Category Archives: Climate Change

Climate Change Action For Kids: The Tantrum That Saved The World

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The Tantrum That Saved the World* by Megan Herbert and Michael Mann is about a young girl who might be thought of as being on some sort of spectrum, but well at the rational end of the irrationality-rationality spectrum, who gets tired of the “bla bla bla” and forces the climate change issue.

It sounds like a book based on Greta Thunberg, but in fact, the first edition of The Tantrum That Saved the World predated Greta.

The book starts out with the little girl inheriting a huge problem she didn’t ask for, reshaping her very strong emotions into positive and inspiring action. We then encounter information about climate change science presented in a way that is fully accessible to children. Finally, as all worthwhile things do, there is an action plan. My copy came with a nice poster.

Tantrums are bad. Except when they save the world.


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I’m working up a podcast, so..

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… you get some random info.

If you are driving an electric car in the United States, the price of “fueling” your vehicle has skyrocketed due to petroleum supply change issues related to the fascist invasion of Ukraine exactly 0%.

There are a couple of places where there has been a slight increase, I think owing to some trading back and fort of petrolium supplies, or maybe for no reason at all. But, essentially, electric car owners have been insulated from this problem, insolated as they in fact are.

I heard that the state of Washingon will phase out the sales of new ICE cars by 2030.

You heard about the Conger Ice Shelf falling off Antarctica. It is said to be the size of Manhattan. If you have been following the Antarctica news over the last decade, you will be both alarmed and not as alarmed. First, the good news: An Antarctic ice sheet the size of Manhattan is a baby. The biggest one to ever break lose was something like 76 Manhattans, or approximately one Connecticut. Or, for you Minnesotans, between two and three norther counties. So, not so big. The bad news, though, is really bad. Two parts. First, this region of the Antarctic never sees temperatures above freezing, until very recently. Second, it took a geological instant (literally, days, maybe a couple of weeks) for above freezing temperatures to cause an ice sheet to break free, assuming that the warm air contributed (this remains to be seen).

New video from Climate Denial Crosk of the Week on the future of the US Western Drought is HERE.

Podcast will be with Mike, on Ikonokast, stay tuned.


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Kids: Would you save the planet please?

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Check out this new book by my friend and colleague, Paul Douglas: A Kid’s Guide to Saving the Planet It’s Not Hopeless and We’re Not Helpless*. Chelen Ecija is the illustrator.

Not hapless either!
This new book, targeted to kids 9-13 years of age (4-6th grade), addresses the climate crisis, and offers doable solutions and activities for kids to help address it.

Part of the book is a mini-course in earth system science, tarted to the specified age group. It is clear and detailed enough to be a good text in 6th grade, when many of these concepts are being covered. The authors outline pre-existing environmental disasters and how they have been fixed, to give hope to the kids, and describes what you can do. The readers are even encouraged to go into climate related fields whey the grow up!

If you are linked to a middle school (like, your kid goes to one) maybe give a copy to the science faculty there!

Highly recommended.


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COP26

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Conference of The Parties 26 is a climate summit being held in Glasgow. This is widely called the “last best chance” to address climate change.

Commentary and excellent perspective by Michael Mann, author of The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet (Amazon associates link*) interviewed on CNN:

Notice Mann’s comment on Russia (and Saudi Arabia). I’m not sure if people realize the extent to which Russia has made itself, under Putin, a specialized economy based almost entirely on fossil fuels. See Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth (Amazon associates link*), a must-read read, to read about that.

The opening of COP26:

See also this commentary in the Los Angeles Times.


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Heat Kills. More Heat Kills More

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Over the last few years, the Atlantic Ocean and other parts of the world smashed their weathery fists into the faces of climate change deniers again and again until the denial of climate change fell to the mat, bleeding, and forever silent.

I wish. It wasn’t quite that extreme, but nearly so. In certain social settings, a person ranting about climate change, say a decade ago, would be looked at as though they might have a lose screw. Me, for example, at a family gathering. But a few weeks ago, a matriarch in my extended family, whom I might have expected to give me the stern look during one of my own rants, began ranting herself about climate change, and how astonishing it was that people could not see that it is real. I had to get her a glass of water. Times have changed. The big storms have spoken, and American society has listened, and at the very least, the deniers now look like the ones with the loose screw.

However, storms are not the biggest problem with future climate change. Sure, a storm can cause floods that kill hundreds of people. Sure, storms can carve away large sections of the shoreline, including those on which humans have built towns and cities, more so especially as sea level rises. Sure, strong tornadoes can destroy a storm shelter as though it wasn’t there, or pick up a school bus and throw it into a ravine, or whatever they want.

