Climate change and the point of no return

Eric Holthaus reports on the aftermath of last week's climate change report, which found that anthropogenic causes are almost certainly behind global warming.

Without jumping up and down on the desks of their computer terminals, this forum of scientists has done about as much as they can do. With this report, they have proven humankind’s impact on the climate, and confidently projected dire consequences should world governments fail to act immediately.
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An interesting way of explaining scientific certainty and climate change

There's a new IPCC report coming out and that, inevitably, leads to confusion about what scientists mean when they say things like "we are 95% certain that climate change is being caused by human behavior." The AP's Seth Borenstein used this as a jumping off platform to talk about certainty, and other (less popularly/politically controversial) ideas that also have 95% certainty attached to them. Are scientists 100% sure that climate change is caused by people? No. But they're at least as certain of that fact as they are of the fact that smoking is hazardous to your health. Read the rest
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You can go wading in the lake at the North Pole

Last week, Dean told you about the lake at the North Pole, a pool of melted ice captured on camera by the North Pole Environmental Observatory webcams.

At Climate Central, Andrew Freedman provides some really fascinating context that illustrates the changing nature of, well, nature ... and draws a big, heavy underline on how difficult it can be to make assumptions about what is and what isn't an effect of climate change. Arctic sea ice is melting in concert with rising global average temperatures, but (contrary to the knee-jerk assumption I made about this story) the lake at the North Pole may or may not have anything to do with that. In fact, little pools have been forming at the North Pole in summer for as long as we've been paying attention. They don't actually represent the total melting of ice, but rather a layer of slushy water that forms on top of solidly frozen ice — usually, you could wade out through them and never get more than waist-deep.

What's more, the picture above wasn't taken at the North Pole. That's because the North Pole Elemental Observatory — which sits on mobile ice — has moved far from the actual North Pole since its launch. So, there probably is a lake (more of a pond, really) at the North Pole, but it might not be caused by climate change. While this lake, which isn't at the North Pole, could well be part of the melting sea ice that climate change does cause. Read the rest

Randall Munroe finishes "Time," the 3,099-panel XKCD serial

Randall Munroe has finally finished Time, his 3,000+ frame slow-motion animation that began life as wordless, enigmatic single-panel XKCD installment. Since then, the panel has been slowly, slowly updating itself, running out its course over several months. Geekwagon has collected the whole series in an easy-to-control window, and the story, taken as a whole, is a beautiful and odd existentialist parable touching on the discovery of geographic knowledge; cultural first contacts; environmental disaster, friendship and ingenuity. (Thanks, @dexitroboper!) Read the rest

Meltwater lake forms at North Pole

Photo credit: NOAA

NOAA's Arctic division maintains a couple of webcams at the North Pole, and one of them is showing a pretty impressive meltwater lake forming around it. Previous years show small ponds forming and refreezing throughout the summer, but this year nearly all the snow in view of the camera has melted into a lake-sized slush.

Check out this time lapse video of the lake forming. Much more photos and videos from this year and previous years at NOAA's website. Read the rest

Evangelical Christian scientists in Oklahoma

This is not the story you're expecting. Instead, Tulsa TV news channel 6 is reporting on a group of 200 Oklahoman evangelical Christian scientists who have banded together to urge Congress to both accept the science of anthropogenic climate change, and take action to prevent the worst of its effects. Stuff like this is important. Research shows that one of the best ways to change minds on controversial social issues is to have the mind-changing message delivered by someone who is part of the community to be changed. Messages from insiders are more convincing than lectures from outsiders. Read the rest

Climate change creating "heat islands" for blacks, Asians, Latinos in US

Writing at GRIST, Susie Cagle points to a new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, which finds that "not all neighborhoods and racial groups are faring equally" as climate change raises temps in urban areas: "According to the research, blacks, Asians, and Latinos are all significantly more likely to live in high-risk heat-island conditions than white people." Read the rest
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Risk of forest fires rising near Chernobyl

A trend towards drier, hotter summers in the forests around the abandoned nuclear power plant at Chernobyl has increased the riks of forest fires in the region — which is a big deal, considering the fact that trees and plants in the area have absorbed some of the radioactive isotopes from the 1986 disaster. If they burn, more people will be exposed to airborne particles. It's a small fraction compared with the people exposed by the original Chernobyl power plant fire, but still dangerous. Read the rest

Our planet just had the third warmest May in recorded history

Earth experienced its 8th warmest spring on record, and the third warmest May, with average global temperature in May 1.19 degrees F. above the 20th-century average, matching 1998 and 2005 for the third warmest May dating back to 1880. WaPo: "The global temperature has been above average now 339 straight months (more than 28 years). The last time global temperatures were below average (February, 1985)." Read the rest

400 ppm carbon dioxide? In my atmosphere?

It's true, at least for today. Although the real concern in climate science is average concentrations of carbon dioxide over much longer periods of time, surpassing the 400 ppm mark, even for a day, is a historic milestone. 400 ppm was once a level we talked about avoiding altogether through mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. Now, it's a reminder that we're not really doing anything to circumvent the steady increase in global carbon dioxide concentrations and global average temperature. Happy Friday! Read the rest

What's climate change ruining now?: The sex lives of painted turtles

The sex of these turtles is determined by the temperature of the nest while the baby turtles are still egg-bound. The warmer the nest, the more likely the turtles end up female. The warmer it gets in the American Midwest, the more painted turtle society turns into whatever the opposite of a sausage fest is. Now, depending on your personal inclinations, you could argue that this might actually improve turtle sex — but it definitely puts a damper on creating new generations of baby turtles. Read the rest

What's climate change making more awesome today?

Remember, climate change isn't intentionally trying to make your life miserable. It's just a trend in rising global average temperatures. That comes along with lots of side effects, some of which do, in fact, make human life pretty miserable. In other cases, though, the effect can be beneficial. For instance: In Antarctica, climate change seems to be increasing the population of adorable Adelie penguins. Read the rest

What's climate change ruining today?

Okay, sure, jet travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions (this is situation where a small percentage is actually a really big number, fyi). So this is maybe more ironic than tragic, but it turns out that some scientists think changing climates could have an effect on air turbulence. Specifically, one model suggests it will increase the ferocity and frequency of surprise areas of turbulence that pilots can't see coming. Read the rest

It's tin foil hats, all the way down

In 2010, scientists published a paper on conspiracist ideation as it applied to both climate change and the moon landing. This year, the published a second paper — about the conspiracy theories that sprung up in response to their previous research. Read the rest

Biggest threat in the Pacific, according to top U.S. Admiral? Climate Change.

Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, "no smelly hippie," according to Wired News, believes the consequences of a warming planet are likely to “cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.” According to Danger Room, he said, “You have the real potential here in the not-too-distant future of nations displaced by rising sea level. Certainly weather patterns are more severe than they have been in the past. We are on super typhoon 27 or 28 this year in the Western Pacific. The average is about 17.” [Danger Room |] Read the rest

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