Local effects of climate change: protecting Dublin from flood risks

Ireland has experienced devastating floods in recent years which has affected thousands of people and caused millions of Euros worth of damage. Nowhere in Ireland has remained untouched by the deluges now part of our annual weather pattern. I met with Ray McGrath from the National Weather Centre to find out how Ireland is being affected. Ray have we seen changes in our weather patterns in recent years? Well in the case of rainfall it looks like there has been an increase in the amount of rainfall that is falling over Ireland. And is it more deluges of rain or what’s the pattern? The heavier rainfall events have increased in frequency. Are we seeing changes in our oceans also? Yes. The most obvious change is that the temperatures in the oceans are increasing and this is leading to more moisture being pushed into the atmosphere. That of course means that there is a greater potential for more extreme weather.

Of course this is more likely to lead to flooding events. The east coast is now susceptible to surge events bringing higher than usual tides which combine into perfect storm scenarios such as what happened in 2002. The way it works is the surge actually sucks up the ocean surface and this in combination with a wind which may be pumping, pushing the water towards the coastline this is what effectively creates the surge conditions. If this happens to coincide with a high tide, it obviously worsens it so you can get a much greater surge effect affecting the coastline and the research we have done in Met Éireann it does indeed suggest that in the future climate change will bring more intense surge events to these coastlines. Being on the frontline is something Dubliners have known about for a long time. 200 years ago Dublin was a sea port on a wide estuary surrounded by marshland. We’ve a long history of reclaiming land that was liable for flooding but back then the big storm was looked on as a rare event.

Not anymore. The residents of Dublin’s East Wall were badly hit in 2002 and have been living in fear of another storm ever since. Most of it came from the sea originally to that point but it was a mixture of canal and sea water because it came up the Liffey, up the canal and of course once the canal level went too high it overflowed. It was terrifying for me walking around in it I have to admit but in saying that, the elderly people and to look at their faces, and to look at their homes devastated with the dirt five foot up the walls; it was absolutely horrendous. We were out of the house for 7 months. Had to get the builders in: floors, walls, furniture everything thrown out, rip it all up. It wasn’t just a matter of drying out stuff, this stuff was destroyed. Over €6 million has been spent in the risk area on defences and early warning systems have been put in place to give the residents the highest levels of alert.

There is a number of defences put out there. There’s a monitor out at the Kish which’ll give us advanced warning of the sea and there’s depth warnings in both of the rivers in the Tolka and in the Liffey which at least is a help. At least we will know in advance if something is going to happen. Dublin City Council has an emergency plan coming into force soon. We have a lot of volunteers in the area, at the moment we have the church set up in case of an emergency that we can bring people, particularly the elderly. It’s the elderly and the infirm we need to get out of the area quickly if we did have another flood. The changes coming mean rethinking our strategies for everything: from river and sea defences, to where we build and live in the future.

Mark Adamson from the OPW showed me the first line of flood defences for Ringsend being built on the Dodder by Dublin City Council. These are flood protection works that we are currently building to protect against tidal flooding, such as the very severe event that happened in February 2002 here in Ringsend. What happened? Well the sea level came up the river and spilled over the banks flooding some areas to a depth of maybe 3 metres so the wall we are currently leaning on here is to protect against exactly that kind of flooding. So all of these houses here were flooded in 2002? That’s right yes. So what are they actually doing? Well over here they’re currently putting in piles and they’ll be building a defence wall to protect against the high sea levels. So what sort of work have we got to do in the future to protect us against what’s coming with flooding? Well we’ll obviously keep building flood protection schemes such as these for areas of significant existing risk. We’re also producing flood maps to identify other areas that are at risk or that could be at risk if people were to build in them.

The massive development that has changed the face of our cities over the last 10 years hides what’s happening beneath our feet. Under the millions of tonnes of concrete, are water courses now cut off and rivers and streams we’ve diverted. Tom Leahy told me about the Dublin City Council strategies to future-proof the city. we’ve seen some big floods in recent years are we going to see more floods in Dublin? Well Duncan, Dublin is located in the floodplain of 3 major rivers. 200 years ago the land we’re standing on was once under the sea. That’s just one of the challenges we face. Over the years Dublin has grown. It’s been intensively developed, houses wherever you see and we’ve changed water courses as well. So each of those poses its own challenge and hazard which we have to deal with. So how are you going to deal with these sorts of challenges? Well we have noticed that the weather patterns have changed quite significantly. We’ve also noticed the phenomenon called pluvial flooding, now that’s a very technical term, the Dutch have a much better name they call it “monster rain”.

