Tag Archives: Heat waves

Conservatives can make green choices

EMBARGOED until 1900 GMT on Monday 29 April There is evidence suggesting that political conservatives may resist making rational choices which claim to help the environment, researchers say. But the evidence is far from clear-cut. LONDON, 29 April – US researchers have just established that even something as simple as energy efficiency can be bedeviled by political bias. They report that political conservatives are less likely to endorse investment in energy efficiency than political liberals. They are even less likely to buy an expensive, more energy-efficient – and therefore in the long run better-value – light bulb if it carries a label with an environmental message. “These results highlight the importance of taking into account psychological value-based considerations in the individual adoption of energy-efficient technology in the United States and beyond”, they write, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientists from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the Fuqua school of business at Duke University tested the responses of their fellow Americans in two linked studies. They took the relatively straightforward issue of energy efficiency – on the face of it good for individual households, for businesses and for national economies – and tested the attitudes of 657 people, while quizzing them about their political attitudes. They also asked about their attitudes to the environment, energy independence and energy costs. “The more conservative participants were, the less psychological value they placed on these concerns”, they report. In the second experiment, they gave 210 volunteers $2 and the choice of a light bulb: the volunteers could buy either a long-lasting compact fluorescent or a shorter-lived incandescent variety. Both light bulbs carried stickers. In some cases the stickers on the compact fluorescent bulb said “Protect the Environment,” and in others the label was blank.

Political purchasing

  When they offered the two light bulbs at the same price, all but one chose the energy-efficient bulb, endorsing the general proposition that the compact fluorescent bulb was seen as superior in function, savings and environmental benefit. But when the experimenters manipulated the price, and made the energy-efficient bulb three times as costly as the incandescent one, there was a sharper divide. Ideological choice came into play. If the label was blank, then the majority of participants still chose the more energy-efficient variety. But political conservatives were less likely to buy a light bulb if it bore a sticker promoting its importance to the environment: purchasing choice had somehow become a political statement. “In particular, our results indicate that in the United States (one of the largest producers of carbon emissions in the world), those on the political right will avoid purchasing more expensive energy-efficient options when the choice is reflective of concern for the environment, even though they might have otherwise purchased these options,” the researchers report. The authors argue that their results could be generalised to other societies, for instance the European Union, where they also see a left-right divide on climate change. The PNAS study is just the latest in a series of studies that have examined the way attitudes to global warming, greenhouse emissions and climate change have become polarised, but the picture is not a simple one. Direct human experience, too, plays a role.

Californian challenge

  Back in February, the Climate News Network reported on research that suggested that people in the US warmed to the argument for climate change and global warming during and after heat waves, but could fall back into scepticism after a cold snap. In December 2012 European researchers reported in Nature Climate Change that when in an elaborate experiment they invited people to check tyre pressure – another practical and sensible step for reasons both of safety and economy – participants were actually more likely to respond to appeals to the environment than to economic gain: the opposite of the PNAS finding in the US. In Europe, they concluded, people might prefer to feel “green” rather than greedy. And even in the US, a different approach on a different seaboard can produce a different result. In December 2012 a team from the University of California, Berkeley reported in the journal Psychological Science that studies showed that while people who identified as conservatives tended to be less concerned about the environment, their attitudes changed when they read material that stressed the need to protect the purity of the environment, or were shown repellent pictures of smog-filled cities, or forests filled with garbage. “When individuals view protecting the environment as a moral issue they are more likely to recycle and support government legislation to curb carbon emissions”, said Matthew Feinberg, lead author. – Climate News Network

EMBARGOED until 1900 GMT on Monday 29 April There is evidence suggesting that political conservatives may resist making rational choices which claim to help the environment, researchers say. But the evidence is far from clear-cut. LONDON, 29 April – US researchers have just established that even something as simple as energy efficiency can be bedeviled by political bias. They report that political conservatives are less likely to endorse investment in energy efficiency than political liberals. They are even less likely to buy an expensive, more energy-efficient – and therefore in the long run better-value – light bulb if it carries a label with an environmental message. “These results highlight the importance of taking into account psychological value-based considerations in the individual adoption of energy-efficient technology in the United States and beyond”, they write, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientists from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the Fuqua school of business at Duke University tested the responses of their fellow Americans in two linked studies. They took the relatively straightforward issue of energy efficiency – on the face of it good for individual households, for businesses and for national economies – and tested the attitudes of 657 people, while quizzing them about their political attitudes. They also asked about their attitudes to the environment, energy independence and energy costs. “The more conservative participants were, the less psychological value they placed on these concerns”, they report. In the second experiment, they gave 210 volunteers $2 and the choice of a light bulb: the volunteers could buy either a long-lasting compact fluorescent or a shorter-lived incandescent variety. Both light bulbs carried stickers. In some cases the stickers on the compact fluorescent bulb said “Protect the Environment,” and in others the label was blank.

