Sunday, August 05, 2018

Facts of Week: Heatwaves the new normal of climate change

Bering Sea ice at record low — April 29, 2013 - April 29, 2018

Less ice formed in the Bering Sea during the winter of 2017-18 than in any winter since the start of written records in 1850. Normally, ice covers more than 193,000 square miles (500,000 square kilometers) of the sea in late April, roughly twice the size of Texas. The ice extent at that time in 2018 was only about 10 percent of normal. Changes in when and where the sea ice melts can affect phytoplankton blooms which, in turn, can affect the entire Bering ecosystem. Further, open water absorbs more of the Sun’s energy than ice, which contributes to the planet’s warming. Read more at NASA’s Earth Observatory

It's a fair guess that many climate change deniers who seek 100% irrefutable evidence of climate change, believe in a God despite no evidence of its existence.

In the industrial age from the 1750s, the elimination of forests while pumping huge amounts of pollutants into the atmosphere, in particular in the past century, intuitively suggest that there must have been some impact on climate systems.   

June 2018 continued the warming trend of the past 40 years. According to the monthly analysis of global temperatures by scientists at the American National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, the past month surpassed the 1951-1980 June mean by +0.77°C. It tied with June 1998 as the third warmest June in 138 years of modern record-keeping, with only June 2015 and 2016 (+0.80°C and +0.79°C) being warmer.

NASA said the mean temperature anomalies of +0.77°C for both June 1998 and June 2018 cannot be distinguished from each other given the uncertainty of the measurement. However, June 1998 was exceptionally warm at the time due to the then prevailing strong El Niño conditions — about 0.33°C above the trend line of the late 1990s. In contrast, the current El Niño phase is considered neutral. The temperature anomaly for June 2018 is similar to other recent monthly mean temperature anomalies and lies within the expected range of +0.75±0.05°C.

NASA's images of change from across the world

David Powell of the New Economics Foundation wrote this week:

The newspapers read like something from a dystopian sci-fi film about a world ravaged by climate breakdown. But it’s today, and it’s real. 

Heat records are being smashed. Deadly wildfires are sweeping across Greece and far beyond; there are even some in the Arctic Circle — the Arctic, for heaven’s sake. We had our own taste, on Saddleworth Moor. The three hottest months of June ever have all come in the past four years. It’s a season in the sun for climate scientists, who are saying: this is what we expected, get used to it. A new report from Parliament’s green watchdog agrees. This stuff kills people.

We should be freaking out. But we’re not, are we? Not in our guts. Not properly. Not even, really, at all.

It’s easy enough to have pops at the Government’s increasingly Janus-faced cognitive dissonance – with ministers slipping between trying to badge the UK as world leaders on climate change while merrily giving the green light to fracking.

But where’s the UK left, right now, on climate change?

It’s not a question of knowledge. Progressives get it – intellectually speaking. You’d have to be a bit of a doofus not to. Climate change is clearly a problem. A great big, era-defining, ecology-changing, civilisation-disrupting Problem. And it makes logical sense for us as a matter of justice. We know it will make life tougher for people and places where life is already tough, and that those that who do the least to cause the problem are left on the sharp end: more likely to be displaced, or starved, or flooded, or dead. 

But brains and hearts are different things. For some on the left, environmental justice remains as important to their DNA as any other type of justice: their heart always has been, and still is, firmly in it. But more generally, some things still feel a bit… lacking.

This week also, in The New York Times Ian Austen wrote:

But here’s the thing: The world had an opportunity to prevent all this. We fumbled it. Nathaniel Rich spend a year and a half reporting a two-part article for The New York Times Magazine, where he is a writer at large, looking at the period between 1979 and 1989 when the causes and consequences of climate change first became well known.

What he discovered is as fascinating as it is frustrating.

“We had an excellent opportunity to solve the climate crisis,” Nathaniel wrote. “The world’s major powers came within several signatures of endorsing a binding, global framework to reduce carbon emissions — far closer than we’ve come since. During those years, the conditions for success could not have been more favorable. The obstacles we blame for our current inaction had yet to emerge. Almost nothing stood in our way — nothing except ourselves.”

The Economist wrote this week that “The world is losing the war against climate change Rising energy demand means use of fossil fuels is heading in the wrong direction.

EARTH is smouldering. From Seattle to Siberia this summer, flames have consumed swathes of the northern hemisphere. One of 18 wildfires sweeping through California, among the worst in the state’s history, is generating such heat that it created its own weather. Fires that raged through a coastal area near Athens last week killed 91 (see article). Elsewhere people are suffocating in the heat. Roughly 125 have died in Japan as the result of a heatwave that pushed temperatures in Tokyo above 40°C for the first time.