What it means is very heavy monsoon-like rainfall that falls over a short period of time will overwhelm any drainage system. So that’s a challenge, one of the challenges we’re going to have to deal with. Is this the sort of flooding we’ve seen in the last couple of years? Yes, particularly last August and September that’s exactly what happened to Dublin. We had 3 floods in 2 months and the intensities were the sort of recurrence period that would be one in 150 years. Dublin City Council’s new strategy is being created and funded in tandem with European partners who face the same problems we do. The Flood Resilient Cities Programme follows on from the Safer Programme and looks to deal with the effects of “monster rain”. Well the sort of things that we can do, we can look at ways to control water flow at source, we’ve also identified the areas that might be at risk and logically they’re close to the coast and then if we know there is a high risk at a particular time we can mobilise all the resources of the State, fire brigade, emergency services, our own City Council personnel.

We can also link in with householders because everybody has a part to play in making their own property that little bit more flood resilient. When the next flood comes another team ready are Commandant John Moriarty’s Civil Defence volunteers. They’ll be on the front line to back up the fire brigade and I joined them on one of their drills. We learned a lot from the floods back in 2002 where we didn’t have the equipment; people were going into flooded areas and contaminated water in fire gear whereas now we have dry suits to protect them and so on. They’ve been trained by Dublin Fire Brigade in water awareness; our boat people obviously are trained in relation to water and so on. So there’s been a lot of training has been going on over the past number of years and we’ve also a lot of vehicles, a lot of four wheel drive vehicles which are very suitable for the flooding scenarios. Right guys how’s it going there? There is a way of laying these is there? There is a way of laying them yeah. You bring them close to each other first is it? Yes.

It’s the first line across and the next ones go in between and you can see where they cause the seal here. And that’ll totally seal water? That’ll totally seal and have a look at the door we went in with a line then right across the front of the lower part of the lower sandbag as well when we were finished building up. The fear at the back of my mind is that we get the combination of torrential rain with a very high tide and onshore winds and we get a combination of coastal flooding and torrential rain and rivers overflowing. That’s kind of a nightmare scenario. Flooding is a problem we all share throughout Ireland. As an act of nature it can’t be totally avoided, but we can lessen its worst effects. As we look for the solutions for the future we should focus on the underlying causes of climate change that we are currently failing to address..

Piers Corbyn: Electrical Weather | Space News

Welcome to Space News from the Electric Universe brought to you by The Thunderbolts Project™ at Thunderbolts.info Among the top Space News stories of 2015 we've seen dramatic affirmations of the electromagnetic connection between the Earth and the Sun. With each new discovery, the Sun's profound influence on Earth's climate and weather becomes more self evident. However, it seems that the electrical nature of the Earth-Sun connection, and its role in so-called climate change, remains nowhere to be found in the popular climate change debate. Today, we check in on one of the leading skeptics of the theory of man-made climate change solar physicist and meteorologists Piers Corbyn. Earlier this year, Piers appeared in a documentary that aired on the BBC's Radio 4 program called, 'What's The Point of the Met Office?' After a firestorm of protest from activists the program was subsequently removed from the BBC's iPlayer playback facility.

We asked Piers what he thinks of the BBC's policies and their coverage of climate change. [Piers] You know, the BBC is totally not impartial for climate change and it propagates the climate change religion, all the time. They have a small amount of skeptics, if you like, or 'climate realists' as I would call them (at times), in order to simply claim they have balance but, in reality they don't have balance – they are totally biased. For example, when they're reporting any weather extremes around the world they repeat and 'pipe up' anything involving warmth, and they ignore things involving cold, or give them a short shrift. [Michael] We are told that the scientific consensus today is that anthropogenic global warming, or climate change, is real. However, how accurate had the climate and weather forecasts been of advocates of this theory? [Piers] The UN climate model and what the BBC sites, and the British Met office sites are the same thing and they are complete nonsense, and they have failed utterly and absolutely.

