Explaining Extreme Events of 2013

A report released today investigates the causes of a wide variety of extreme weather and climate events from around the world in 2013. Published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, “Explaining Extreme Events of 2013 from a Climate Perspective (link is external)” addresses the causes of 16 individual extreme events that occurred on four continents in 2013. NOAA scientists served as three of the four lead editors on the report.

Of the five heat waves studied in the report, human-caused climate change was found to have clearly increased the severity and likelihood of those events. On the other hand, for other events examined like droughts, heavy rain events, and storms, fingerprinting the influence of human activity was more challenging. Human influence on these kinds of events—primarily through the burning of fossil fuels—was sometimes evident, but often less clear, suggesting natural factors played a far more dominant role.

“This annual report contributes to a growing field of science which helps communities, businesses and nations alike understand the impacts of natural and human-caused climate change,” said Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D., director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. “The science remains challenging, but the environmental intelligence it yields to decision makers is invaluable and the demand is ever-growing.”

Confidence in the role of climate change about any one event is increased when multiple groups using independent methods come to similar conclusions. For example, in this report, five independent research teams looked at specific factors related to the record heat in Australia in 2013. Each consistently found that human-caused climate change increased the likelihood and severity of that event. However, for the California drought, which was investigated by three teams from the United States, human factors were found not to have influenced the lack of rainfall. One team found evidence that atmospheric pressure patterns increased due to human causes, but the influence on the California drought remains uncertain.

When human influence for an event cannot be conclusively identified with the scientific tools available today, this means that if there is a human contribution, it cannot be distinguished from natural climate variability.

“There is great scientific value in having multiple studies analyze the same extreme event to determine the underlying factors that may have influenced it,” said Stephanie C. Herring, PhD, lead editor for the report at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. “Results from this report not only add to our body of knowledge about what drives extreme events, but what the odds are of these events happening again—and to what severity.”

The report was edited by Herring, along with Martin P. Hoerling, NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory; Thomas Peterson, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, and Peter A. Stott, UK Met Office Hadley Centre and written by 92 scientists from 14 countries. View the full report online (link is external).

Also, view the slides for the media briefing on the “Explaining Extreme Events of 2013 from a Climate Perspective” report. More

 

Nation-building policies in Timor-Leste: disaster risk reduction, including climate change adaptation

“Nation building policies in Timor-Leste: disaster risk reduction, including climate change adaptation”.

Few studies have explored the relationships between nation-building, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Focusing on small island developing states, this paper examines nation-building in Timor-Leste, a small island developing state that recently achieved independence. Nation-building in Timor-Leste is explored in the context of disaster risk reduction, which necessarily includes climate change adaptation. The study presents a synopsis of Timor-Leste's history and its nation-building efforts as well as an overview of the state of knowledge of disaster risk reduction including climate change adaptation. It also offers an analysis of significant gaps and challenges in terms of vertical and horizontal governance, large donor presence, data availability and the integration of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation for nation-building in Timor-Leste. Relevant and applicable lessons are provided from other small island developing states to assist Timor-Leste in identifying its own trajectory out of underdevelopment while it builds on existing strengths.

  1. Jessica Mercer1,*,
  2. Ilan Kelman2,3,
  3. Francisco do Rosario4,
  4. Abilio de Deus de Jesus Lima5,
  5. Augusto da Silva6,
  6. Anna-Maija Beloff7 and
  7. Alex McClean8

Article first published online: 5 SEP 2014

DOI: 10.1111/disa.12082


http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/disa.12082/abstract

 

Leaders sign historic sustainable energy & climate resilient treaty

September 2: Over 150 delegates and members of the international development community from more than 45 countries were stunned to see leader after leader approach the podium to sign a historic sustainable energy and climate resilient treaty that will significantly change the lives and destiny of over 20 million small islanders, for the better.