Such calamities, once considered freakish, are now commonplace. Scientists have long cautioned that, as the planet warms—it is roughly 1°C hotter today than before the industrial age’s first furnaces were lit—weather patterns will go berserk. An early analysis has found that this sweltering European summer would have been less than half as likely were it not for human-induced global warming.

Yet as the impact of climate change becomes more evident, so too does the scale of the challenge ahead. Three years after countries vowed in Paris to keep warming “well below” 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels, greenhouse-gas emissions are up again. So are investments in oil and gas. In 2017, for the first time in four years, demand for coal rose. Subsidies for renewables, such as wind and solar power, are dwindling in many places and investment has stalled; climate-friendly nuclear power is expensive and unpopular. It is tempting to think these are temporary setbacks and that mankind, with its instinct for self-preservation, will muddle through to a victory over global warming. In fact, it is losing the war.

Fortune Magazine reports that the 'Trump Administration Claims Fuel Efficiency Puts Drivers' Lives at Risk'

Fuel efficiency is dangerous for drivers, the Trump administration claims.

Low carbon fuel standards designed to encourage the use of cleaner fuels pose dangers to drivers, the Trump administration said in proposals accessed by the Associated Press. The administration’s rationale is that if people’s cars get better gas mileage, they will drive more, and thus face more risk. Fuel efficiency standards required of new cars had been toughened up during the Obama era.

The Trump administration gave notice earlier this year that it would roll back the fuel standards put into place under former President Barack Obama. Anticipating the new regulation, California and 16 other states sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in May.

The Economist's Charlemagne columnist writes on Germany's current über-pessimism:

Pessimism, and the associated perfectionism, may be a German strength—but in moderation. And that moderation risks succumbing to the latest bout of hyperventilating self-denigration, along with basic facts about the state of the country. Germany’s economy, for example, is powering ahead. Unemployment is at a record low, and exports are booming. Its infrastructure is among the best in the world. Inequality remains lower than in most other rich countries and the quality of life higher (the fourth best in the world, according to the UN’s Human Development Index). German politics, it is true, is fragmenting, as in other European countries, but Mrs Merkel remains a sensible and decent leader, and moderate forces still dominate.

And the immigrants? By April this year 26% of refugees admitted to Germany since 2015 were in employment, more than expected. Crime fell to a 30-year low last year, with the largest long-term falls among immigrants.

Reuters: US economy is a year away from surpassing the record 120-month 1991-2001 expansion

US economic growth will probably slow gradually over the next two years and the threat of a trade war has made a recession more likely, a recent Reuters poll predicted.

A majority of bond market experts in a separate poll now predict a yield curve inversion in the next one to two years, a red flag for those who believe short-term yields rising above longer-term yields means an imminent recession.

“Almost every client meeting includes questions about where the economy and markets sit in the cycle,” JPMorgan head of cross-asset fundamental strategy John Normand wrote in a recent research note.

The US economy is a year away from surpassing the record 120-month 1991-2001 expansion, according to data from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The stock market bull run is also nearing a record. Bull markets are typically measured retroactively, but US equities could hit their longest bull run in history on Aug. 22, according to S&P.

Fortune Magazine reported that buoyed by a stronger than expected earnings report for the second quarter on Tuesday, Apple has become the first American company ever to be worth over $1 trillion. Shares of the iPhone maker closed at $207.39 Thursday, lifting the company’s market cap to about $1.001 trillion.

Shares of the company rose 3% Thursday, and are up about 31% over the past year.

"Other tech giants have approached $1 trillion in market cap, but still lag behind Apple. Amazon’s valuation stands at around $877 million, while Alphabet’s net worth is $851 million and Microsoft is worth about $822 million. Facebook was also in the hunt for a $1 trillion market cap, until a stock collapse last week dramatically cut the company’s market cap to $504 million as of Thursday’s trading."

Eurostat reported that at the end of the first quarter of 2018, the government debt to GDP ratio in the Euro Area (EA19) stood at 86.8%, compared with 86.7% at the end of the fourth quarter of 2017. In the EU28, the ratio decreased from 81.6% to 81.5%. Compared with the first quarter of 2017, the government debt to GDP ratio fell in both the euro area (from 89.2% to 86.8%) and the EU28 (from 83.6% to 81.5%). Detail