Medieval Irish scholars: What can’t they do for us? Having already “saved civilization,” they’re now providing important insights into how geological activity can cause weather events, expanding our understanding of global climate change.
In a paper published by Environmental Research Letters, a team of U.S. and Irish researchers use the Irish Annals — documents of recorded events written by scribes in Irish monasteries from the fifth to the 17th centuries — as a dataset for the occurence of rare weather events. Specifically, the authors are interested in evidence for the theory that atmospheric ash from volcanic eruptions was responsible for known climate anomalies from the period — in particular the so-called “little ice age.”
The Irish accounts are particularly useful because of their descriptive detail and specificity of dates. In total, 83 unique cold events were reported in the Annals, 65 of which were considered reliable.
Here’s one such account from the Annals of Ulster, written in 818:
There was abnormal ice and much snow from the Epiphany to Shrovetide. The Boyne and other rivers were crossed dry-footed; lakes likewise. Herds and hunting-parties were on Loch Neagh,(and) wild deer were hunted. The materials for an oratory were afterwards brought by a large company from the lands of Connacht over Upper and Lower Loch Erne into [Leinster]; and other unusual things were done in the frost and hail.
And from the Annals of Connacht in 1465:
Exceeding great frost and snow and stormy weather this year, so that no herb grew in the ground and no leaf budded on a tree until the feast of St. Brendan, but a man, if he were the stronger, would forcibly carry away the food from the priest in church, even though he had the Sacred Body in his hands and stood clothed in Mass-vestments.
The authors found that 53.6 percent of the identified cold events correspond with known volcanic events, which they say is nearly impossible to attribute to coincidence.
Why does this matter? The authors write that “determining the extent to which human activity drives future climatic variation requires knowledge of past climate, allowing us us to ascertain the boundaries of natural variability and to test the veracity of models preciting future climate.” Developing accurate climate records for particular regions can tell us more about how “individuals and societies experience climate and plan for extreme weather.” These days we’re more worried about unusual warming than cooling, but the local priests may still want to keep an eye on the kitchen during the Feast of St. Brendan.
Can we get the Irish monks on the eurozone crisis next?
Via National Affairs
Progressives should know the disinformers’ most commonly used arguments — and how to answer them crisply. Those arguments have been repeated so many times by the fossil-fuel-funded disinformation campaign that almost everyone has heard them — and that means you’ll have to deal with them in almost any setting, from a public talk to a dinner party. You should also know as much of the science behind those rebuttals as possible, and a great place to start is SkepticalScience.com. BUT most of the time your best response is to give the pithiest response possible, and then refer people to a specific website that has a more detailed scientific explanation with links to the original science. That’s because usually those you are talking to are rarely in a position to adjudicate scientific arguments. Indeed, they would probably tune out. Also, unless you know the science cold, you are as likely as not to make a misstatement. Physicist John Cook has done us a great service by posting good one-line responses and then updating them as the science evolves and as people offer better ways of phrasing. Below I have reposted the top 99 with links to the science. You can find even more here. Everybody should know the first 20 or so. For instance, if somebody raises the standard talking point (#1 on the list) that the “climate’s changed before,” you can say, “Climate reacts to whatever forces it to change at the time; humans are now the dominant forcing.” That is actually quite similar to what was my standard response, “The climate changes when it is forced to change, and now humans are forcing it to change far more rapidly than it did in the past” (see “Humans boosting CO2 14,000 times faster than nature, overwhelming slow negative feedbacks” and “New Science Study Confirms ‘Hockey Stick’: The Rate Of Warming Since 1900 Is 50 Times Greater Than The Rate Of Cooling In Previous 5000 Years“). Working in the “humans are now the dominant forcing” part is a good idea. Cook explains the origin of these one-liners in a 2010 post, “Rebutting skeptic arguments in a single line.” I have included the longer ‘paragraph’ rebuttals, which any CP reader who plans to speak out on this subject — in public or just with friends and associates — should also be familiar with.
Skeptic Rebuttal One Liners
via 99 One-Liners Rebutting Denier Talking Points — With Links To The Full Climate Science | ThinkProgress. via 99 One-Liners Rebutting Denier Talking Points — With Links To The Full Climate Science | ThinkProgress.
How climate change looks — and feels — in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
KISANGANI – The searing heat of the last few months in this northern city of the Democratic Republic of Congo is taking its toll. Newborns, the elderly and albinos are the first victims, while others will feel the effects of the crop damage expected from one of the worst heat waves in memory.
Over the past three months, average temperatures in Kisangani have risen from 25°C to 38°C. “This is a first. The city has never known a level over 32°C,” says one veteran meteorologist.
