Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Abstract of new article below finds that natural cycles explain variations in activity from year to year:

Multi-decadal variability of Atlantic hurricane activity: 1851-2007

By Petr Chylek and Glen Lesins

An analysis of Atlantic hurricane data (HURDAT), using a hurricane activity index that integrates over hurricane numbers, durations and strengths during the years 1851-2007, suggests a quasi-periodic behavior with a period around 60 years superimposed upon a linearly increasing background. The linearly increasing background is significantly reduced or removed when various corrections were applied for hurricane under-counting in the early portion of the record. The periodic-like behavior is persistent in uncorrected HURDAT data as well as in data corrected for possible missing storms. The record contains two complete cycles: 1860-1920 and 1920-1980. The 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons were unusual in that two intense hurricane seasons occurred in consecutive years. The probability for this happening in any given year is estimated to be less then 1%. Comparing the last 28 years (1980-2007) with the preceding 28 years (1953-1980) we find a modest increase in the number of minor hurricanes (category 1 and 2), however, we find no increase in the number of major hurricanes (category 3-5). The hurricane activity index is found to be highly correlated with the Atlantic Multi-decadal Mode (AMM). If there is an increase in hurricane activity connected to a greenhouse gas induced global warming, it is currently obscured by the 60 year quasi-periodic cycle.

J. Geophys. Res., In press


The authors attribute the change to currents but an upsurge in subsurface vulcanism could also explain the sudden onset

Acceleration of Jakobshavn Isbrae triggered by warm subsurface ocean waters

By David M. Holland et al.

Observations over the past decades show a rapid acceleration of several outlet glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica. One of the largest changes is a sudden switch of Jakobshavn Isbrae, a large outlet glacier feeding a deep-ocean fjord on Greenland's west coast, from slow thickening to rapid thinning in 1997, associated with a doubling in glacier velocity. Suggested explanations for the speed-up of Jakobshavn Isbrae include increased lubrication of the ice-bedrock interface as more meltwater has drained to the glacier bed during recent warmer summers and weakening and break-up of the floating ice tongue that buttressed the glacier. Here we present hydrographic data that show a sudden increase in subsurface ocean temperature in 1997 along the entire west coast of Greenland, suggesting that the changes in Jakobshavn Isbrae were instead triggered by the arrival of relatively warm water originating from the Irminger Sea near Iceland. We trace these oceanic changes back to changes in the atmospheric circulation in the North Atlantic region. We conclude that the prediction of future rapid dynamic responses of other outlet glaciers to climate change will require an improved understanding of the effect of changes in regional ocean and atmosphere circulation on the delivery of warm subsurface waters to the periphery of the ice sheets.

Nature Geoscience 1, 659 - 664 (2008)


Is this the beginning of the end?

Representatives of German business have called for a moratorium on any European Union legislation that would impose higher costs on companies at a time when they are grappling with the fallout from the financial crisis. Two of Germany's largest trade bodies said Brussels should think carefully about putting additional burdens on business given the potential of the financial crisis to weaken the "real economy". "We've got to ask whether certain measures, including environmental legislation, are responsible given the economic outlook," Hanns-Eberhard Schleyer, general secretary of German Confederation of Skilled Crafts, told the Financial Times.

The call for a legislative pause was tabled ahead of a week in which the government is expected to slash its economic growth forecast as the outlook for domestic companies darkens. Crucial export markets like the US, the UK and Spain face almost certain recession while anaemic domestic demand is likely to weaken still further as German consumers tighten their belts.

There are also signs that businesses are beginning to have problems drawing credit. Although threequarters of the 3,500 businesses surveyed by the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) had experienced no deterioration in credit conditions in the past year, about a quarter said financing had become more difficult, while 2 per cent of businesses said they had been denied credit.

European carmakers faced with falling sales have asked Brussels for a $55bn loan package to help them meet stringent emissions targets. One in seven German jobs is linked to the motor industry.

Meanwhile, heavy industry has stepped up its condemnation of proposals endorsed last week by the European parliament's environment committee that would force businesses to pay for the carbon dioxide they emit. Speaking to the FT, representatives of the German Mittelstand - the small and medium-sized businesses that form the backbone of the economy - added their own voice to the fight against the compulsory purchase of emissions permits.



You might call it the fourth crisis. While collapsing financial institutions plunge wealthy nations into recession and developing countries grapple with surging food and energy costs, the once urgent need to fight global warming seems to have taken a back seat. Just last year, nearly every global and regional summit put climate change at the top of its agenda. Now it seems to have become an afterthought.

Gathered for the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, the world's finance ministers promised over the weekend in Washington to do everything they could to stabilize financial markets.

IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn warned wealthy nations not to forget about "the other crisis." About 100 million people have been plunged back into poverty because of higher food and petrol prices, which have prompted riots in dozens of countries over the last year.

All this leaves the issue of climate change out in the cold.

More here

Kyoto treaty 'a waste of time' say half of Australians

Mr Rudd's much-lauded ratification of the Kyoto Protocol has had no beneficial effect on climate change, said 44 per cent of 1122 news.com.au readers. Just 14 per cent of people said Kyoto had helped curb the effects of climate change. Another 41 per cent believed more time was needed before any result was apparent.

The Government is acting on the concerns Australians have about the issue, a spokeswoman for climate change minister Penny Wong says. "The Rudd Government understands that Australians want to tackle climate change and we have set out a plan to do so," the spokeswoman said. "Our plan to tackle climate change has three pillars: reducing carbon pollution, helping to shape a global solution, and adapting to the climate change we can't avoid." A proposed carbon reduction scheme is one of the ways to help fight climate change, she says.

Men are far more likely to be climate change sceptics than women, according to the survey. While 85 per cent of women said there was enough evidence to link human activity to climate change, only 54 per of men agreed. Men were also twice as likely as women to believe Australia's signing of the Kyoto Protocol was of no benefit. About 55 per cent of Australians believed climate change would alter day-to-day life over the next decade, and about half said it was "truly possible" to resolve the issue. Two-thirds of Australians said they took environmental factors into consideration when buying goods.



Open Europe has produced the first independent estimate of the cost and wider effects of the EU's new package of climate change measures, currently under negotiation. The outcome of the package is of particular concern at a time when Europe stands on the brink of an economic slowdown, and in some member states, recession.

The plan is the most ambitious EU programme since the launch of the euro. The package, which sets a 20% target for overall emissions reduction by 2020, includes binding targets for 20% of energy to be sourced from renewables and for 10% of transport fuels to come from biofuels. For the UK, the proposals would mean sourcing around 40% of electricity from renewable sources (up from under 5% today), a massive overhaul in Britain's entire energy infrastructure. The package will also make a number of important changes to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, raising concerns over the continuing viability of certain heavy industries in Europe.

Huge economic costs: We estimate that the cost of the package as a whole will be more than 73 billion euro per year by 2020 for the EU 25, and œ9bn per year for the UK.

Higher costs mean more fuel poverty: The package would add 130 - 200 pounds a year to the annual domestic energy bill for a family of four in Britain. This has the potential to push one million extra people into fuel poverty. In terms of its overall economic burden, the package will cost the equivalent of 150 pounds per person per year, or 600 per family of four per year in the UK. This would rise to almost 730 per year if renewable energy technology remains at current levels.

Unnecessarily high costs: Importantly, the study concludes that the EU's proposals are an overpriced solution to climate change. We estimate that the cost of carbon abatement under the package will be 80 - 105 euro/tonne CO2. This is more than double the UK Government's benchmark shadow cost of carbon (42 euro/tonne in 2020), and the estimate of consultants McKinsey of 40 euro/tonne for bringing emissions down to safe levels.

Cost-effectiveness of green policies is now more important than ever: At a time of financial crisis, rising energy costs and the likelihood of economic downturn in Europe, it is essential that climate change policy is cost-effective and reduces carbon emissions with the lowest possible economic impact.

Tough negotiations lie ahead over the next two months: Key elements of the plan were approved by the European Parliament's Environment Committee on Tuesday 7 October. However, the bulk of the negotiations lie ahead. EU heads of state and government will discuss the package at the European Summit next week (15 - 16 October), and it will come before EU Environment Ministers during the EU Environment Council meeting on the 20 - 22 October. The French Presidency of the EU wants to complete the entire process by the end of this year, but faces opposition from some member states such as Poland.

Hugo Robinson, Open Europe Research Director and author of the report said: "At a time of rising energy bills and worries over the economy, the EU's climate change package is the last thing that hard-pressed consumers need.

Now more than ever, it should be obvious that we need to reduce carbon emissions as efficiently and cheaply as possible - but the EU proposals are extremely bad value for money. This means we will pay far more than necessary in fighting climate change; or put another way, we could spend the same amount of money and reduce emissions by a lot more.

It is legitimate for the EU to set targets for absolute carbon emissions reductions, which should be our ultimate priority. However, it is wrong for Brussels to micromanage national energy planning by setting binding targets for renewables and biofuels. This will artificially drive investment towards very high-cost methods of cutting carbon.

The politicians who sign up to this deal will be out of office in ten years time - but pensioners and the poor who will be left with the biggest bills."

To view the full report, "The EU Climate Action and Renewable Energy Package - Are we about to be locked into the wrong policy?", click here (PDF).



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