Monday, 22 July 2013

Global warming still happening despite flat surface temperature rises in the last 10 to 15 years

The world is still warming but in a slightly different way,  leading climate scientists said today.

A "pause"  in rising surface air temperatures since at least the turn of the century has thrown doubt on the predictions of dangerous warming by climate scientists and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to cool the planet.

Climate sceptics have claimed the flat temperatures show the world's climate is no where near as sensitive to greenhouse gas emissions as alarmist scientists have claimed and throw doubt on doomsday predictions of a burning world.

But the climate scientists stuck to their guns at a Science Media Centre briefing today and said any slow down in rising temperatures would only be temporary. Carbon emissions are growing at 3.1% a year and are 30% higher than at any time over the last 800,000 years.

Recent measurements have put them at over 400 parts per million.

The scientists  said there was still an imbalance between the heat that was being trapped by greenhouse gases and that being released.

Simple physics says that heat has to be going somewhere and the most likely explanation is that it is being absorbed by the oceans down to around 700 metres and probably  deeper.

The biggest effect of the lower than forecast surface temperatures this century might be that predictions of dangerously higher temperatures by 2050 and beyond will  have to be scaled back by "a few" years.

You can often come away from  climate briefings with the feeling that you have learned more about what the scientists  don't know than what they do.

And the scientists were honest enough to admit they "had a problem to solve" to explain the lack of heating but they put forward the following theories in three reports from the Met Office Hadley Centre.:

1 It's not unusual to have a pause.. There was a one between the 1940's and 1970's and models predict that at least two decades out of ten will have flat temperatures. The temperatures this century are still within the predicted range and the first decade was the warmest on record.

2. Major volcanic eruptions in recent years  have ejected volcanic ash  into the stratosphere and may have helped cool the planet.

3. A record low solar minimum around 2008/9 could have helped keep temperatures down.

4 Changes in ocean mixing of warmer and cooler waters in the Pacific and North Atlantic. The Pacific, particularly, has a big effect on our climate and surface air temperatures. La Nina conditions in the Pacific have had a cooling effect for the last decade. Measurements of ocean temperatures down to 700 metres have improved considerably since 2005 with the use of Argo floats round the world and show a significant warming.

5. The heating of the oceans is consistent with sea level rises which are running at 3.2 mm per year globally. Warming seas expand.

6. Other factors are running consistently with human induced climate change. Arctic sea ice loss has been accelerating and has halved since the 1980's. Glaciers have shrunk over the last 30 years with the equivalent of slicing 15 metres off the top of every glacier. Northern hemisphere snow levels have shrunk by 8 million square kilometres the equivalent of a third of the area of Canada. Most of the 14 warmest years on record have happened since 2000.

7. Factors such as aerosols, humidity, cloud cover may have contributed to the slowdown in rising temperatures.

Professor Rowan Sutton, Director of Climate Research, University of Reading, said: "The important thing to realise is that global surface temperature, while important, is only one variable of the changing climate. Scientists absolutely expect variations in the rate that surface temperatures rise. The reasons for these variations are several.

"That is not to say we understand all the details over the last ten to 15 years. We don't fully understand the relative importance of these different factors."

Professor Piers Forster, Professor of Physical Climate Change, University of Leeds, added: "This is exciting. We have a problem to solve. This is why I am a scientist and why we do what we do."

Monday, 15 July 2013

Green con? No, The public wants a renewable energy future and is worried about climate change

The public is keener on being green than they are given credit for, a ground-breaking attitude survey has found.

But their mistrust of energy companies and the government and their motives threatens the long-term green ambition.

People want to see a change to an efficient, clean, fair and safe energy system, the two year survey sponsored by the UK Energy Research Council (UKERC) discovered.

They favour renewables like solar and wind – in the right places – and are generally negative towards fossil fuels.

While 21% would object to a wind turbine near their home 54% would object to a nuclear power station

And a whopping 82% are worried about the UK becoming too dependent on energy from other countries – in other words importing gas or coal.

When I asked at a Science Media Centre briefing whether the results showed people were more favourable toward green energy and changing to renewables than recognised in some sections of the press and the government the answer I got was simple: “Yes.”

Professor Nick Pidgeon, who led the research team, said: “The British public backs a green energy future looking into the long term but there is an element of distrust with energy companies and government which may be a problem in realising that ambition..

“It is often said people don’t want change but what we found was that when the policies were explained they were actually very enthusiastic about change.

“They wanted a transition to something that was efficient, clean, fair and safe.

“The public vision is one with a strong commitment  to renewable energy production  and a shift away from fossil fuels over the long term - and I must stress that - and an overall improvement in energy efficiency and a reduction in demand.”

It is the first in-depth study of public values around energy change.

More than 8 out of 10 (81%) would like to reduce their energy use.

The survey, surprisingly, did not examine attitudes to fracking. The researchers claimed it was too early to get meaningful results.

But support for solar (85%) and wind energy (75%) remained strong and 74% were very or fairly concerned by climate change – a figure that has remained constant since 2010.

The researchers found 79% want to see a reduction in fossil fuels over the next few decades with 48% worried they were running out and 36% concerned fossil fuels were causing climate change.

A massive 83% are worried electricity and gas will become unaffordable for them over the next ten to 20 years.

More than half (53%) would be willing to use electric cars rising to 75% if they performed the same way as petrol-driven cars.

But there was strong resistance to any idea of cutting down on flying, especially for leisure and holidays.

Support for carbon capture and storage was low. 42% said they had never heard of it and a further 26% knew next to nothing about it

“When people were told about it they saw it as a non transition they said: “Why would you want to do that?”

Professor Pidgeon said the survey showed people were less likely to object to having their televisions switched off from standby remotely or by “smart meters” when they weren’t watching than having their showers limited or their fridges or freezers switched off for short periods to save energy.

Most people did not mind sharing their energy use data but one in five did object and people were less happy handing over the info to government than energy companies.

The overall message is that people recognise the need to change the way we get energy and are up for it – as long as their core values are protected.

 “People wanted to avoid waste and move to a more efficient system. Any system which threatens the environment will have a question mark against it, “ Professor Pidgeon added.

“People had a very pragmatic view. They realised you could not deliver this overnight there would be all sorts of compromises  that would have to be made but for them energy efficiency and change has to fit in to a long-term trajectory. “

The study: Transforming the UK energy system – public values, attitudes and acceptability is launched today (July 16).