Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy


Hansen Sets CO2 Target; California Sets Aggressive Renewable Target

James Hansen was the lead author of a paper recently, “Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?“.  It appears in the latest edition of the Open Atmosphere Science Journal.  I just finished reading the paper when an article on it appeared on CNN’s website.  I will have much more on this paper, and others I’ve read recently, in the future.  In short, the article makes the argument that CO2 concentrations are already too high.  To avoid a return to the early Cenozoic Period climate, humanity must act immediately.  350ppm is the target.  We’re currently at 385ppm, and that’s currently going up by 2-3ppm per year.

In related news, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has issued an executive order calling for a 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard by 2020.  That is significant.  If California were it’s own country, it would have the 7th largest economy in the world.  An aggressive goal like this will lead the way for the remainder of the country to establish and improve upon renewable energy sources.  California is looking at a greenhouse gas reduction goal of 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 1990 emissions levels by 2050 pretty seriously.  Will it be enough?  Certainly not if California acts alone or nearly alone.  The U.S. needs to adopt a similarly aggressive stance.  As Hansen’t paper points out, CO2 concentrations are too high already.  Everything we do today to bring that concentration down is less we have to do tomorrow.


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Pollution in Parks, Governors & Global Warming, Arctic Sea Ice

An EPA plan would allow coal power plants and oil refineries to be built closer to National Parks.  The EPA is being run by pro-corporate hacks appointed by Bush.  The way in which pollution levels in the parks would change under the EPA plan.  Instead of monitoring three- and 24-hour results, pollution will be averaged over an entire year before action is taken to control it.  Republicans’ plans to foul our public lands comes closer every day.  How patriotic.

12 governors signed a pledge yesterday to work against global warming forcing.  The document was signed at the end of a two-day international conference hosted by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The meeting was held in advance of the U.N.-sponsored climate change treaty negotiations being held in Poland next month.  Among the realistic assessments, here is a quote from Sabine Miltner, a director at Deutsche Bank:

She said sufficiently reducing emissions will require capital investments of roughly $500 billion a year between 2010 and 2030. Miltner suggested the U.S. and other governments weighing economic stimulus packages invest some of the money in energy efficiency projects, transmission lines for renewable power sources and public transportation systems.

It’s always nice to see more realists address the environment and the economy at the same time.  My Governor, Bill Ritter, was among the signees.  His New Energy Economy plan is well under way.  Seeing as how it will end up costing more later if we do nothing now, I’m glad Ritter and others are taking action, despite the science-haters in Bush’s government.

Arctic sea ice reformed quickly during October, as expected.  It’s not hard for a small layer of ice to form with sub-freezing atmospheric temperatures and 24-hour darkness.  The areal extent at the end of the month was still well below the 1979-2000 climatological average.  It should be noted that the rate of ice formation slowed noticeably by the end of the month.  Also of note is the large anomaly of high atmospheric temperatures in a deep layer above the Arctic Ocean.  As the warm water gave off its heat once the Sun retreated from the sky and prior to ice formation, massive amounts of energy in the form of heat was transferred from the Ocean to the atmosphere above it.  The NSIDC notes:

In the past five years, the Arctic has shown a pattern of strong low-level atmospheric warming over the Arctic Ocean in autumn because of heat loss from the ocean back to the atmosphere. Climate models project that this atmospheric warming, known as Arctic amplification, will become more prominent in coming decades and extend into the winter season. As larger expanses of open water are left at the end of each melt season, the ocean will continue to hand off heat to the atmosphere.

As I’ve written before, the total area of ice that melted this year set a record: 10.58 million square kilometers (4.08 million square miles).