If they were economic forecasts, or forecasts from a political party of employment or something, they would be thrown out of office. Or, if they were running a business, or they were the managers of the business they'd be closed down. They said basically that world temperatures should have been rising continuously for the last 15 years. Well, they have not been. They had a prediction of very steep rises and, in fact, the temperatures did rise a bit and then, leveled off in a narrow declining – under satellite measurements. Under 'fiddled' surface data, they essentially show that they're static, but that data is 'fiddled' and then they select the statisticians to give the story they want. [Michael] Like many other skeptics of man-made climate change Piers emphasizes the importance of the Sun's influence on climate and weather. [Piers] The Sun and the Earth are connected by various channels of communication – obviously, there's gravitation and the orbit of the Earth around the Sun but, the main energy transfer is from radiation, and also particles beamed out of the Sun – charged particles.

The radiation of sunlight then, obviously, gives us general temperature of the globe. The way the globe works though, is that it's a magnetic body and the Sun is also magnetic body, and the particles coming out of the Sun are charged particles. So, they are guided by the magnetic fields connecting the Earth and the Sun. These rush of particles, called the 'solar wind' (which come at a million mph), does affect the upper atmosphere when a lot of electric currents going on very high up, and also, the middle atmosphere where the particles, in some respects, probably initiate droplet formation, or they affect the way the circulation of the upper atmosphere, that affects the way the jet stream, which is the upper air that moving around the globe, and that will affect that. And, the jet stream then essentially controls weather patterns, so the basic point we make is, that the Sun-Earth magnetic and particle connection essentially governs the behavior of the jet stream, which is the main governor of weather types and the arbiter of weather extremes. What we have is, the jet stream essentially marks the boundary between colder polar air and warmer air towards the equator.

And, under the 'global warmers' prediction, the jet stream should be further north and shorter, and generally will have warmth but, generally benign. However, what we do have instead is a longer jet stream, which is further south, and it's got a lot of waves in it – and, these are characteristic of periods of low solar activity. So, these wavy patterns mean that sometimes you can have very warm parts of the north wind, where warm air is brought from the tropics and above, more often, because it's generally further south (this jetstream), you have cold blasts coming from a long way north, going south. And that is what's giving these extreme cold spells in places, extreme warm spells in places and extreme storms where were these type of air masses meet. [Michael] We asked Piers what he thinks of the notion that human activity is causing an increase in extreme weather on Earth, such as hurricanes. [Piers] It is a complete, deliberate lie, and it is put about by these people who know it's a lie. The fact is, there's actually been less hurricanes – some of them have been very extreme, though.

But, there's been less hurricanes in the USA which is the best place in the world where they are counted. All of these extremes that have happened are driven by solar activity. As an example, one of the ones the 'warmists' quote most is the typhoon Haiyan. It caused a lot of damage, so because there was a lot of damage they said it must be CO2. Well, if you looked at what was actually happening to Haiyan, as it was approaching the Philippines, it so occurred that the Sun was in a very active short phase of solar flares and so on. And, we'd categorize these (we predict these phases) and this is called an R5 period (a red 5, red weather or dangerous weather top level 5). And, during these periods typhoons, or tropical cyclones, always get more excited.

As it so happened, Haiyan was in the right place at right time – or, if you like, the wrong place at the wrong time – for solar effects to whack it up and it got ramped up as it approached the Philippines, and cause utter devastation. And, that was predictable. Well, we've got a general prediction which we made some years ago but, because of the wild jet stream era we're in (which, of course, is also a mini ice age period in the sense that if you were at the right end of these wavy jet streams, then you're going to get very cold weather). So, we're in a mini ice age/wild jet stream era which means there will be a lot of dramatic extremes in the world, especially in America, where you can see them from one side to the other. So, it might be very warm in the southwest and cold in the Northeast, and on some occasions, the other way around.

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Attack on science

Hayhoe: These days, to get attacked, all we have to do is step foot off campus and tell anybody, even a local Kiwanis club, or a local church, or even a group of elementary school kids, that climate change is real, and then the angry letters start to flood in. Mann: Typically the attacks are not really about the science. The attack on the science is a proxy for what is really an effort to discredit science that may prove inconvenient for certain special interests. Oreskes: That’s when I started getting attacked. And that was when life sort of changed, it was a bit going through the looking glass. I started getting hate e-mail. What happened then was I mentioned to a couple of colleagues what was going on, and one of my colleagues at Scripps, at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said to me, “You should talk to Ben Santer.