Still, last year there was also a rise in temperatures, and some experts are blaming global warming. Climate expert Emmanuel Kasongo from Kisangani University points the finger at deforestation, which he says “diminishes the frequency of rainfall, modifies the agricultural calendar and produces greater heat.” He exhorts the woodland farmers as well as the population to plant trees.
Beyond the longterm impact, locals are feeling the heat right now. Babies are the first victims. One naked infant of three months is lying face down on a sofa, crying. Her mother tries to take her in her arms to calm her down but it’s useless. “She’s having trouble sleeping because of this red patch,” says the woman. “I’ve been using this ointment the doctor prescribed but it doesn’t work.”
These last three months, the local pediatric center of Alabul has taken in three times as many dehydrated babies as it did during the same period in 2012. Head nurse Alphie Kahambu blames it on the rising temperatures: “Obviously, when it’s 32°C the babies feel 38°C. It results in spots and severe itching sensations. As the infants don’t know how to scratch, they cry a lot, which leads to dehydration.”
Albinos without sunblock
The significant populaiton of albinos are the most affected, since the sun rays cause lesions on their skin. According to the figures provided by the Association for the Protection of Albinos (APRODEPA), “80% of the albino population suffers from minor wounds on their skin and mouth because of the high temperatures,” explains association president Severin Ndumba. “The situation is getting worse since we have no sunscreen to protect us at this time of year.”
The pharmacists refuse to order those products since they don’t sell well on the local market. “No one buys sunscreen. I threw away a whole case of a hundred last year,” says one pharmacist. Another complains that the products are expensive “and most albinos, or their parents, are poor.”
The sheet metal roofs used in local building turn the houses into virtual ovens and many families choose to sleep outside with the doors and windows wide open. One family was robbed recently, but the mother says they have no choice. “It’s too hot inside. My kids caught a heat rash on their backs because of it.”
The plants are also taking a hit. “Every crop is affected by the excessive heat and the harvests have been dropping the last two years,” explains Quadratus Muganza, president of the peasant union for development (UPDKIS). “We used to harvest between 800 and 1000 kilograms of white rice per hectare in 2010, but it plummeted to 400 or 600 in 2011 and 2012.”
Tomatoes are withering under the sun. “We are losing serious money!” says a tomato farmer in front of his field by the river Tshopo. She’s already lost ten patches of large tomatoes since March.
IF you haven’t seen them on the television or come across their interviews on the radio or in newspapers and magazines, then you’ve almost certainly seen their work as your eyes scan the climate change section in your local book store or library.
They are the authors of books claiming to reveal the “real truth” about global warming and climate change – that it’s either all a hoax, that it’s overblown bad science from green ideologues or an elaborate illusion and wrongheaded nonsense.
You might have been intrigued by titles like “An Appeal To Reason: A Cool Look At Global Warming“, “The Climate Caper” or the subtle sledgehammer that was “Global Warming and Other Bollocks”.
But new research into the origins and authors of more than 100 of these climate science denial books finds almost all of them – about four out of five – are largely the products of conservative-leaning think tanks.
The research finds the books avoid traditional academic peer-review and are often written by non-experts. Dr Riley Dunlap, of Oklahoma State University, and Peter Jacques, of the University of Central Florida, have published their research – Climate Change Denial Books and Conservative Think Tanks: Exploring the Connection – in the journal American Behavioural Scientist.
Sponsoring books “espousing climate change denial” has been a key tool for conservative think tanks to get the climate science denial message out to corporations, politicians and media leaders.
They are clearly a vital weapon in the conservative movement’s war on climate science, and one of the key means by which it diffuses climate change denial throughout American society and into other nations.
Getting a book published helps authors to be seen as ‘climate experts’ even if they don’t have the relevant academic expertise. They get interviewed and quoted by mainstream media and name-dropped by conservative politicians and corporate bosses. “Books confer a sense of legitimacy on their authors and provide them an effective tool for combating findings of climate scientists,” the researchers say.
The study covers the publication of 108 books between 1982 and 2010. To qualify as a denial book, the authors had to either reject the position that global warming was happening, that it was caused by humans or that the impacts on society and the environment would be negative. When the researchers looked at the qualifications of the 106 authors, co-authors or editors of the books, they found less than 40 per cent had anything close to a relevant academic degree. None of the books were published by a university-affiliated publishing house and almost all were unlikely to have gone through any kind of academic peer-review.
The general lack of peer-review allows authors or editors of denial books to make inaccurate assertions that misrepresent the current state of climate science. Like the vast range of other non-peer-reviewed material produced by the denial community, book authors can make whatever claims they wish, no matter how scientifically unfounded.