Led by the Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, Hon. Fonotoe Nuafesili Pierre Lauofo, multiple leaders from the Pacific, Caribbean and African, Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea (AIMS) regions, forcefully raised their voices in unison and accepted responsibility for fulfilling the commitment to the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Sustainable Energy mechanism – SIDS DOCK. The opening for signature of this historic SIDS DOCK Treaty – a SIDS-SIDS Initiative – was a major highlight of the first day of the United Nations (UN) Third International Conference on SIDS, taking place in Apia, Samoa, from 1-4 September.

The unprecedented and unexpected number of Heads of State and Government present, sent a strong signal to the standing room only audience, the SIDS population and the international community, demonstrating how deeply committed SIDS leaders are and that they all firmly believe that SIDS must, have and will take responsibility for charting the future of their countries towards a path that would see a total transformation of the SIDS economy away from fossil fuels, to that of one driven by low carbon technologies. The event was considered so important to the Republic of Cabo Verde, that the Prime Minister, Hon. José Maria Neves, excused himself and his entire delegation from the Plenary Hall, to ensure that Cabo Verde, a SIDS DOCK Founding Member was well-represented at the signing – the Cabo Verde Government has one of the most ambitious plans in SIDS, that aims to achieve 100 penetration of renewable energies in Cabo Verde, by 2020.

More than half the members of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) were present for the signing of the historic treaty, witnessed by the SIDS DOCK partners Denmark, Japan and Austria, whose kind and generous support facilitated SIDS DOCK start -up activities; also present were SIDS DOCK partners, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Clinton

Foundation. The treaty was signed by the governments of Barbados, Belize, Bahamas (Commonwealth of the), Dominica (Commonwealth of), Cabo Verde (Republic of), Cook Islands, Dominican Republic, Fiji (Republic of), Grenada, Guinea Bissau, Kiribati (Republic of), Niue, Palau (Republic of), Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa (Independent State of), Seychelles (Republic of), and Tuvalu.

The Statute will remain open for signature in Apia, Samoa until September 5, and will reopen for signature in Belmopan, Belize, from September 6, 2014 until it enters into force. Belize is the host country for SIDS DOCK, with Samoa designated as the location for the Pacific regional office. More

 

 

 

Why Island Wisdom Is Crucial to Help the World Adapt and Prepare for the Im

For decades, small island countries have been warning the world about the consequences of climate change. While many countries have been debating whether climate change is even happening or who is to blame, small islands have just had to deal with its impact, from extreme weather to rising sea levels and increasing environmental vulnerability.

Major storms have always been a fact of life for small islands. But in recent years they have intensified in their destructive capabilities. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan struck the Caribbean island of Grenada, causing widespread destruction. The financial cost of the disaster was estimated at more than $900 million – more than twice the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Only 10 months later, the country was hit again, this time by Hurricane Emily, which caused another $50 million in damage.

In the Caribbean, changes in hurricane intensity and frequency could eventually result in additional annual losses of $450 million, largely due to disruption of a key source of revenue and jobs: tourism. Limited diversification and small market size means that small island economies are not resilient to disaster loss. This is true not just in the Caribbean, but the world over.

According to global risk models developed by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), six of the top 10 countries with the greatest proportion of resources at risk during hurricanes or cyclones are small islands. These losses will only increase due to sea-level rise, water scarcity, drought, and other factors.

The 38 small island developing states, which spread across the Caribbean, the Pacific and Indian Oceans, are not sitting and waiting for the next storm to hit. They have been taking measures to adapt to and manage the risks posed by climate change.

Several Caribbean islands came together seven years ago to create an insurance pool of easy-to-access disaster funding. Spreading the risk across countries reduces premiums and provides contributors with a safety net which can fund vital services when disaster strikes. Since 2007, more than $30 million has been paid out by the 16 participating countries. A similar initiative is under way in the Pacific region where the memories of the massive human toll and devastation due to Typhoon Haiyan that claimed more than 6,000 lives in the Philippines last November are still all too vivid.

Ideas and actions for reducing the risk from disasters will be at the forefront of the United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States, to be held in Samoa from 1-4 September. The Conference will be a showcase for those living on the frontlines of climate change and could have a lasting and positive influence on the post-2015 development agenda.