Something sort of similar happened to him.” Santer: I remember sitting in a bar in Madrid with Stephen Schneider, the late Stephen Schneider, immediately after the final sentence had been agreed on in the 1995 report, a sentence that’s forever engraved on my memory. The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate. Here we are at this bar, and Steve says to me, “This changes everything, you know. Your life is going to be changed forever.” I had no idea what he was talking about. I really didn’t. Hayhoe: There is definitely a pattern of what happens: nasty e-mails, complaints to your university, requests for your e-mails, and a lot of attacks online. Mann: Often it takes the form of an attack on individual scientists. It’s part of the strategy of ad hominem attack.

Santer: Go after the scientist. Go after their integrity. Go after their funding. Make life miserable for them. Mann: I have received letters in the mail that in one case contained a while powder that I had to actually report to the FBI. They had to come to my office and investigate this and send this off to a lab to make sure that it wasn’t anthrax or some very dangerous substance that my entire department would have been subject to because of this. Santer: Then there’s the power of the Internet, which really was not available back in 1995, to harness your supporters to go after individual scientists, send them threatening e-mails or worse, and let them know, “We’re watching you. We don’t like you. We don’t like what you do.

” Mann: One of the tactics that you see in climate change denialism is an effort to spin and misrepresent peer reviewed scientific studies. So often studies that say one thing, for example, show that some aspect of climate change is even worse than we thought, will somehow be spun by climate change deniers as if it doesn’t provide evidence for concern. Oreskes: Clearly misrepresenting scientific information, cherry picking scientific data, one egregious example that we talk about in the book is an early work by Jim Hansen that Bill Nierenberg, Bob Jastrow and Fred Seitz take out of context and use it to argue that climate change is caused by the sun when, in fact, if you go back to the original paper, Hansen is arguing exactly the opposite. Santer: I think an additional weapon in the arsenal is Freedom of Information Act requests, which are being used not really to advance understanding or, again, shed light on complex scientific issues but as a tactic to threaten, to intimidate, to throw a spanner in the works to take up your time.

Mann: They will bully editors to try to get them to retract articles that are a threat to their case, their case being that climate change isn’t real, it’s not something to worry Oreskes: The weirdest day of my whole life practically was the day I got a phone call from a reporter in Tulsa, Oklahoma ,who said to me, “Are you aware of the fact that Senator James Imhofe is attacking you?” [laughter] I was like, at that time, I honestly didn’t know who Senator Imhofe was. In fact, I think I had been to Oklahoma maybe once but, I mean, and so I said, “No, I have no idea.” At first I thought he was making a mistake, this was some other, well, I have a very unusual name, so it didn’t seem plausible it was some other Naomi Oreskes. And then he had, he read to me from this speech that Imhofe was making and it was part of what we all are very familiar with now that I was a part of the “global conspiracy,” the scientific conspiracy to bring down global capitalism. And I remember thinking, “Conspiracy?!? Scientists are not that organised.” Santer: hacking e-mails, releasing them, all of these things. The technology has moved on since 1995, but it’s the same playbook: don’t really focus on the science and advancing understanding, contributing, but tear down, destroy.

Hayhoe: I think the best we can do is shield ourselves from the attacks and try not to dwell on them, unless it’s a safety issue, in which case we should take appropriate steps, and try to move on, focusing on what we want to achieve rather than what’s trying to hold us back. Mann: So if you are a prominent scientist, if you participate in the public discourse, as I’ve often said, you better develop a thick skin because you will be attacked personally. Hayhoe: My number one rule of thumb is: do not Google myself. I don’t want to see. My number two rule of thumb is to not read the comments section. I don’t want to know. Oreskes: One of the things that I think is really important us that by writing about these things and by documenting about it in a scholarly way with high standards of documentation, we can explain to our colleagues, our institutions, editors at journal, and the public and the media what this is. Because this is not a scientific debate.

I mean if I have one message that’s what my message has been all along and it still is: this is not a scientific debate; it’s a political debate. But it’s a political debate being made to look like a scientific debate. We now know why people do that. Because it’s a very very effective strategy because if you can make people think it’s a scientific debate then people will think it’s too soon to act. But if people see the truth, if they realise that this is a political debate, that it’s related to people’s ideologies to their values, structures, that gives a whole different cast. So it’s very very important for people to understand the character of what this thing is. Santer: Some things are worth fighting for. That perhaps was the most profound lesson for me back then: that a clear public understanding of the science, doing the kind of thing that you’re doing here, that was truly worth fighting for..