Political purchasing

  When they offered the two light bulbs at the same price, all but one chose the energy-efficient bulb, endorsing the general proposition that the compact fluorescent bulb was seen as superior in function, savings and environmental benefit. But when the experimenters manipulated the price, and made the energy-efficient bulb three times as costly as the incandescent one, there was a sharper divide. Ideological choice came into play. If the label was blank, then the majority of participants still chose the more energy-efficient variety. But political conservatives were less likely to buy a light bulb if it bore a sticker promoting its importance to the environment: purchasing choice had somehow become a political statement. “In particular, our results indicate that in the United States (one of the largest producers of carbon emissions in the world), those on the political right will avoid purchasing more expensive energy-efficient options when the choice is reflective of concern for the environment, even though they might have otherwise purchased these options,” the researchers report. The authors argue that their results could be generalised to other societies, for instance the European Union, where they also see a left-right divide on climate change. The PNAS study is just the latest in a series of studies that have examined the way attitudes to global warming, greenhouse emissions and climate change have become polarised, but the picture is not a simple one. Direct human experience, too, plays a role.

Californian challenge

  Back in February, the Climate News Network reported on research that suggested that people in the US warmed to the argument for climate change and global warming during and after heat waves, but could fall back into scepticism after a cold snap. In December 2012 European researchers reported in Nature Climate Change that when in an elaborate experiment they invited people to check tyre pressure – another practical and sensible step for reasons both of safety and economy – participants were actually more likely to respond to appeals to the environment than to economic gain: the opposite of the PNAS finding in the US. In Europe, they concluded, people might prefer to feel “green” rather than greedy. And even in the US, a different approach on a different seaboard can produce a different result. In December 2012 a team from the University of California, Berkeley reported in the journal Psychological Science that studies showed that while people who identified as conservatives tended to be less concerned about the environment, their attitudes changed when they read material that stressed the need to protect the purity of the environment, or were shown repellent pictures of smog-filled cities, or forests filled with garbage. “When individuals view protecting the environment as a moral issue they are more likely to recycle and support government legislation to curb carbon emissions”, said Matthew Feinberg, lead author. – Climate News Network

Renewable energy 'could run Australia'

EMBARGOED until 0001 GMT Wednesday 16 January
All that stands between Australia and a future fuelled entirely by renewable energy, researchers say, is the political will to make the change – a finding directly relevant to a country currently ravaged by an extraordinary heat wave.

LONDON, 16 January – Australia could be self-sufficient in renewable energy in 10 years by converting to solar and wind energy if the country had the right social and political leadership, according to the Energy Research Institute of the University of Melbourne.

In a paper published before the current catastrophic heat wave (the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan), the researchers conclude that existing proven technologies could be deployed on a large scale to show an example to the world and to wean Australia off its addiction to fossil fuels.

Australia, the world’s largest coal exporter, has one of the highest per capita emissions of greenhouse gases and has, until recently, resisted tackling climate change.

The report says that if there were the political will Australia’s enormous renewable potential could be harnessed and within a decade both make the country carbon-neutral and create thousands of new jobs.

About 40% of Australian renewables would come from wind farms, but key to the success of the project is the empty landscape and the almost constant solar power of the interior.

Non-stop power production

Solar power would be produced by many buildings, but most power would come from vast towers containing salt water with sunlight directed upon them from fields of mirrors.

The water, heated to more than 500°C, would drive turbines and create 60% of Australia’s electricity. Surplus heat generated during the day would be stored in underground molten salt storage tanks, which would release the heat overnight to enable the turbines to run continuously.

To cover times when the sun did not shine and the wind did not blow there would be back-up plants burning biomass, mostly waste from crop production. Existing reserves of hydropower would be held back to fill any gaps.

Even assuming that electricity demand was 40% higher than today, in 2020 it would still be possible to achieve 100% renewable generation, the report says.

There would need to be large-scale improvements in energy efficiency, particularly to smooth out peaks in demand. But the Institute says this is not impossible.  Germany’s per capita electricity use is already 30% less than Australia’s, and its policies are expected to reduce this further over the next 20 years.

The researchers point out that Germany is a modern industrial economy, with a high standard of living, partly based on manufacturing and metal production (including five aluminium smelters), so Australia cannot plead it is a special case.

While the report says that building new electricity production to power homes, offices and factories would come first, Australia would also have to embrace the electric car and train. Again this could be achieved, given the political will.