The very first climate denial book, according to the study, was Sherwood Idso’s Carbon Dioxide:Friend or Foe published in 1982, but there were no more denial books until 1989, at which point three or four were produced each year.
But in 2007, the number spiked to 13. In 2008, there were 14; 2009 got 21 and 2010 had 15. The authors put the sudden surge of denialism on the bookshelves down to Al Gore‘s 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fourth major report which laid the blame for global warming primarily with human causes.
Most of the books covered have US origins, but the study also shows how they have been used to promote climate science denial in other nations, in particular the UK, Canada and Australia.
While not covered in the research, many of the conservative think tanks involved have accepted cash from fossil fuel interests over the years, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute, The Cato Institute, George C. Marshall Institute, and The Heartland Institute. Others, such as the Institute of Public Affairs in Australia or the Global Warming Policy Foundation in the UK, have consistently refused to reveal their donors.
Dr Dunlap told DeSmogBlog that it was hard to quantify accurately the impact the books had had on policy debates and the public perception of climate change science, but he said:
Keep in mind that they are just a small part of the wealth of material that conservative think tanks put out or help produce on climate change denial – there are reports, op-eds and TV interviews. But I do think that the better selling ones, almost always connected to a conservative think tanks, get a good deal of visibility. They are commonplace in major bookstores, where they are viewed if not bought by a huge number of people browsing the shelves. I think they clearly reinforce the message that climate change is not a threat, and maybe even a hoax, that is constantly put out by the conservative think tanks. Books tend to convey some degree of (false) credibility on their authors, allowing them to be viewed as “experts” despite their lack of scientific expertise. In the case of the successful books, I think this results in at least some interviews on TV and radio, and thus their messages are greatly amplified.
So what should readers do if they want to inform themselves on climate change? Dr Dunlap has some advice:
At a minimum, readers should be cautious if there is any indication that the authors or editors are affiliated with a conservative think tank and/or if the book is published by one. More generally, I strongly recommend that people consult Google Scholar to see if an author has credibility. If a book author is making contributions to the scholarly literature, he or she is going to have publications in peer-reviewed journals and be cited by others. I urge readers to be leery of anyone who is not publishing in scholarly journals and especially those who are not cited in such literature. Google Scholar, unlike the Science Citation Index, is freely available to everyone with access to Google, and lay people can learn a great deal more by consulting it that by simply browsing the web.
Shell is a name already infamous with many campaigners. Be they concerned with climate change, human rights abuses or health and safety, the Royal Dutch Shell group has a sullied reputation and not only among environmentalists: In September 1993 the TGWU (transport and general workers union) launched a nationwide boycott of Shell petrol stations due to union derecognition at their Shell haven refinery in Essex.
Shell now paints itself as a caring company wishing to dissociate itself from past ‘mistakes’ in Nigeria and ‘accidents’ in the North Sea.
Some of the examples here are historical, but they give an insight into Shell’s culture and despite liberal greenwash, things haven’t really changed so there are more recent examples as well.
When it withdrew from the Global Climate Coalition in 1998 (see Influence/Lobbying section) Shell wished to be seen as one of the pioneer corporations, taking climate change seriously. Even before it withdrew from the GCC, Shell had been attempting to cultivate this image. In May 1997, the day after John Browne gave his speech at Stanford university stating that BP had reached a point where it must consider “the policy dimensions of climate change” (see BP profile), Heinz Rothermund, Managing director of Shell UK Exploration and Production, asked in a lecture he gave at Strathclyde University, “How far is it sensible to explore for and develop new hydrocarbon reserves, given that the atmosphere may not be able to cope with the greenhouse gases that will emanate from the utilisation of the hydrocarbon reserves discovered already? Undoubtedly it is a dilemma”.
Shell, however has not translated this concern into action, it has not ceased or scaled back its exploration and production activities. Quite the opposite, Shell has ambitious plans to increase extraction by 5 per-cent year on year. So far the company is on target: “Compared to the third quarter last year, total hydrocarbon production increased by 5 per-cent”. However, a question mark hangs over the potential for sustained growth at this rate: Phil Watts, delivering the group’s 2nd quarter results for 2001 said that plans to grow output by 5 per-cent between 2000 and 2005 now looked “Very challenging” amid the slowing world economy. Analysts predicted that Shell could scale back its growth target to 3 per-cent, but Mr. Watts refused to be drawn on a figure for longer- term production growth.