But storms are whiny babies compared to their own mothers, the weather-mother that causes the storms to be worse to begin with, and that will eventually become recognized as the real problem with global warming: heat. Continue reading Heat Kills. More Heat Kills More


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Climate Change: Flooding might triple in the mountains of Asia

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From a press release by the University of Geneva:

The “Third Pole” of the Earth, the high mountain ranges of Asia, bears the largest number of glaciers outside the polar regions. A Sino-Swiss research team has revealed the dramatic increase in flood risk that could occur across Earth’s icy Third Pole in response to ongoing climate change. Focusing on the threat from new lakes forming in front of rapidly retreating glaciers, a team, led by researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, demonstrated that the related flood risk to communities and their infrastructure could almost triple. Important new hotspots of risk will emerge, including within politically sensitive transboundary regions of the Himalaya and Pamir. With significant increases in risk already anticipated over the next three decades, the results of the study, published in Nature Climate Change, underline the urgent need for forward-looking, collaborative, long-term approaches to mitigate future impacts in the region.

The Hindu Kush-Himalaya, Tibetan Plateau and surrounding mountain ranges are widely known as the Third Pole of the Earth. Due to global warming, the widespread and accelerated melting of glaciers over most of the region has been associated with the rapid expansion and formation of new glacial lakes. When water is suddenly released from these lakes through failure or overtopping of the dam, glacial lake outburst floods can devastate lives and livelihoods up to hundreds of kilometres downstream, extending across international borders to create transboundary risks. Despite the severe threat that these extreme events pose for sustainable mountain development across the Third Pole, there has been a lack of understanding regarding where and when related risks would evolve in the future.

Himalayan hotspot

Swiss and Chinese climatologists used satellite imagery and topographic modelling to establish the risk associated with 7,000 glacial lakes presently located across the Third Pole. This approach allowed us to accurately classify 96% of glacial lakes known to have produced floods in the past as high or very high risk. “We then compared our results with a catalogue of past glacial lake floods, which allowed us to validate our approaches”, explains Simon Allen, researcher at the Institute of Environmental Sciences of the UNIGE and co-director of the study. “Once we confirmed that the approaches accurately identified current dangerous lakes, we could then apply these methods to future scenarios.” Overall, the study revealed that one in six (1,203) of current glacial lakes posed a high to very high risk to downstream communities, most notably in the eastern and central Himalayan regions of China, India, Nepal, and Bhutan.

New threats in new places

Looking to the future, glacial retreat, lake formation and associated flood risk were considered under three different CO2 emission scenarios. Under the highest emission scenario (sometimes referred to as the “business-as-usual” scenario), the study shows that much of the Third Pole could already be approaching a state of peak risk by the end of the 21st century, or even mid-century in some regions. In addition to the larger potential flood volumes resulting from the expansion of more than 13,000 lakes, over time the lakes will grow closer towards steep unstable mountain slopes that can crash into the lakes and provoke small tsunamis. “The speed at which some of these new hazardous situations are developing surprised us”, says Markus Stoffel, Professor at the Institute for Environmental Sciences of the UNIGE. “We are talking a few decades not centuries – these are timeframes that demand the attention of authorities and decision-makers.”

If global warming continues on its current path, the number of lakes classified as high or very high risk increases from 1,203 to 2,963, with new hotspots of risk emerging in the Western Himalaya, Karakorum and into Central Asia. “These regions have experienced glacial lake outburst floods before, but these events have tended to be repetitive and linked to advancing glaciers. Authorities and communities will be less familiar with the types of spontaneous events we consider here in a deglaciating landscape, so this calls for awareness raising and education on the new challenges that will emerge”, adds Stoffel.

Complex political challenges

The mountain ranges of the Third Pole span eleven nations, giving rise to potential transboundary natural disasters. Findings of the study show that the number of future potential transboundary glacial flood sources could roughly double (an additional 464 lakes), with 211 of these lakes classified in the highest risk categories. The border region of China and Nepal will remain a major hotspot (42% of all future transboundary lake sources), while the Pamir mountains between Tajikistan and Afghanistan emerge as a major new transboundary hotspot (currently 5% of transboundary lake sources increasing to 36% in the future). “Transboundary regions are of particular concern to us”, says Allen. “Political tensions and lack of trust can be a real barrier that prevent timely data sharing, communication and coordination needed for effective early warning and disaster mitigation.”