A total switch to renewable electricity would cost 3% of Australian GDP annually, about A$37 billion (US$39 billion), for 10 years, and an added 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour on the electricity price.

Researchers say wind and solar thermal generators have far lower life-cycle emissions than any other available technology.  This is true even of schemes to capture and store carbon from coal plants and of nuclear power, mainly because of the initial fuel mining, processing, transport and handling. Both sorts of plants also take much longer to commission that either solar or wind.

More jobs gained than lost

The report details where these huge solar and wind power generators could be sited around Australia. The plan is for 23 wind farms,  each containing turbines able to produce 2,000 to 3,000 megawatts (a typical coal power station produces around 600–700 megawatts, while a unit in a nuclear power plant has an electrical power output of 900–1300 megawatts). They would be dispersed around the country to take advantage of the windiest places and the diversity of weather systems.

There would be 12 sites for concentrated solar power, each containing several towers. Each tower would contain molten salt water and would have 18,000 two-axis tracking mirrors focusing sunlight on the receiver – heating it to at least 565°C.

The towers could be adjusted for the seasons to get the maximum power from the sun. Despite the vast size of the wind and solar farms they would take up less than 0.4% of Australia’s land area.

The plan shows that many more jobs would be created with the construction of a 100% renewable energy grid than those lost with the phasing-out of coal and gas from the existing energy supply chain.

The plan would create 80,000 jobs in the construction phase and 45,000 in operation and maintenance that would continue for the life of the plant.  There would be an additional 30,000 jobs in manufacturing if half the plant was made in Australia. – Climate News Network

EMBARGOED until 0001 GMT Wednesday 16 January
All that stands between Australia and a future fuelled entirely by renewable energy, researchers say, is the political will to make the change – a finding directly relevant to a country currently ravaged by an extraordinary heat wave.

LONDON, 16 January – Australia could be self-sufficient in renewable energy in 10 years by converting to solar and wind energy if the country had the right social and political leadership, according to the Energy Research Institute of the University of Melbourne.

In a paper published before the current catastrophic heat wave (the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan), the researchers conclude that existing proven technologies could be deployed on a large scale to show an example to the world and to wean Australia off its addiction to fossil fuels.

Australia, the world’s largest coal exporter, has one of the highest per capita emissions of greenhouse gases and has, until recently, resisted tackling climate change.

The report says that if there were the political will Australia’s enormous renewable potential could be harnessed and within a decade both make the country carbon-neutral and create thousands of new jobs.

About 40% of Australian renewables would come from wind farms, but key to the success of the project is the empty landscape and the almost constant solar power of the interior.

Non-stop power production

Solar power would be produced by many buildings, but most power would come from vast towers containing salt water with sunlight directed upon them from fields of mirrors.

The water, heated to more than 500°C, would drive turbines and create 60% of Australia’s electricity. Surplus heat generated during the day would be stored in underground molten salt storage tanks, which would release the heat overnight to enable the turbines to run continuously.

To cover times when the sun did not shine and the wind did not blow there would be back-up plants burning biomass, mostly waste from crop production. Existing reserves of hydropower would be held back to fill any gaps.

Even assuming that electricity demand was 40% higher than today, in 2020 it would still be possible to achieve 100% renewable generation, the report says.

There would need to be large-scale improvements in energy efficiency, particularly to smooth out peaks in demand. But the Institute says this is not impossible.  Germany’s per capita electricity use is already 30% less than Australia’s, and its policies are expected to reduce this further over the next 20 years.

The researchers point out that Germany is a modern industrial economy, with a high standard of living, partly based on manufacturing and metal production (including five aluminium smelters), so Australia cannot plead it is a special case.

While the report says that building new electricity production to power homes, offices and factories would come first, Australia would also have to embrace the electric car and train. Again this could be achieved, given the political will.

A total switch to renewable electricity would cost 3% of Australian GDP annually, about A$37 billion (US$39 billion), for 10 years, and an added 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour on the electricity price.

Researchers say wind and solar thermal generators have far lower life-cycle emissions than any other available technology.  This is true even of schemes to capture and store carbon from coal plants and of nuclear power, mainly because of the initial fuel mining, processing, transport and handling. Both sorts of plants also take much longer to commission that either solar or wind.

More jobs gained than lost

The report details where these huge solar and wind power generators could be sited around Australia. The plan is for 23 wind farms,  each containing turbines able to produce 2,000 to 3,000 megawatts (a typical coal power station produces around 600–700 megawatts, while a unit in a nuclear power plant has an electrical power output of 900–1300 megawatts). They would be dispersed around the country to take advantage of the windiest places and the diversity of weather systems.