Carbon cycle

House: The carbon cycle is, very simply, it’s about the cycling of carbon through natural systems – through plants, through soils, through the ocean – and back out into the atmosphere. Le Quéré: In the natural carbon cycle, there’s a lot of fluxes of carbon dioxide, so the carbon goes in and out of the ocean, in and out of the terrestrial biosphere every year. House: The carbon is constantly flowing between these different systems and large amounts of carbon moves all the time. Le Quéré: I mean in the terrestrial biosphere, in the trees and the forests, it’s very easy to see. If you live in a place that has a forest area with seasons, you see in the winter the trees they have no leaves, and the spring comes and the leaves build up. This is all good carbon dioxide that goes in the leaves. And in the fall and in the autumn when the leaves fall down then their carbon is emitted back in the atmosphere.

So you have a huge signal there of CO2 going in and out of the atmosphere. House: So the ocean will take up the CO2, it dissolves in the surface of the ocean and also when the ocean will release CO2 to the atmosphere and that depends on the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and the concentration of CO2 in the ocean. And they form a balance with each other. There’s a continuous massive exchange of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere on land and the atmosphere on the ocean. That is roughly in balance until we introduce human change. Osborn: The experiment that we’re inadvertently perhaps conducting with the climate system is to move huge volumes of carbon from these stores undergrounds in the form of fossil fuels and bringing them to the surface and burning them and adding this carbon to the atmosphere. Le Quéré: What we’re doing now is putting everything out of balance, so we’re adding carbon to the atmosphere. It’s new carbon. It’s not part of the natural cycle.

It’s one that we’ve dug out of the fossil reservoir where they were stored, and we’ve put them back in the atmosphere. This is new carbon, and it puts the system out of balance. House: Although the human emissions are much smaller than the natural fluxes, the natural fluxes approximately are in balance and so they’re not causing an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The human emissions, however are very rapid, and the natural systems don’t have time to respond to them. And so you get a net imbalance of raised carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. Lunt: It’s unequivocal that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing and is increasing fast and is increasing faster than ever. House: Oh the rate of change now is incredibly rapid, and what’s more it’s pushed us outside the bounds of what we’ve seen in terms of atmospheric concentration throughout the Ice Ages. Thompson: We have not had levels of C02 at 400 parts per million by volume in 800,000 years of history. House: In the Earth’s past throughout in and out of the Ice Ages, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere ranged between about 180 parts per million to 280 parts per mission.

And it took thousands of year for it to change between those states. The difference is now it’s gone up to 350 and even topping 400 parts per million on a single day basis. And that’s happened over a period of a couple hundred years. Friedlingstein: Every single generation is emitting more than the previous generation because emission of CO2 increased exponentially. We emit it so far, if you start from the beginning, which is like the industrial revolution in 1750 or something, when we start to burn fossil fuel, from that time up until today we emitted something like 2000 gigaton of CO2. More than half of this has been emitted over the last 50 years. Thompson: And we know where that CO2 is coming from because we do the isotopes of the carbon. We know it’s coming from fossil fuels. Le Quéré: So carbon is increasing in the atmosphere, but it doesn’t entirely stay there, so about half of the emission and maybe a bit more than half of the emission that we put in the atmosphere ends up in the natural environment. It ends up in the ocean and in the forest. Friedlingstein: For the carbon cycle today absorbed about half of the emissions we put in the atmosphere, so we emit, as I said, 40 gigaton of CO2 per year, about half of it, 20 gigaton of CO2 are taken back from the atmosphere by the land and by the ocean.

House: There’s a multitude of different processes that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. So for example, CO2 from the atmosphere dissolves in the surface of the ocean and then that’s turned over and taken into the deep ocean. Really for that amount of CO2 to be completely removed from the atmosphere it has to be completely dissolved and go down into the deep ocean. And then we’re talking about geological timescales – so hundreds and thousands of years. Le Quéré: So what happens when we put carbon emissions into the atmosphere, new carbon from burning fossil fuel or from different station, what happens is this takes a long time for this carbon to readjust in the land and ocean. Eventually if we’re prepared to wait long enough, so that’s thousands of years, a lot of this carbon, maybe 70 percent will end up in the ocean, and the reason this takes time is that you have different adjustment times, so the CO2 goes in the surface ocean, it takes about 1 year to dissolve. But how it is transported from the ocean’s surface to the intermediate and to the deep ocean depends on the ocean circulation.