Researchers stress the importance of exploring disaster risk management strategies to reduce the exposure of people and property and minimise the vulnerability of society. “The findings of this research should motivate relevant nations and the international research communities to urgently work together to prevent future glacial flood disasters in the Third Pole region”, concludes Stoffel.


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Cranky Uncle Gets Crankier: Climate Change in the Classroom and on the Smart Phone!

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A while back I reviewed Cranky Uncle vs Climate Change by Dr. John “Skeptical Science” Cook.

Since then a lot has been happening on the Cranky Uncle front, and I thought I should catch you up.

John, in cooperation with Facebook and Yale Climate Connection, has created the Facebook Climate Science Information Center. It is HERE. There is an article about this effort HERE.

There is a Cranky Uncle game for your smart phone, which you can get HERE.

Teachers can use the Cranky Uncle game in their classroom (K12 through College) by filling out THIS HERE form.

Also, related, there is a new version of The Conspiracy Handbook by Lewandowsky and Cook, which you can get HERE.

John Cook, author of Cranky Uncle vs. Climate Change: How to Understand and Respond to Climate Science Deniers, is a George Mason University expert in climate communication working with Facebook, said research shows that simply saying information is wrong is not enough. “You also have to explain why or how it is wrong. That is important from a psychological point of view,” Cook said of the new “myth-busting” section of the climate portal.


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The strongest cyclone known on this planet just happened.

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According to Jeff Masters, “With 195 mph winds, Goni is the strongest landfalling tropical cyclone in world recorded history. Previous record: Super Typhoon Meranti, September 16, 2016, Itbayat Island, Philippines, and Super Typhoon Haiyan, November 8, 2013, Leyte Island, Philippines (190 mph winds).”

Here is Jeff’s blog post.

In case you didn’t know, Jeff Masters moved from the Weather Underground to Yale Climate Connections a while back.

Jeff notes:

Scientists theorize that a warming climate should make the strongest tropical cyclones stronger, since hurricanes are heat engines that extract heat energy from the oceans, converting it to kinetic energy in the form of wind. In a 2019 Review Paper by 11 hurricane scientists, “Tropical Cyclones and Climate Change Assessment: Part I. Detection and Attribution“, 10 of 11 authors concluded that the balance of evidence suggests a detectable increase in the average intensity of global hurricanes since the early 1980s; eight of those 11 concluded that the balance of evidence suggests that human-caused climate change contributed to that increased intensity.

All those 11 authors agreed that the balance of evidence suggests that the proportion of all hurricanes reaching category 4-5 strength has increased in recent years; and eight of them concluded that the balance of evidence suggests that human-caused climate change contributed to that increase.

And now, the movie version of that quote:


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Consensus in Climate Change Science

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This is an excellent video put together by consensus in science expert John Cook. John is the author of the excellent must-read book Cranky Uncle vs. Climate Change: How to Understand and Respond to Climate Science Deniers.

I have always been interested in the concept of consensus, even before that word became centered in the pro vs. anti science debate. In Anthropology, we have huge problems with consensus. In at least one branch of Anthropology, consensus can never be achieved because all good work is defined as breaking consensus. The moment you get close to consensus, you’ve failed. (That’s socio-cultural anthropology, modern style). In another branch of Anthropology, we deal with questions that can’t really be answered at that level, but sort of can be. So there is never consensus in the sense that of the many possible explanations for a thing, there will always be a list of possible, and often very distinctly different, alternative explanations. But, over time, the list changes. One hopes for the list we have now being better than the list we had a decade ago, even if both lists are approximately the same length. (Example: Reasons for the origin of bipedality in the human lineage.)

There is a particular kind of consensus that to my knowledge my friend John Cook does not talk about (yet, he’s got most of this covered very well): Beer pitcher consensus. It goes like this. Suppose there is a range of thought on a particular narrowly defined scientific question. Since this is about climate, let’s do a climate one. The question might be: What is the best value for “climate sensitivity.” This is the number of degrees Celsius that the atmosphere at the Earth’s surface will go up with a doubling of atmospheric CO2 from pre-industrial values (say that was about 280ppm). (I’m oversimplifying the concept and the question slightly and I believe forgivably.) The answers range from a somewhat pedantic and absurd 2.0 to an alarming and probably alarmist 5.6 or so.

Now, get a bunch of experts on this question, say at a conference. Sit them down for a beer. After a couple of beers, tell them, “OK, folks, I’m giving each of you a piece of paper and a pencil. Write down a guess on the climate sensitivity value. Here’s the thing. Don’t show each other what you wrote down, only show it to me. And, if they are all the same value, I’ll buy pitchers of beer for the rest of your time at this conference, starting now.”