There would be 12 sites for concentrated solar power, each containing several towers. Each tower would contain molten salt water and would have 18,000 two-axis tracking mirrors focusing sunlight on the receiver – heating it to at least 565°C.

The towers could be adjusted for the seasons to get the maximum power from the sun. Despite the vast size of the wind and solar farms they would take up less than 0.4% of Australia’s land area.

The plan shows that many more jobs would be created with the construction of a 100% renewable energy grid than those lost with the phasing-out of coal and gas from the existing energy supply chain.

The plan would create 80,000 jobs in the construction phase and 45,000 in operation and maintenance that would continue for the life of the plant.  There would be an additional 30,000 jobs in manufacturing if half the plant was made in Australia. – Climate News Network

Renewable energy ‘could run Australia’

EMBARGOED until 0001 GMT Wednesday 16 January All that stands between Australia and a future fuelled entirely by renewable energy, researchers say, is the political will to make the change – a finding directly relevant to a country currently ravaged by an extraordinary heat wave. LONDON, 16 January – Australia could be self-sufficient in renewable energy in 10 years by converting to solar and wind energy if the country had the right social and political leadership, according to the Energy Research Institute of the University of Melbourne. In a paper published before the current catastrophic heat wave (the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan), the researchers conclude that existing proven technologies could be deployed on a large scale to show an example to the world and to wean Australia off its addiction to fossil fuels. Australia, the world’s largest coal exporter, has one of the highest per capita emissions of greenhouse gases and has, until recently, resisted tackling climate change. The report says that if there were the political will Australia’s enormous renewable potential could be harnessed and within a decade both make the country carbon-neutral and create thousands of new jobs. About 40% of Australian renewables would come from wind farms, but key to the success of the project is the empty landscape and the almost constant solar power of the interior.

Non-stop power production

Solar power would be produced by many buildings, but most power would come from vast towers containing salt water with sunlight directed upon them from fields of mirrors. The water, heated to more than 500°C, would drive turbines and create 60% of Australia’s electricity. Surplus heat generated during the day would be stored in underground molten salt storage tanks, which would release the heat overnight to enable the turbines to run continuously. To cover times when the sun did not shine and the wind did not blow there would be back-up plants burning biomass, mostly waste from crop production. Existing reserves of hydropower would be held back to fill any gaps. Even assuming that electricity demand was 40% higher than today, in 2020 it would still be possible to achieve 100% renewable generation, the report says. There would need to be large-scale improvements in energy efficiency, particularly to smooth out peaks in demand. But the Institute says this is not impossible.  Germany’s per capita electricity use is already 30% less than Australia’s, and its policies are expected to reduce this further over the next 20 years. The researchers point out that Germany is a modern industrial economy, with a high standard of living, partly based on manufacturing and metal production (including five aluminium smelters), so Australia cannot plead it is a special case. While the report says that building new electricity production to power homes, offices and factories would come first, Australia would also have to embrace the electric car and train. Again this could be achieved, given the political will. A total switch to renewable electricity would cost 3% of Australian GDP annually, about A$37 billion (US$39 billion), for 10 years, and an added 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour on the electricity price. Researchers say wind and solar thermal generators have far lower life-cycle emissions than any other available technology.  This is true even of schemes to capture and store carbon from coal plants and of nuclear power, mainly because of the initial fuel mining, processing, transport and handling. Both sorts of plants also take much longer to commission that either solar or wind.

More jobs gained than lost

The report details where these huge solar and wind power generators could be sited around Australia. The plan is for 23 wind farms,  each containing turbines able to produce 2,000 to 3,000 megawatts (a typical coal power station produces around 600–700 megawatts, while a unit in a nuclear power plant has an electrical power output of 900–1300 megawatts). They would be dispersed around the country to take advantage of the windiest places and the diversity of weather systems. There would be 12 sites for concentrated solar power, each containing several towers. Each tower would contain molten salt water and would have 18,000 two-axis tracking mirrors focusing sunlight on the receiver – heating it to at least 565°C. The towers could be adjusted for the seasons to get the maximum power from the sun. Despite the vast size of the wind and solar farms they would take up less than 0.4% of Australia’s land area. The plan shows that many more jobs would be created with the construction of a 100% renewable energy grid than those lost with the phasing-out of coal and gas from the existing energy supply chain. The plan would create 80,000 jobs in the construction phase and 45,000 in operation and maintenance that would continue for the life of the plant.  There would be an additional 30,000 jobs in manufacturing if half the plant was made in Australia. – Climate News Network

