Scientists studying climate change have long debated exactly how much hotter Earth will become given certain amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Models predicting this “climate sensitivity” number may be closer to the observed reality than some previously thought, according to a new study.

Observations in the past decade seemed to suggest a value lower than predicted by models. But the new study shows that two leading methods for calculating how hot the planet will get are not as far apart as they have appeared.

In climate science, the climate sensitivity is how much the surface air temperature will increase if you double carbon dioxide from pre-Industrial levels and then wait a very long time for the Earth’s temperature to fully adjust. Recent observations predicted that the climate sensitivity might be less than that suggested by models.

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By: Tom Solomon, Bucknell University

Darwin“The evidence is incontrovertible. Global warming is occurring.” “Climate change is real, is serious and has been influenced by anthropogenic activity.” “The scientific evidence is clear: Global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and is a growing threat to society.” The Conversation

As these scientific societies’ position statements reflect, there is a clear scientific consensus on the reality of climate change. But although public acceptance of climate theory is improving, many of our elected leaders still express skepticism about the science. The theory of evolution also shows a mismatch: Whereas there is virtually universal agreement among scientists about the validity of the theory, only 33 percent of the public accepts it in full. For both climate change and evolution, skeptics sometimes sow doubt by saying that it is just a “theory.”

How does a scientific theory gain widespread acceptance in the scientific community? Why should the public and elected officials be expected to accept something that is “only a theory”? And how can we know if the science behind a particular theory is “settled,” anyway?

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FloodA recent report published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) states that the global sea level could rise by as much as 8 feet by 2100.

A key force behind rising sea levels is climate change. A warming climate can cause seawater to expand and ice to melt, both of which lead to a rise in sea level. Because many people live in coastal areas across the globe, scientists have been monitoring the rising sea level closely due to its ability to displace families. According to NOAA, the global sea level has been rising at a rate between 0.04 to 0.1 inches per year since 1900.

However, that rate expected to greatly accelerate in the coming years.

“Currently, about 6 million Americans live within about 6 feet of the sea level, and they are potentially vulnerable to permanent flooding in this century. Well before that happens, though, many areas are already starting to flood more frequently,” Robert E. Kopp, co-author of the report, tells Rutgers Today. “Considering possible levels of sea-level rise and their consequences is crucial to risk management.”

The researchers came to this consensus after examining the latest published, peer reviewed science, while taking into account the recent information on the instability of the Antarctic ice-sheet.

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By: Blair Trewin, World Meteorological Organization

Global temperature anomalies (difference from 1961-90 average) for 1950 to 2016, showing strong El Niño and La Niña years, and years when climate was affected by volcanoes. Image: World Meteorological Organization

Global temperature anomalies (difference from 1961-90 average) for 1950 to 2016, showing strong El Niño and La Niña years, and years when climate was affected by volcanoes. (Click to enlarge.)
Image: World Meteorological Organization

2016 is set to be the world’s hottest year on record. According to the World Meteorological Organization’s preliminary statement on the global climate for 2016, global temperatures for January to September were 0.88°C above the long-term (1961-90) average, 0.11°C above the record set last year, and about 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels.

While the year is not yet over, the final weeks of 2016 would need to be the coldest of the 21st century for 2016’s final number to drop below last year’s.

Record-setting temperatures in 2016 came as no real surprise. Global temperatures continue to rise at a rate of 0.10-0.15°C per decade, and over the five years from 2011 to 2015 they averaged 0.59°C above the 1961-1990 average.

Giving temperatures a further boost this year was the very strong El Niño event of 2015−16. As we saw in 1998, global temperatures in years where the year starts with a strong El Niño are typically 0.1-0.2°C warmer than the years either side of them, and 2016 is following the same script.

Almost everywhere was warm

Warmth covered almost the entire world in 2016, but was most significant in high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. Some parts of the Russian Arctic have been a remarkable 6-7°C above average for the year, while Alaska is having its warmest year on record by more than a degree.

Almost the whole Northern Hemisphere north of the tropics has been at least 1°C above average. North America and Asia are both having their warmest year on record, with Africa, Europe and Oceania close to record levels. The only significant land areas which are having a cooler-than-normal year are northern and central Argentina, and parts of southern Western Australia.

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When it comes to understanding the factors behind climate change, many scientists point to greenhouse gases – the main contributor being carbon dioxide. From upcycling the greenhouse gas to transforming CO2 into clean burning fuels, electrochemists and solid state scientists are tackling some of the most pressing issues in global warming.

But some researchers are now shifting that spotlight to black carbon (or soot) – the runner-up in factors causing the plant to warm, and one that is often overlooked.

Black carbon is typically created from the running of diesel engines, coal-burning plants, and open biomass incineration. It has been known from its negative impact on health, but it also absorbs light and mixes with water taken from clouds, creating devastating effects.

This from Popular Science:

Eliminating black carbon could stop about 40 percent of global warming. It’s not hard to “scrub” emissions at their source. And because soot only stays in the air for weeks, there would be a near-immediate decrease in the planet’s heating, buying us more time to replace fossil fuels with clean energy. But doing so would trigger a second type of climate change. When black carbon reaches the atmosphere, it’s already mixed with sulfur dioxide and other organic matter. Those particles actually reflect sunlight, causing a “global cooling” effect by preventing that solar radiation from penetrating the lower levels of the atmosphere.

Read the full article.

Researchers are looking to combat this catch 22 by isolating and filtering black carbon.

Does this summer feel a little warmer than usual? Well, that’s because it is.

According to NASA, the first six months of 2016 have been the warmest half-year ever recorded. Pair that with the smallest monthly Artic Sea ice extent in that same period of time, and these two indicators give a grim image of the accelerating pace of climate change.

In a report, NASA states that the global temperature has increased by 2.4°F since record keeping began in the 1800s. Additionally, Artic Sea ice has been declining at a rate of 13.4 percent per decade.

“It has been a record year so far for global temperatures, but the record high temperatures in the Arctic over the past six months have been even more extreme,” says Walt Mkeier, a sea ice researcher with NASA. “This warmth as well as unusual weather patterns have led to the record low sea ice extents so far this year.”

If climate continues down this same path, the effects could be devastating for the world. However, electrochemical and solid state science may have some of the answers to mitigate climate change.

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Nobel laureate and climate advocate Al Gore is optimistic about climate change in his new TED Talk. In his talk, Gore proposes three questions — the answers of which help make the case for optimism on climate change.

An infographic that can visually tell the story of climate changes has been making its rounds on the internet.

Brainchild of climate scientists Ed Hawkins and Jan Fuglestvedt, the animation shows how global temperatures have spiraled upwards and outwards since 1850.

The magic number here is 2°C. Once the global temperature hits 2°C above the average temperature between 1850 and 1900, many scientists believe that at least some aspects of climate change will be irreversible.

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A Revolution in Renewable Energy

Towering like a beacon of hope in Germany’s North Sea stand wind turbines. Stretching as high as 60-story buildings and standing as far as 60 miles from the mainland, the turbines are part of Germany’s push to find a solution to global warming.

Some call it change. Some call it transformation. We call it a revolution.

According to an article in the The New York Times, it is expected that by the end of the year, scores of new turbines will be set in place – thus allowing low-emission electricity to be sent to German cities hundreds of miles south.

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