Had I simply asked this group of experts to tell me the climate sensitivity value, it would start a conversation that would go on for hours, and there would not be a single number. But if I do it as described here, they would all write down one number, and it would be 3.5 (I’m pretty sure).

That is the beer pitcher consensus.

Anyway, have a look at John Cook’s excellent video. It shows why most of the time you as a science oriented concerned lay citizen usually get this wrong, but in a harmless way. There is not a “97%” consensus. There is a full consensus; the number 97% is kinds of silly, and it is only part of the picture. The idea that global warming is happening and is human caused is, simply put, established scientific fact. There is no valid dissent. But, the number “97%” does have an important meaning and history in the debate. More to the point, not only is there a consensus on climate change and the human cause of it, but there is a consensus on the fact that there is a consensus!


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Greenland Ice Melt On Track to be Worst Case Scenario

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Ice has been melting from Greenland and Antarctdica’s glaciers at a rate six times greater than 20 or 30 years ago. According to NASA, “If the current melting trend continues, the regions will be on track to match the “worst-case” scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of an extra 6.7 inches (17 centimeters) of sea level rise by 2100.”

Keep in mind two things, when you read this 6.7 inch statistic. 1) Historically, the most hand-wringing, pearl clutching ice melt experts underestimate the rate of melting. That trend has been consistent for two decades. 2) When talking about both Greenland and Antarctica, if Greenland is a big deal, but if Greenland is big, Antarctica is Humongous. Greenland experiences, melty summers and snowy winters, so there is a regular flux of ice mass, with the trend being net loss over time in recent years. Antarctica experiences below freezing temperatures even in the summer over most of its ice mass. Well, until recently. Recently, there have been daytime temperatures sufficient to melt the surface.

In all, the Greenland Ice Sheet has enough water to raise global sea levels by 7.4 meters, if it all melted. From the article in nature:

Over recent decades, ice losses from Greenland have made a substantial contribution to global sea-level rise, and model projections suggest that this imbalance will continue in a warming climate… [Recent research has shown a] five fold increase in the rate of ice loss from Greenland overall, rising from 51 ± 65 Gt yr?1 in the early 1990s to 263 ± 30 Gt yr?1 between 2005 and 2010. … There was, however, a marked reduction in ice loss between 2013 and 2018, as a consequence of cooler atmospheric conditions and increased precipitation. Although the broad pattern of change across Greenland is one of ice loss, there is considerable variability; for example, during the 2000s just four glaciers were responsible for half of the total ice loss due to increased discharge, whereas many others contribute today. Moreover, some neighbouring ice streams have been observed to speed up over this period while others slowed down, suggesting diverse reasons for the changes that have taken place—including their geometrical configuration and basal conditions, as well as the forcing they have experienced. In this study we combine satellite altimetry, gravimetry and ice velocity measurements to produce a reconciled estimate of the Greenland Ice Sheet mass balance between 1992 and 2018, we evaluate the impact of changes in SMB and uncertainty in glacial isostatic adjustment and we partition the ice sheet mass loss into signals associated with surface mass balance and ice dynamics. In doing so, we extend a previous assessment to include more satellite and ancillary data and to cover the period since 2012.

The result of this melting has been .7 inches of sea level rise, or a third of all sea level rise, during the study period.

From Real Climate, where you will see an excellent discussion of sea level rise: Past and future sea-level rise. For the past, proxy data are shown in light purple and tide gauge data in blue. For the future, the IPCC projections for very high emissions (red, RCP8.5 scenario) and very low emissions (blue, RCP2.6 scenario) are shown. Source: IPCC AR5 Fig. 13.27.
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2013/10/sea-level-in-the-5th-ipcc-report/comment-page-3/

Previusly, the IPCC estimated that global sea levels would rise about 28 inches by 2100. That is enough to remove Cape Hatteras and possibly require New York City to build dikes or move to avoid flooding in much of its area. But, the IPCC gave a range of possible scenarios, and this study suggests that the worst of those is well within the range of possibility.

HERE is the link to the research team’s site.

Source: The IMBIE Team. 2019/2020 (first early publication Dec 10 2019, published in March 12 2020 issue). Mass blanance of the Greenland Ice Sheet from 1992 to 2018. Nature 579, 233-239(2020)


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Congratulations Kerry Emanuel

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The BBVA Foundation has awarded climate scientist Kerry Emanuel the Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Climate Change.

