What’s Hot in Climate Change, June 2017

Welcome back to What’s Hot in Climate Change! 

We start out with concerning new research that shows the planet may cross the 1.5C threshold of warming within 15 years.  The 1.5C threshold is what the Paris Climate Talks identified as an important goal to hold global warming under.  One result of global warming is sea level rise.  A recent study of US population displacement shows us that sea level rise is not just a coastal problem, but a problem for those places where the people displaced from the coasts will end up.

If all this concerns you, there are plenty of ways we can help keep the temperature below 1.5 C.  Tesla is taking deposits for their amazing, new solar roofing that looks like a regular roof.  Beyond personal measures, supporting our local elected officials is another way to fight climate change.  Since Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords, cities, states, and corporations are taking the lead in fighting climate change.

Finally, a recent review of the scientific literature on climate change shows that it is NOT 97% of climate scientists that believe in human-caused climate change, but more like 99.994%!  That is as close to scientific certainty as you can get!

1.5 Sooner

A recent study by Benjamin Henley and Andrew King from the University of Melbourne, looked at the effect of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) (full text).  The PDO is a sort of like the La Nina (cool) and El Nino (warm) ocean circulation patterns, but on a larger time scale.  The PDO has a warm and a cool phase, and it may soon enter it’s warm phase. 

A warm phase PDO causes a faster rise of global temperatures, meaning we will get to 1.5C of warming sooner than we would have if the PDO was in it’s cool phase.  How soon?  Their results from comparisons of 32 different climate models, with business as usual emissions of carbon dioxide, show that with the PDO in it’s warm phase we will cross the threshold around 2027, and as early as 2024.  With the PDO in it’s cool phase we’d get there on average by 2031.


Say ‘Hello’ to your new neighbors

With all the warming, sea level rise is always a concern.  Mathew Hauer from the Department of Geography in the University of Georgia, plucked some low hanging fruit with his study trying to figure out exactly where the people displaced from rising seas will go.  Interestingly, while many studies have looked at how MANY people will be displaced, nobody looked at WHERE they will go. 

His paper titled “Migration induced by sea-level rise could reshape the US population landscape”, was just published in Nature Climate Change.  Dr Hauer took the novel approach of correlating the areas in the US that will be impacted by rising seas with IRS data from 1990 to 2013 that shows where people move to.   People tend to move to areas where they have family or better economic opportunities.

He assumed 1.8 meters (~6 feet) of sea level rise by 2100, impacting 319 coastal counties in the US.  Cross referencing the places where people will be displaced with the IRS migration data  shows that the Miami area will lose about 2.5 million people, New Orleans about 500,000, and New York City area about 500,000.  This is under a scenario where minimal efforts are made to adapt coastal cities to higher sea levels.

The “winners” include: the Austin area, which would be set to gain 818,000 people; Orlando would gain 461,000; and Atlanta 320,000.  The crazy cool figure below summarizes the study’s findings. 

Where US persons displaced by sea level rise will end up
Tick marks show the number of migrants (inflows and outflows) in thousands. States are ordered clockwise by the size of inflows. The top ten outflow states are colored; all other states are in grey. States are abbreviated to standard two-letter codes. From “Migration induced by sea-level rise could reshape the US population landscape“, Mathew E. Hauer, Nature Climate Change 7, 321–325 (2017).

The author concludes his paper by saying… “SLR (sea level rise) is currently framed as a coastal hazard, but the migratory effects could ripple far inland.  My results show the importance of accounting for future migrations associated with climate change in long-range planning processes for disaster management, transportation infrastructure, land-use decisions, and so on.”

Dr Hauer hits the nail on the head, but The Climate Advisor thinks it will probably be worse.  What about the potentially 72 to 187 million people projected to be displaced worldwide by sea level rise?  Where will they go?  Being one of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in history, what part of the load will the US be expected to take?

Also, 1.8 meters of sea level rise is probably on the low-end of the actual risk.  A rise of more than 1.8 meters would be catastrophic for the US, let alone the rest of the world, and would probably mean the displacement of billions, not millions, and the death of hundreds of thousands of people through starvation and conflict.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, there’s still plenty we can do to prevent the worst case.

Tesla Solar Roof?!  Sign me up!