The ocean circulation takes hundreds to a thousand years to mix the entire ocean. That’s the timescale that is really relevant here is taking a molecule of CO2, we’ve put it in the atmosphere, how long is it going to take before it ends in the deep ocean? House: So about 65 to 80 percent of the carbon dioxide pulse that’s put into the atmosphere will be removed within about 2 to 200 years. The rest of it, the remaining 35 percent, will take between 2 and 20 millennia to be completely removed from the atmosphere. So roughly you have to think whatever we’re doing today, whatever CO2 is being emitted, roughly a third of it is going to stick around essentially forever really when you consider it in our lifetime. Pelto: We can’t change the atmosphere, the chemistry, with one of the main constituents carbon dioxide by 25 percent and expect nothing to happen. You change your diet by 25 percent. You decide you’re going to start consuming 25 percent more calories, and you don’t change your exercise or anything else. You can’t realistically expect nothing to happen. And that’s what you have to understand.

If we change fundamentally our atmosphere chemistry, we can’t expect climate to stay the same..

Climate Change Is Causing Fewer Male Births!

We have a pretty good idea of how climate change will affect the world, but what about the people in it? How will it affect us? Hey guys, Tara here for Dnews – and we’ve been talking a lot lately about climate change, and how it’ll affect the world around us. Like everything, though, there are unexpected consequences – and according to a new study, one of the consequences of climate change, is fewer males being born. It sounds crazy, but this has actually been happening over in Japan. Researchers from the M&K Health Institute have been examining how extreme weather events have affected sex ratios of infants in Japan. Specifically, they looked at temperature fluctuations brought on by global warming, and compared them to national data on births and fetal deaths between 1968 and 2012. Fetal deaths being any miscarriage that occurs after 12 weeks of gestation.

And what they found, is that male fetuses are considerably more vulnerable to extreme weather, which has led to a decrease in the amount of male births. In 2010, Japan experienced their hottest summer since 1898, when records began. During that summer, researchers noted an increase in the number of miscarriages, and nine months later, they noticed a decrease in the ratio of male to female babies born in the country. Meaning the majority of those miscarriages were male. But it’s not just the heat that causes this. The following year, in 2011, Japan also experienced a particularly brutal winter. And sure enough, that winter saw an increase in miscarriages, and a subsequent decrease in male births, 9 months later. Researchers say this doesn’t necessarily mean that climate change is completely to blame – but it does highlight the fact that male fetuses in particular, are extremely sensitive to external stress factors. Earthquakes, pollution, and even famine – have all been linked to increased miscarriages, and a decline in the number of male births.

What’s especially damning about this study, though, is the exact timing of events. It pretty clearly indicates that temperature is at least partially responsible – and unfortunately, no one’s been able to explain why this is such a male-specific problem. What do you guys think? Any plausible theories you wanna throw out there? If so, just leave em in the comments below – otherwise, thank you guys for watching!.

Making sense of the slowdown

The Earth’s climate is controlled by the energy balance at the top of the atmosphere. If more heat enters the atmosphere than leaves, then the planet warms. Adding heat trapping gases changes the balance, which in turn causes warming. Ocean heat measurements show that the planet is indeed absorbing heat. Despite this fact, it is often claimed that the global warming has stopped. This claim is inspired by evidence that warming of the atmosphere has been slower over the past one and a half decades. This slowdown is sometimes called the hiatus. However, there are other factors which affect the atmosphere over shorter periods. These can cause faster or slower warming of the atmosphere. To understand the slowdown in warming, we need to understand some of these factors.

If we look at the global surface temperature over the past 3 decades, there are big changes in temperature from year to year. We know the cause of some of these variations. One of the biggest is the El Nino cycle. El Nino is a phenomena in which heat is stored up in the western Pacific Ocean, and then released to the atmosphere in the eastern Pacific. This happens over the course of a few years. El Nino is not predictable, but we can track it in retrospect through sea surface temperature measurements. If we compare past El Nino cycles with temperature changes over the past three decades, we can see that there is a strong relationship between the two. El Nino years tend to be hot years. Recent years have been dominated by the cool phase of the cycle. This is responsible for some of the slowdown in warming. However, El Nino doesn’t explain everything. There are cooler periods in the early eighties and nineties which don’t fit the El Nino cycle.