Scaling back production does not suit a company like Shell whose worth, despite some investments in renewables, is measured in production volumes and proven reserves. In June 1990, the then chairman and Chief Executive Designate of Shell UK, Sir John Collins, suggested that we “see this great challenge [climate change] as a spur to ingenuity, the free market and sustainable economic development.” So Shell has opted for a techno-fix: In 2000, Shell, together with Siemens began developing a pilot gas-fired power station in Norway, which will capture its Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions and pump the gas underground. There are both technical and ethical questions over the use of this unproven technology in combating climate change. Most bizarrely of all, CO2 injection will be used for what is known as ‘enhanced oil recovery’ gas will be injected to increase the pressure of declining fields. What is sold to the public as a solution to climate change will actually be used to extract more oil.
In accepting the reality of climate change, Shell announced in 1989 that the company was going to increase the height of its giant ‘Troll’ platform by 1 meter, to counter predicted rise in sea-level. The platform can be raised further if it becomes necessary over the proposed 70 year lifespan of the rig
In Doha, another round of climate talks comes to a close with promises to come back next time and continue arguing the same old points again and do as much as is required to fobb off the electorate in the interim.
Essentially the third world countries got a bollocking for cutting down their trees and not hugging tigers, the capitalist western rich climate destroying nations got moaned at for paying lip service to the whole thing.
The Americans don’t want to pay for climate change because ‘they didn’t mean it’ all they wanted do do was make harmless trillions by filling the air with chemicals for which they take no responsibility whatsoever.
Who knew right?
Everyone did, including the Americans!
There then followed much niggling about the ‘exact wording’ of this and that, some clapping, patting of backs and then a chorus of ‘Thanks F*ck that’s over for another year’ by all concerned.
They then jumped into their bird killing jets, ate a dinner that cost more money than a Somalian Village earns in a year, typed texts and emails on a variety of far-from-carbon-neutral mobile devices and then went home to prepare for another extravagant Christmas.
Dr Kelly Michaels from Sevenoaks University has calculated that the annual cost of Hypocrisy is roughly equivalent to that of the Italian national debt (a sum so large that it requires a specially designed wide-screen cash-point to display).
Calls for an anti-hypocrisy summit have thus far fallen on deaf ears as most governments would have little to say at such an event without contravening its underlying principle.
Meanwhile, polar bears are eating their cubs, more bad things ‘the size of Belgium’ are happening each years, four orangutans die to make one packet of jammy dodgers and China has started paying for fish with giant pandas because they’re too bloody expensive to look after and it gives them an air of environmental benevolence.
God, as usual, is keeping very tight lipped over the whole affair.
Sometimes it’s good to be reminded about reality—in that painful, cold shower kind of way. And British climatologist Professor Sir Bob Watson, former chair of the IPCC, pulled no punches during a withering, breathless indictment of climate inaction yesterday in his keynote address at the American Geophysical Union Fall meeting in San Francisco.
Perhaps the best thing to do is present to you with Sir Watson’s conclusion, delivered at the crescendo of an hour-long lecture. It’s what could be called the ultimate climate change stump speech:
We are not on a pathway to a two degree world—much more likely three to five. Climate change is not just an energy issue, but it’s the way we manage our land: We’ve got a major challenge producing the food we need for 9 billion people by 2050, whilst simultaneously reducing emissions by agriculture. We absolutely need governance reform from the national to the global level. Vested interests in certain parts of industry are controlling the debate… We’ve got to eliminate perverse subsidies in transportation, energy and agriculture. They do little for the federal treasury, and they adversely affect the environment. We need to incentivize new policies to get them to penetrate the marketplace, some of the new renewable energy policies. We clearly need an Apollo-scale project on things such as carbon capture and storage. No single country should go it alone: We need Europe to work together with the US, Japan, China, and the private sector for the technologies we need for tomorrow. It’s quite clear: there are cost-effective and equitable solutions to climate change, but we need more leadership, political will—they both seem to be in short supply at the moment—and it will require substantial changes in policies, practices and technologies, and they’re not currently underway.
In an introduction, World Bank president Dr. Jim Yong Kim writes that he hopes the report “shocks us into action.” The impacts of 4-degree warming cited in the report include:
By the end of the century, sea-levels will rise by one meter or more as the ice sheets in Greenland and the West Antarctic.
Ocean acidity will increase 150 percent.
Agricultural production will decrease in many areas.
Water resources will be strained.
Major ecosystems like coral reefs and the Amazon rainforest will be destroyed.
Of course an average of 4 degrees warming across the globe doesn’t look the same everywhere. Some areas are wetter. Some are drier. Some will actually be 6 degrees warmer. Some get cyclones. Some get floods. All together, the report finds that it will be very bad, particular for the poorest and most vulnerable communities.