Early this May, Solar City CEO Elon Musk, announced that Solar City would be taking pre-orders for their solar roofs.  The cool thing about their roofs is that the solar panels are built into the roofing tiles themselves!  So no unsightly panels sticking off your roof.  Also, the new tiles are made of tempered glass that are way stronger than regular roof tiles.  Good looking, strong, energy producing roof tiles, wow!

Tesla solar roofing cost estimate
Estimate for the Doc’s house from https://www.tesla.com/solarroof

According to Inverse.com, Tesla will be releasing their solar roof tiles in a staggered fashion, starting out this year in the US with black glass tiles, then offering different styles (Tuscan and French Slate) and expanding outside the US next year.  Over the 30 year warranty period of the solar roof it should more than pay for itself.  The tiles themselves have a life-time warranty. 

You can go right now to Tesla.com and put down a deposit for your solar roof.  Enter your address in the “Get Started” box to see a breakdown of costs and energy generated like the example above.  So thanks to Mr Musk for trying to make the U.S. an alternative energy leader!!

Tesla solar roof tiles

Let’s thank Trump…

Of course, no review of recent climate events would be complete without mentioning Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord.

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” said Trump.  Which of course was ironic because Pittsburgh voted for Clinton by about 3 to 1, and has remade itself from a dingy steel town with polluted air, to a hub of innovation, technology and medicine.  (Check out this awesome response to Trump from the Mayors of… you guessed it, Pittsburgh and Paris!)

Pulling out of the climate accord makes no sense.  Economic leadership will go to those countries that use clean energy to power their economies.  Beyond the economic reasons, there is the moral responsibility the U.S. has to address a problem that it is the primary creator of.

Pulling out of the Paris Climate Treaty is also a huge boon for China.  It allows China to expand their technological and economic prowess, while taking away leadership opportunities from the U.S., and gives them the moral high ground.  So while what Trump says and does may feel good to some folks in the short run, ultimately those same folks will be hurt in the long run, along with the rest of us.

Dirty air blots out the sun, Pittsburgh at high noon, 1944.
Pittsburgh at high noon, 1944.  Trump wants to bring back the glory days of coal!  From The NYTimes.

Fortunately, Trump probably won’t matter in the long run.  Trump is a temporary aberration that will eventually be resolved.  It will take 3 years to fully withdraw from the Paris Climate Treaty, so the next president will likely reverse Trump’s decision.  Coal is dead no matter what; cheap natural gas killed it, and cheap alternative energy is the final nail in the coffin.  Cities, states and corporations are realizing that the Federal government is missing in action, and it is up to them to get the job done. 

So far, the Mayors from Los Angeles, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Houston, Pittsburgh(!), and many others have signed on to uphold the U.S.’ commitment of the Paris Climate Agreement.  The Governors of California, Washington, and New York have also joined.  This is one thing that should really give people hope. 

Ironically, Trump’s action may speed up the transition to alternative energy and carbon reduction.  So maybe we should thank him for being so extreme that he drives forward the very thing he opposed.

Listen to How cities are preparing for climate change on the MPR Climate Cast podcast.
This podcast is one of The Climate Advisor's Top Climate Change Podcasts.

As Good as it Gets…

Lastly, we leave you with the knowledge that 99.994% of climate scientists (not 97%!) report that humans are the cause of global warming.  James Powell, a PhD in geochemistry, surveyed all the articles published in the scientific literature about climate change from 2013 to 2014.  Here’s what he found…

“I found that (only) 5 of 24,210 articles rejected anthropogenic global warming [AGW] (humans!), a rate of 1 in 4,842 or 0.02%. Since two articles had the same author, the rate of rejection by authors is 4 in 69,406 or 1 author in 17,352. This result justifies the claim that over 99.99% of climate scientists publishing in 2013 and 2014 accept AGW.”

That’s pretty solid agreement.  You won’t find that sort of agreement by scientists on virtually any other topic.  What this means is that scientists have gone way past assigning blame.  We know who’s to blame… we are.  Scientists have moved on to arguing the finer points, the ‘by how much’, and the ‘when’.

Well that’s it for now.  We hope you enjoyed this curated dive into the latest climate change has to offer.  Look out for the next post where we review the Doc’s all electric fleet of yard tools… powered by clean Texas wind energy, of course!