Climate Science Watch Weekly Update, August 9

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A brief update on climate science news, legislation, and media resources.

Legislation

EPA emissions regulation

On August 3, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) announced that the Senate will vote in September on his measure to suspend EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources for two years.  Rockefeller’s bill has little chance of passing, and the Obama administration has already made clear that the President would veto legislation suspending EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases.

In June, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) tried and failed to pass a measure that would strip EPA’s regulatory authority over greenhouse gases outright.

Climate Science

An emissions budget in billions of tons

According to a new study published in the journal Climatic Change, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology have used coupled climate-carbon cycle models to determine the maximum volume of carbon dioxide humans can emit to remain below the two degrees Celsius threshold.  Emissions must peak at around ten billion tons annually by 2015, will have to be reduced by 56 percent by the year 2050, and approach zero by 2100, the researchers said.

This approach echoes the “emissions budget” strategy recommended by the National Research Council’s Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change report published recently as part of the America’s Climate Choices suite of studies.  The panel of authors recommended that the US use an emissions budget—a specific amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted over a fixed period of time—as a framework for developing domestic mitigation strategies.  This would equip policymakers with a scientific underpinning for developing an emissions reduction regime, without dictating specific policies.

Glacial melting

Last week, in the largest release of ice in the Arctic since 1962, Greenland’s Petermann glacier calved an ice island four times the size of Manhattan.  Nick Sundt of WWF has the full story.

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, Arctic sea ice extent in July was the second lowest for the month in the satellite record after 2007, consistent with the dramatic decline in sea ice seen over the last thirty years.  The “rate of decline of July ice extent over the period 1979 to 2010 is now 6.4% per decade,” says NSIDC.

Harmful weather extremes exacerbated by a warming climate

And from Reuters: “Devastating floods in Pakistan and Russia’s heatwave match predictions of extremes caused by global warming even though it is impossible to blame mankind for single severe weather events, scientists say.”

“’We will always have climate extremes.  But it looks like climate change is exacerbating the intensity of the extremes,’ said Omar Baddour, chief of climate data management applications at WMO [U.N. World Meteorological Organization] headquarters in Geneva.”

Media

Skepticism versus denialism

Alison Stewart hosted a Climate Desk discussion with NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt, “Skepticism versus denial about climate change,” taking on the role of climate experts in countering attacks on the integrity of climate science.  Schmidt described climate change denialism as an abusive tactic used by those whose interests are threatened by the societal response needed to combat climate change, preying on ignorance and a weak defensive effort.  “The more people we have out there who are talking about what they know, then the less these kinds of ‘science by defamation’ ideas and tactics will work,” Schmidt said.  Schmidt is one such advocate for bringing climate science knowledge to the public, and blogs frequently at RealClimate.

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