The Conference is an acknowledgement by all the countries of the world of the unique circumstances that small island developing countries face. Their size, combined with their remoteness, and economies of scale, have made it that much more difficult for small islands to implement measures to become resilient. This is compounded by the impacts of climate change, a problem that is hardly of their own making as they collectively contribute less than 1 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, many are striving to become carbon neutral by using renewable energy, improving energy efficiency, and offsetting their greenhouse gas emissions.

Next week’s conference in Samoa is the first of two critical global gatherings. Just a few weeks later, on 23 September in New York, UN Secretary-General will host heads of State, CEOs and civil society leaders at the Climate Summit. The Summit aims to spur accelerated and ambitious actions to reduce emissions and build resilience to climate change worldwide, from the largest countries to the smallest island States. It’s about turning promises into performance.

With international attention on small islands, climate change and the post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction, there has never been a better chance to turn the tide. Now is the time to listen, support and partner with those who have seen first-hand what climate change can do to your economy and your community. It would be one of the greatest tragedies of our time to continue to ignore the warnings from small islands; their issues will soon become our own. More

_________________

Han Seung-soo is the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Disaster Risk Reduction and Water and former Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea

 

Al Gore’s “Turning Point”

Eight years after Al Gore wrote a book and made a movie to impress upon us the “planetary emergency of global warming” (his subtitle for An Inconvenient Truth), he wrote an article with a more optimistic feel- ing in the 18 June 2014 issue of Rolling Stone. He begins “The Turning Point: New Hope for Climate” as follows:

Al Gore - Climate Reality Leadership Corp

In the struggle to solve the climate crisis, a powerful, largely unnoticed shift is taking place. The forward journey for human civilization will be difficult and dangerous, but it is now clear that we will ultimately prevail. The only question is how quickly we can accelerate and com- plete the transition to a low-carbon civilization.

The “surprising – even shocking – good news” is “our ability to convert sunshine into usable energy . . . much cheaper far more rapidly than anyone had predicted,” Gore writes: the cost of photovoltaic electricity is competitive with that from other sources in at least 79 countries, and the 43% decrease in cost of wind- generated electricity since 2009 has made it cheaper than coal-generated electricity. By 2020 more than 80% of world population will live where photovoltaic electricity is competi- tive with other sources.

As evidence of this “largely unnoticed shift,” he notes that Germany now generates 37% of its electricity from wind and solar, a percentage expected to reach 50% by 2020, and that nine of ten European coal and gas plants are losing money. Worldwide, capacity for 17 gi- gawatts of solar electricity was installed in 2010, for 39 in 2003, with expectations of 55 in 2014. China claims it will have a capacity of 70 solar gigawatts by 2017. (A gigawatt is the power generating capacity of a standard electric power plant.)

Gore states that in the U.S. 166 coal-fired plants have closed or announced closings in the last 4.5 years, and 183 proposed coal-fired plants have been canceled since 2005. He acknowledges that some of this shift from coal is to natural gas obtained by hydrofracturing (“fracking”) but focuses on the emergence of “on-site and grid battery storage and microgrids,” noting that the Edison Electric Institute (the U.S. utility trade group) has labeled this trend as the “largest near-term threat” to the present elec- tric utility system. He likens this threat to that posed by cell phones to the landline telephone system. He cites Citigroup’s recognition of the decreased cost of solar and wind electricity and battery storage (long seen as a barrier to intermittent energy from renewable). In addition, he notes a reduction of 49% in energy intensity (energy in- put per dollar output in gross domestic product) since 1980.

Gore observes that the Koch brothers have led the fight against rooftop solar electricity and for keeping the present fossil-fueled electric plants, one of their arguments being that net metering allows producers of solar electricity to benefit from the grid without paying for it. Al- though Gore neglects to mention that in net metering the utility pays the generator only the wholesale price for the surplus generation, he does note that solar electricity gen- eration has the advantage of peaking with electricity de- mand, thereby saving utilities from having to install new peak generation capacity (a point also made by keynoter Perez at the kickoff to develop the solar lessons for School Power Naturally, reported in our Winter 2003 issue).