These were caused by two major volcanic eruptions, El Chichon and Pinatubo. Dust from the volcanoes spread in the upper atmosphere, cooling the surface. Smaller eruptions happen all the time, but can also affect temperatures. There has been an increase in the number of small eruptions over the past few years, offsetting a bit of the greenhouse warming. Another factor is the solar cycle. Satellites tell us that the sun varies in brightness with the sunspot cycle. The last cycle has been particularly weak. A dim sun also offsets a little bit of warming. Yet another factor is pollution. Rapid industrialisation in Asia has led to more particulate pollution in the atmosphere, which also has a cooling effect. The final factor is in the observations themselves. Two of the major temperature data providers, the UK Met Office and NOAA, don’t include the Arctic in their global temperature calculation, because there are no weather stations there.

But the Arctic has been warming faster than anywhere else on the planet. Missing it out leads to an underestimation of the rate of warming. To recap, greenhouse gases have continued to grow over the last one and a half decades. But over the same period, volcanoes, the weak sun and pollution have had a cooling effect, and the rate of warming has been underestimated as well. Two recent studies have put all of these together. If we ignore the short term influences, climate models predict faster warming than we have observed. However, if we use global temperature estimates, and add the influence of El Nino, volcanoes, the weak sun and pollution into the models, then the agreement is good. What can we conclude from this? When we put everything we know into the models, the answers match what we observe. So the slowdown in warming makes sense in retrospect, and doesn’t give us a reason to doubt the models.

However, we couldn’t have predicted it in advance, because we can’t predict volcanoes, pollution or the sun. The slowdown in warming has created a whole family of myths with different levels of sophistication. At one extreme, it is possible to argue that the hiatus should reduce our estimates of climate sensitivity. This is a genuine scientific argument, although the analysis we have just seen suggests that no reduction is required. At the other extreme, it is sometimes claimed that the hiatus disproves the role of CO2 in global warming. They claim that CO2 has increased, but the world hasn’t warmed. This is an example of a strawman, and a complex cause fallacy. Climate science doesn’t claim that CO2 is the only factor which affects temperature. This is why the hiatus is so hard to deal with. The myths may be wrong, but they are simple and convincing. The complex cause fallacy exists because people like things to be simple, but explaining the complex drivers of climate is hard. But in the end, all the hiatus myths revolve around drawing attention away from the big picture. When we look at the big picture, the hiatus does not change our understanding of human caused global warming.


The Price of Carbon

Your wallet. Your bank account. You keep a close eye on them. You pay for your groceries. You pay for your car. You pay for your stuff. You pay for your roads, your schools — the things we all share. You know what else you’re paying for? Carbon pollution. Oh yes, you’re paying for carbon. Science tells us carbon pollution is the leading cause of climate disruption. The burning of dirty energy is raising our planets temperature which makes extreme and erratic weather more likely. The result? You’ve been living in it. “2012 was the hottest year in the United States since weather scientists started keeping record.” And half of all U.S. counties were declared disaster zones due to last summer’s crippling drought.

And because of the drought, wildfires scorched one and a half times more land than usual. On the East coast, crazy storms have led to a record-breaking flooding. We’ve always had extreme weather, but now thanks to carbon pollution, we have weather on steroids. And we’re paying for it. Congress has agreed on more than fifty billion dollars in relief for the victims of super storm Sandy. The costliest global disasters of 2012 were hurricane Sandy — Cost: $65 billion — And the yearlong Midwest planes drought that cost us $35 billion. Drought relief, disaster relief, battling wildfires, building seawalls — All these expenses add up. And that’s the price of carbon. But Big Oil isn’t paying. And Big Coal isn’t paying. They are using the atmosphere as an open sewer while you are paying the tab through taxes, medical bills, higher food, prices, insurance rates, and more. But no wallet in the world is big enough. It’s time to take action.

It’s time to tell the world: We are paying the price OF carbon. It’s time to put a price ON carbon. And make the polluters stop the carbon destruction. Tell your friends. Tell our leaders. It’s time to have the carbon conversation. (I think that’s everything).