Here’s why the World Bank cares:
It seems clear that climate change in a 4°C world could seriously undermine poverty alleviation in many regions. This is supported by past observations of the negative effects of climate change on economic growth in developing countries. While developed countries have been and are projected to be adversely affected by impacts resulting from climate change, adaptive capacities in developing regions are weaker. The burden of climate change in the future will very likely be borne differentially by those in regions already highly vulnerable to climate change and variability. Given that it remains uncertain whether adaptation and further progress toward development goals will be possible at this level of climate change, the projected 4°C warming simply must not be allowed to occur—the heat must be turned down. Only early, cooperative, international actions can make that happen.
The report comes just ahead of the 18th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which begins on Nov. 26. Three years ago, leaders agreed to limit global warming to 2 degrees as part of a non-binding political accord. But that plan is really just on paper; the science shows that the world is on path to churn right past 2 degrees and hit 4 degrees by 2100. Nations don’t seem likely to take the much-more aggressive measures necessary to hit that target any time soon.
WASHINGTON, Nov 18 (Reuters) – All nations will suffer the effects of a warmer world, but it is the world’s poorest countries that will be hit hardest by food shortages, rising sea levels, cyclones and drought, the World Bank said in a report on climate change.
Under new World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, the global development lender has launched a more aggressive stance to integrate climate change into development.
“We will never end poverty if we don’t tackle climate change. It is one of the single biggest challenges to social justice today,” Kim told reporters on a conference call on Friday.
The report, called “Turn Down the Heat,” highlights the devastating impact of a world hotter by 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, a likely scenario under current policies, according to the report.
Climate change is already having an effect: Arctic sea ice reached a record minimum in September, and extreme heat waves and drought in the last decade have hit places like the United States and Russia more often than would be expected from historical records, the report said.
Such extreme weather is likely to become the “new normal” if the temperature rises by 4 degrees, according to the World Bank report. This is likely to happen if not all countries comply with pledges they have made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Even assuming full compliance, the world will warm by more than 3 degrees by 2100.
In this hotter climate, the level of the sea would rise by up to 3 feet, flooding cities in places like Vietnam and Bangladesh. Water scarcity and falling crop yields would exacerbate hunger and poverty.
Extreme heat waves would devastate broad swaths of the earth’s land, from the Middle East to the United States, the report says. The warmest July in the Mediterranean could be 9 degrees hotter than it is today — akin to temperatures seen in the Libyan desert.
The combined effect of all these changes could be even worse, with unpredictable effects that people may not be able to adapt to, said John Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, which along with Climate Analytics prepared the report for the World Bank.
“If you look at all these things together, like organs cooperating in a human body, you can think about acceleration of this dilemma,” said Schellnhuber, who studied chaos theory as a physicist. “The picture reads that this is not where we want the world to go.”
SHOCKED INTO ACTION
As the first scientist to head the World Bank, Kim has pointed to “unequivocal” scientific evidence for man-made climate change to urge countries to do more.
Kim said 97 percent of scientists agree on the reality of climate change.
“It is my hope that this report shocks us into action,” Kim, writes in the report.
Scientists are convinced that global warming in the past century is caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases produced by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. These findings by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were recognized by the national science academies of all major industrialized nations in a joint statement in 2010.
Kim said the World Bank plans to further meld climate change with development in its programs.
Last year, the Bank doubled its funding for countries seeking to adapt to climate change, and now operates $7.2 billion in climate investment funds in 48 countries.
The World Bank study comes as almost 200 nations will meet in Doha, Qatar, from Nov. 26 to Dec. 7 to try to extend the Kyoto Protocol, the existing plan for curbing greenhouse gas emissions by developed nations that runs to the end of the year.
They have been trying off and on since Kyoto was agreed in 1997 to widen limits on emissions but have been unable to find a formula acceptable to both rich and poor nations.
Emerging countries like China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, have said the main responsibility to cut emissions lies with developed nations, which had a headstart in sparking global warming.
Combating climate change also poses a challenge for the poverty-fighting World Bank: how to balance global warming with immediate energy needs in poor countries.
In 2010, the World Bank approved a $3.75 billion loan to develop a coal-fired power plant in South Africa despite lack of support from the United States, Netherlands and Britain due to environmental concerns.
“There really is no alternative to urgent action given the devastating consequences of climate change,” global development group Oxfam said in a statement. “Now the question for the World Bank is how it will ensure that all of its investments respond to the imperatives of the report.”
Kim said the World Bank tries to avoid investing in coal unless there are no other options.
“But at the same time, we are the group of last resort in finding needed energy in countries that are desperately in search of it,” he said.