Gore likens global warming to a fever for planet Earth and notes that the presently-gathering El Niño is expected to result in a pronounced global temperature increase. (Coverage in our Winter 2010 issue of a talk to the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers on 15 February 2010 by Judith Lean of the Naval Research Laboratory attributes this to the phase of the 22-year solar cycle.) He correlates the de- struction from Supertyphoon Haiyan and Superstorm Sandy with greater surface water temperature (5.4oF for the former, 9oF for the latter). He notes that higher water temperatures also mean higher sea level and disruption of water supplies that depend on snowmelt. And he adds that even more severe catastrophes are in the offing, like the irreversible collapse of a portion of the West Antarc- tic ice sheet. In addition to heightened sea level, warmer climate also means an atmosphere capable of holding more water vapor and delivering more severe storms, as have been seen in Pensacola (FL), and Nashville (TN). At the same time, global warming will exacerbate the dryness of the drier parts of the Earth through greater evaporation of what little water there is in the ground. Gore also observes that climate change brings concern to the military for both the safety of its bases and the new types of world conflict it will have to deal with.

Gore concedes that these many “knock-on consequences of the climate crisis” are enough to cause anyone to despair. But, as he writes in his opening paragraph, “we will have to take care to guard against despair,” lest we become deterred from the action we must pursue. Though there be light at the end of the tunnel, he points out that we are in the tunnel. Among the things he says we need are “a price on carbon in our markets” and “green banks” to finance “green” projects.

“Damage has been done, and the period of consequences will continue for some time to come, but there is still time to avoid the catastrophes that most threaten our future.”

Though U.S. greenhouse gas emissions had decreased from 2008 to 2012, due to recovery from the recession, they increased 2.4% in 2013. Gore calls for the U.S. to match the European Union’s commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 40% by 2030.

Gore’s concluding reasons for optimism are that “Rapid technological advancements in renewable energy are stranding carbon investments; grassroots movements are building opposition to the holding of such assets; and new legal restrictions on collateral flows of pollution . . . are further reducing the value of coal, tar sands, and oil and gas assets.” “Damage has been done,” he adds, “and the period of consequences will continue for some time to come, but there is still time to avoid the catastrophes that most threaten our future.”

 

 

 

Leonardo DiCaprio Narrates Climate Change Films Urging Shift From Fossil Fuels to Renewables

Production company Tree Media, whose mission is to inspire positive social action, has just released the first of four films in the Green World Rising series focusing on solutions to the climate crisis.

The eight-minute film, CARBON, narrated by actor and dedicated environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio, was created with support from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and in collaboration with Thom Hartmann. The film’s goal is to draw attention to how some governments are already putting a price on carbon through carbon taxes and carbon trading to encourage polluters to shift from dirty energy sources to renewables prior to the UN Climate Summit in New York on Sep. 23. All four films will be released in the next month leading up to the summit.

“97% of climate scientists agree: climate change is happening now—and humans are responsible,” said DiCaprio. “We cannot sit idly by and watch the fossil fuel industry make billions at our collective expense. We must put a price on carbon—now.”

“We need serious action to address the most pressing issue of our time,” said Hartmann. “Communities across the world have taken action in the most direct and effective way possible by taxing and trading carbon. For us to beat this crisis, many more need to join.”

The film explains what a carbon tax and carbon trading are, how they can help us stop “using the atmosphere as a sewer,” as Joseph Romm of the Center for American Progress says in the film, and what ordinary people can do to push elected officials to act. More

Carbon


Published on Aug 20, 201 4 • CARBON is the first film in the Green World Rising Series, http:// www.greenworldrising.org “Carbon” is narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, presented by Thorn Hartmann and directed by Leila Conners. Executive Producers are George DiCaprio, Earl Katz and Roee Sharon Peled. Carbon is produced by

Mathew Schmid and was written by Thorn Hartmann, Sam Sacks, Leila Conners and Mathew Schmid. Music is composed and performed by Jean-Pascal Beintus and intro drone by Francesco Lupica. Carbon is produced by Tree Media with the support of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.