Archive for January 29, 2014

Pitt Series on Global Climate Change Politics

The University of Pittsburgh Global Studies Center will host a series of four events addressing the politics of global climate change. All events are free and open to the public. The first event, titled The UN Framework on Climate Change, will be on January 30 from 4:00 – 5:30 pm at O’Hara Student Center. James Sniffen from the United Nations Environment Program will discuss how UN staff work to support international climate negotiations. Click here for more information.

Rep. Vitali – Letter to Editor

Pennsylvania State Rep. Greg Vitali wrote a Letter to the Editor describing PA’s new Climate Action Plan as “woefully inadequate” because it does not set goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Vitali encourages PA to increase its renewable energy portfolio standard, which is not addressed in the new Climate Action Plan. Read the full article here.

Delaying Climate Change Action Will Be Costly

An article describing the dangers of climate change inaction recently made the front page of the New York Times website. Here are some important snippets from the article:

“Nations have so dragged their feet in battling climate change that the situation has grown critical and the risk of severe economic disruption is rising, according to a draft United Nations report. Another 15 years of failure to limit carbon emissions could make the problem virtually impossible to solve with current technologies, experts found.

While the spread of technologies like solar power and wind farms might give the impression of progress, the report said, such developments are being overtaken by rising emissions from fossil fuels over the past decade, especially in fast-growing countries like China. And one of the most important sources of low-carbon energy, nuclear power, is actually declining over time as a percentage of the global energy mix, the report said.

Even as the early effects of climate change are starting to be felt around the world, the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] concluded that efforts are lagging not only in reducing emissions, but also in adapting to the climatic changes that have become inevitable.”

Read the entire article here.

Recent Cold Snap Does Not Disprove Climate Change

Climate change skeptics are pointing to the frigid record-breaking temperatures blowing through the Midwest as proof that global warming is a myth. However, a recent Times article points out how a changing climate can make cold snaps even more intense.

For example, the cold front that swept through Pittsburgh on January 7th was part of a larger polar vortex, which typically forms around the Arctic. This dense pocket of cold air and fast wind is usually held in place by the temperature difference between warmer southern air and cold polar air, forming the jet stream. However, as Arctic sea ice melts and the poles warm due to climate change, the polar vortex can be thrown off-kilter and dip further south because of a weakened jet stream.

While climate change has resulted in a worldwide upward trend in temperature, that doesn’t mean short-term cold weather snaps are out of the picture. Rather, think of global warming as “global weirding,” where a changing climate makes individual weather events more extreme and less predictable.

2013: Wins for Climate Science, Mixed Bag for Climate Policy

When reflecting on 2013, last year was a big year for climate science and policy. One of the most talked-about academic papers of the year shows a 97% consensus in peer-reviewed climate science literature on the certainty of human-caused global warming. Climate scientists also debunked a myth that global warming has paused, which was an excuse for inaction by policymakers. Scientists also made advancements in understanding oceanic temperature changes and the heat amplification effect from cloud cover.

Despite these advancements in climate science, 2013 was not a strong year for climate policy. On an international level, very little was accomplished at the Warsaw climate talks, and countries were given an extra year to develop plans to cut emissions. Australia has pledged to abolish their carbon tax and Canada has continued to develop oil from tar sands. At the same time, President Obama has released an executive order for climate change preparedness and resilience, along with increased regulations on emissions from power plants.

With the recent climate change forecast intensifying from “dangerous” to “catastrophic”, 2014 must be the year for climate change action. Read more about 2013 climate wins and losses in this article from The Guardian.