MIT’s press release:

Emanuel’s research has provided fundamental contributions to understanding of tropical cyclones and how they are affected by climate change.

The BBVA Foundation — which promotes knowledge based on research and artistic and cultural creation, and supports activity on the analysis of emerging issues in five strategic areas: environment, biomedicine and health, economy and society, basic sciences and technology, and Culture — recognizes MIT Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Atmospheric Science Kerry Emanuel’s body of research on hurricanes and their evolution in a changing climate, as well as his effectiveness for communicating these issues. The annually bestowed Climate Change award acknowledges “both research endeavors in confronting this challenge and impactful actions informed by the best science.”

“By understanding the essential physics of atmospheric convection…he has unraveled the behavior of tropical cyclones – hurricanes and typhoons – as our climate changes,” cites the foundation’s conferring committee.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, after completing degrees at MIT and later joining the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) faculty, Emanuel pinned down the mechanisms behind hurricanes and how warming surface oceans fuel storms and increase intensity as the climate changes. This issue is of particular concern to humanity because, of the natural events, tropical cyclones cause many deaths and bring about high economic costs. Further research has probed connections between anthropogenic global warming and cyclone frequency, intensity, development time, and geographical expansion of hurricane occurrence.

The selection committee noted Emanuel’s exceptional theories and research that “has opened new approaches for assessing risks from weather extremes.” He has expanded this work by co-founding the MIT Lorenz Center, a climate think tank which fosters creative approaches to learning how climate works.

For Bjorn Stevens, BBVA Foundation committee chairman and Director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, “it is hard to imagine an area of climate science where one person’s leadership is so incontestable.”


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Your Cranky Uncle vs Climate Change

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It is said that scientists are lousy at communication, lousy at telling everyone else about their science, in understandable and compelling terms.

This is of course absurd. There are tens of millions of scientists, and dozens of them are really excellent communicators!

This IS the book you are looking for.
Among the many sciences, there is a science of science communication. It overlaps, unironically, with the science of conspiracy ideation, and borrows a great deal from the broader communication fields.

One of the leading science communicators of the day is cognitive scientist John Cook. John is at George Mason University. He is so tightly linked to the founding and development of the Skeptical Science project that “Skeptical Science” is the name of his Wikipedia entry. This binds John and his mission to a lot of us. Where we once might have said, “I am Spartacus,” we now say, “I am Skeptical. Science!” For John, it is just “I am SkepticalScience.”

Cook is likely known to you for the Consensus project. There were two main projects, a few years back, in which scientist attempted to measure the degree of consensus over the idea that anthropocentric climate change is real. (It is real, and the consensus is near 100% in both peer reviewed literature and the conclusions of actual scientists.) John and his colleagues did one of those, and beyond that, widely promoted the results so that everyone knows about it.

Guy from 1917 (left) and cognitive scientist John Cook (right). Whatever made me think about that sticking the head up out of the trench analogy?
Like I said above, there are tens of millions of scientists. Developing and disseminating the results of consensus research in climate scientist was equivalent to being the only guy sticking your head up out of the trench in that movie, 1917. Science deniers, both avocational and bought-and-paid-for, got all over cook like skin on a grape. Didn’t phase him, though. He continued to develop a series of new projects including a massive online course (Making Sense of Climate Science Denial), an artificial intelligence system for detecting fake science, and most recently, the Cranky Uncle project.

Cranky Uncle vs. Climate Change: How to Understand and Respond to Climate Science Deniers” is a crowdsourced book (and an app). There will be a book launch on March 4th in Arlington. This book gives us the whole ball of wax that is the science of climate science denial in a very funny, really well produced, and compelling wrapping. It will amuse you, and it will advise you. Your cranky uncle is done for.

I don’t have a cranky uncle anymore (he died). But I do have a lot of neighbors who like to write in ALL CAPS. They show up when I give a talk on climate change, and they bring their conspiracy theories, logical fallacies, cherry picked “facts”, absurd expectations, and references to fake research done by fake experts. It is a lot to deal with. But now, I can use the Lewis Black technique for dealing with evolution deniers, but instead of pulling out a trilobite, holding it up and saying “Fossil!” I can pull out a copy of Cranky Uncle vs. Climate Change and say “Oh yeah? Imma look up what you just said in this BOOK!” or words to that effect.

Cranky Uncle vs. Climate Change: How to Understand and Respond to Climate Science Deniers is the book now. Pre-order it!

For completeness, here is Lewis Black demonstrating the fossil technique:


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