Other stories below: Anti-Science Republicans Cut Top Science Office by 1/3; Global Temperature Extremes “Virtually Certain” to Rise, says UN
The United States’ Department of Defense needs to know more about how climate change affects global security, recommends a report by the the department’s science advisers, the Defense Science Board (DSB).
“Changes in climate patterns and their impact on the physical environment can create profound effects on populations in parts of the world and present new challenges to global security and stability,” wrote Defense Science Board co-chairs, Larry Welch and Willian Howard in a letter preceding the DSB report, Trends and Implications of Climate Change for National and International Security.
“Failure to anticipate and mitigate these changes increases the threat of more failed states with the instabilities and potential for conflict inherent in such failures,” the DSB co-chairs warned.
Africa was of particular concern to the DSB.
“Climate change is already intensifying environmental and resource problems that communities are facing. In recent decades, social conflict has been particularly prevalent in Africa,” said the report.
Scientists are regarding it as yet another attack on science by a political party that has, in the words of GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, become “the antiscience party.”
A 2012 spending bill expected to be approved this week slashes the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) budget by a whopping 32 percent. The cuts “will have real consequences on OSTP’s operations,” said spokesperson Rick Weiss.
The OSTP is the White House’s overall coordinating agency for federal science initiatives ranging from clean energy research to economic competitiveness to space exploration to climate change to education.
Cutting the top office responsible for insuring scientific integrity in government is the latest action by a Republican party whose leadership seems to be prosecuting an assault on science at almost every level, including House Speaker John Boehner’s attempts to have creationism taught in science classes and his false assertion that climate scientists are arguing carbon dioxide is a carcinogen.
Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA), who chairs the House appropriations panel that oversees NASA and the OSTP, is a fierce opponent of the Chinese government and doesn’t want any cooperation between the US and China. “Frankly, it boils down to a moral issue,” said Wolf. “Would you have a bilateral program with Stalin?” Wolf inserted two sentences into the April 2011 spending bill that prohibit any joint scientific activity between the two nations that involves NASA or is coordinated by the OSTP.
European wind companies have played a major role in the development of the US wind energy sector, even as shadows loom over the industry and the global economy.
Vestas, the world’s largest turbine manufacturer, clearly has high hopes for its US business, with a market share of 18.7% and room for growth. In recent years Vestas had invested in two blade factories, a nacelle facility and a tower facility in Colorado. It also has R&D hubs in Texas, Massachusetts and Colorado.
It is not yet clear whether these facilities will feel the impact of a radical reorganization at Vestas to be announced in February 2012 to reduce annual costs by at least €150 million.
Siemens, Acciona, Clipper and Gamesa are just some of the other companies from Europe that entered the US market because of its potential for growth and incentives such as the Production Tax Credit and the Section 48C program for advanced energy manufacturing facilities.
A worsening of the euro zone debt crisis could increase a climate funding gap to $45 billion by 2015 as governments struggle to maintain levels of climate change investment due to austerity measures, Ernst & Young said on Thursday.
Even under current cost-cutting measures, it is likely a gap of $22.5 billion in investment in renewable energy, clean technology, pollution-cutting measures and subsidies will emerge by 2015 across 10 of the world’s major economies, the accounting and consultancy firm said in a report.
Those countries are Germany, France, Britain, Spain, Italy, Japan, the United States, Australia, South Africa and South Korea.
The report comes ahead of a U.N. climate summit starting on Nov. 28 in Durban, South Africa, where negotiators will work on a new global climate deal.
Expectations are low for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which limits greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries, to emerge in Durban. There are also concerns that governments will not be able to commit the full $100 billion a year pledged to help the most vulnerable countries tackle climate change.
“The enormous projected funding gap revealed by this report suggests continuing economic uncertainty is pushing a low carbon economy further out of reach,” said Juan Costa Climent, the firm’s global climate change and sustainability services leader.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change whirrs into action this week with a significant assessment of extreme events and disasters. The final report is due on Nov. 18. A draft summary for policymakers obtained by Bloomberg shows the caution and rigor with which scientists approach attributing observed trends to man-made climate change.
The panel says it’s “virtually certain” that warm daily temperature extremes will increase in this century. It’s “likely” that human influences have led to a warming of extreme daily minimum and maximum temperatures across the globe, and that instances of heavy rainfall will increase. The report finds the average maximum wind speed of hurricanes is likely to increase, though storm frequency is likely to drop or remain the same.
“Likely” or “virtually certain” imply precision in science that’s generally absent from everyday speech. So when they say “virtually certain,” they’re using a definition of 99 to 100 percent probability. “Very likely” is 90 to 100 percent, and “likely” is 66 to 100 percent.
The values assigned in this week’s report are meant to inform and constrain public policy discussions, and will be fodder for delegates to chew on at the UN’s annual climate treaty talks which start Nov. 28 in Durban, South Africa. NASA climatologist and IPCC contributor Gavin Schmidt explains how nonscientists might interpret these assessments: “If it is likely to rain, will you take an umbrella with you? If people answer yes, then that is your answer — responses to likely events are sensible. If they answer ‘no,’ then there isn’t much point in continuing the conversation.”
The critical tidal marshes of San Francisco Bay – habitat for tens of thousands of birds and other animals – will virtually disappear within a century if the sea rises as high as some scientists predict it will as a result of global warming.
The sea would inundate the coastline and eliminate 93 percent of the bay’s tidal wetlands if carbon emissions continue unchecked and the ocean rises 5.4 feet, as predicted by scientists under a worst-case scenario, according to a new study by PRBO Conservation Science.
The tidal areas closest to the Golden Gate, including Richardson Bay in Marin County and much of the East Bay coastline, were identified as most vulnerable to sea level rise.
“Marshes cannot keep up with the high-end sea level rise predictions,” said Diana Stralberg, a research associate with PRBO, also known as the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, and the lead author of the study, which was published Wednesday in the online science journal PLoS One.
“If we can’t slow down sea level rise,” said Stralberg, who is working on a doctorate degree at the University of Alberta, “we will need to identify and protect areas where marshes can migrate to.”
The researchers measured the depth of mud, sediment and plant material in the existing marshes along the San Francisco Bay coastline and analyzed the impact on the wetlands under a variety of different scenarios.