in reality the trend remains sharply downward. The melt is proceeding much faster than predicted in the models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). If the trend is extended forward into the future, the Arctic Ocean in September will soon be entirely liquid.
    From the Skeptical Science website

  • Emma Nouelle

    @William Holder and the like. I hardly see a mass of young people suddenly majoring in “climate change” because this issue is in the news. it’s coming into the forefront because even people without a high school education can tell the difference between the weather patterns now vs the patterns they grew up with.

    The change in weather is present. Yes it could very well be that we’re in a natural cycle, but just like in medicine, physics, and just about every other discipline there’s a reaction to every action. A mutation in one gene can benefit you in one way and hurt you in another, a tradeoff.

    I can go on and on with examples but the bottom line is we’re consuming energy more and more and the result is co2 and other pollutants are being released into the air more and more. Where’s the reaction to our action? You expect me to believe there are none?

    what is the big deal if we do address our output of co2 and other pollutants? all i can foresee are win win situations for everyone except those with a vested interest in oil, gas, coal, etc.

    Keep trying to cast seeds of doubt, people are finally wising up. whether the climate change we’re in now is just a natural occurance or not, it’s only to our benefit to be responsible and look elsewhere for energy and put the “Exxon’s” of the world out of business.

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