Human CO2 emissions trump volcanoes’

In the past 150 years, human emissions have put a lot of carbon dioxide in the air. We now measure a concentration of about 400 parts per million. This is about 40% higher than at any time in the past 400,000 years. Of all of the conclusions of modern climate science; this is one of the most reliable. But, despite all of the evidence, some people persist in claiming that the recent rise in carbon dioxide is all natural— for example, they say that instead of it being caused by humans, it all came out of volcanoes. Now, it is quite true that volcanoes emit some carbon dioxide. Over very long periods of geological time those small amounts can add up to make a really significant change to the atmosphere.

However, over a couple of hundred years, the emissions aren’t large enough to make a difference. There are two main classes of volcano: there are the ones that erupt under the ocean and the ones that erupt into the air. Both kinds are linked to the goings-on at the boundaries of the tectonic plates and to the upwelling of hot rock from the Earth’s mantle; the layer below the Earth’s crust. The undersea volcanoes are by far the more numerous, making up about 90% of the world’s volcanoes, although few of us have ever seen them. These volcanic chains are where new ocean crust is produced. But undersea volcanoes don’t produce very much carbon dioxide—only about 100 million tonnes per year—about the same amount as an average US state emits. Humans produce about 350 times as much carbon dioxide as the undersea volcanoes do. Carbon dioxide not only gets produced at the oceanic ridges, it also gets consumed there. What happens is that the newly formed basaltic rock undergoes chemical changes when it contacts seawater. This reaction absorbs carbon dioxide from the water at a rate of about 150 million tonnes per year.

The mid-ocean ridge volcanic processes as a whole, therefore, probably consume more carbon dioxide than they emit. We are much more familiar with the kind of volcanoes that erupt into the air. The biggest chain of these is the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire”. This is a belt running all the way around the ocean from New Zealand to Japan, then to Alaska and down to the Andes. Old oceanic crust is consumed at these places and they form volcanoes that produce much more carbon dioxide than the ones under the sea. The magma in these volcanoes comes not just from the Earth’s mantle, but also from the melting of the more carbon and water-rich rocks in the crust. One reason these types of volcano tend to be more explosive is because of the larger amount of water vapour and carbon dioxide in their magma. Mount Etna in Sicily is one of the most prolific carbon-dioxide producing volcanoes in the world. It produces about 13 million tonnes per year, but this amount is still only about half as much as what Sicily’s five million people emit from burning fossil fuels.

In addition, dormant volcanoes and volcanic lakes together emit as much carbon dioxide as the actively erupting volcanoes do. Altogether, volcanoes that emit carbon dioxide into the air produce much more than undersea volcanoes: about five times as much. Volcanic rocks on the surface undergo weathering and this chemical process absorbs carbon dioxide out of the air, about 180 million tonnes per year, that’s approximately one-third of the amount put into the air by volcanoes. So if we add up all the sources of volcanic carbon dioxide, we get 640 million tonnes per year. Once we subtract the carbon dioxide that the reactions with volcanic rocks consume, we are left with a net 310 million tonnes per year. This last amount is roughly equal to the human emissions from the country of Turkey, that’s less than one percent of all human emissions. Human emissions for the planet as a whole in 2012 were 60 to 120 times bigger than volcanic emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions from cement-making alone are 3 to 6 times bigger than those from volcanoes.

Not only are volcanic emissions much too small to account for the rising carbon dioxide levels in the air, but, over the past few thousand years, natural emissions and natural sinks must have been in rough balance. The carbon dioxide composition of the air started to change really quickly after the 1950s. We can readily explain this as being due to the greatly increased rate of consumption of fossil fuels after the end of the Second World War. On the other hand, if volcanoes had suddenly started to erupt many times faster in the second half of the twentieth century, we surely would have noticed. After all, volcanoes don’t just silently produce carbon dioxide, they also throw out huge quantities of ash and magma and they often cause havoc for humans living nearby. Only about 40% of the carbon dioxide emitted from any source remains in the air, the rest goes into the oceans and is taken up by plants on land.

If we add up the carbon dioxide emissions and convert them into concentrations in the air, we see that emissions from humans over the past hundred years fit the observations like a glove, but the volcanoes don’t even come close. People who incorrectly blame volcanoes for the change in the air take the fact that volcanoes do indeed produce some carbon dioxide and then they jump to the false conclusion that this amount is enough to explain the increase we have measured. And they haven’t done the basic arithmetic that shows that it isn’t nearly enough to make any real difference at all in such a short time period. We know what caused the recent rise in carbon dioxide concentrations. We did..