EMBARGOED until 0001 GMT Wednesday 16 January All that stands between Australia and a future fuelled entirely by renewable energy, researchers say, is the political will to make the change – a finding directly relevant to a country currently ravaged by an extraordinary heat wave. LONDON, 16 January – Australia could be self-sufficient in renewable energy in 10 years by converting to solar and wind energy if the country had the right social and political leadership, according to the Energy Research Institute of the University of Melbourne. In a paper published before the current catastrophic heat wave (the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan), the researchers conclude that existing proven technologies could be deployed on a large scale to show an example to the world and to wean Australia off its addiction to fossil fuels. Australia, the world’s largest coal exporter, has one of the highest per capita emissions of greenhouse gases and has, until recently, resisted tackling climate change. The report says that if there were the political will Australia’s enormous renewable potential could be harnessed and within a decade both make the country carbon-neutral and create thousands of new jobs. About 40% of Australian renewables would come from wind farms, but key to the success of the project is the empty landscape and the almost constant solar power of the interior.

Non-stop power production

Solar power would be produced by many buildings, but most power would come from vast towers containing salt water with sunlight directed upon them from fields of mirrors. The water, heated to more than 500°C, would drive turbines and create 60% of Australia’s electricity. Surplus heat generated during the day would be stored in underground molten salt storage tanks, which would release the heat overnight to enable the turbines to run continuously. To cover times when the sun did not shine and the wind did not blow there would be back-up plants burning biomass, mostly waste from crop production. Existing reserves of hydropower would be held back to fill any gaps. Even assuming that electricity demand was 40% higher than today, in 2020 it would still be possible to achieve 100% renewable generation, the report says. There would need to be large-scale improvements in energy efficiency, particularly to smooth out peaks in demand. But the Institute says this is not impossible.  Germany’s per capita electricity use is already 30% less than Australia’s, and its policies are expected to reduce this further over the next 20 years. The researchers point out that Germany is a modern industrial economy, with a high standard of living, partly based on manufacturing and metal production (including five aluminium smelters), so Australia cannot plead it is a special case. While the report says that building new electricity production to power homes, offices and factories would come first, Australia would also have to embrace the electric car and train. Again this could be achieved, given the political will. A total switch to renewable electricity would cost 3% of Australian GDP annually, about A$37 billion (US$39 billion), for 10 years, and an added 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour on the electricity price. Researchers say wind and solar thermal generators have far lower life-cycle emissions than any other available technology.  This is true even of schemes to capture and store carbon from coal plants and of nuclear power, mainly because of the initial fuel mining, processing, transport and handling. Both sorts of plants also take much longer to commission that either solar or wind.

More jobs gained than lost

The report details where these huge solar and wind power generators could be sited around Australia. The plan is for 23 wind farms,  each containing turbines able to produce 2,000 to 3,000 megawatts (a typical coal power station produces around 600–700 megawatts, while a unit in a nuclear power plant has an electrical power output of 900–1300 megawatts). They would be dispersed around the country to take advantage of the windiest places and the diversity of weather systems. There would be 12 sites for concentrated solar power, each containing several towers. Each tower would contain molten salt water and would have 18,000 two-axis tracking mirrors focusing sunlight on the receiver – heating it to at least 565°C. The towers could be adjusted for the seasons to get the maximum power from the sun. Despite the vast size of the wind and solar farms they would take up less than 0.4% of Australia’s land area. The plan shows that many more jobs would be created with the construction of a 100% renewable energy grid than those lost with the phasing-out of coal and gas from the existing energy supply chain. The plan would create 80,000 jobs in the construction phase and 45,000 in operation and maintenance that would continue for the life of the plant.  There would be an additional 30,000 jobs in manufacturing if half the plant was made in Australia. – Climate News Network

Climate 'causing more and worse heat waves'

EMBARGOED till 0001 GMT on Tuesday 15 January
Researchers say there are now on average five times as many record-breaking hot months worldwide as we could expect without long-term global warming, with human activities responsible for four-fifths of them.

LONDON, 15 January – Climate change has already increased the incidence of dangerous heat waves five-fold, and 80% of them have been caused by man-made emissions. The last decade has been particularly affected.

These conclusions, by researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the Complutense University of Madrid, look at the increasing incidence of record-breaking hot months since 1880. The last 40 years has seen a steady rise, but in the last decade the upward curve has been far greater. Even these disturbing figures do not include the recent record temperatures and disastrous fires in Australia.

The new study relies on 131 years of monthly temperature data for more than 12,000 grid points around the world, provided by NASA.

Heat waves matter because they kill large numbers of people through heat stress, cause forest fires, reduce crop yields and damage ecosystems, which are not adapted to high temperatures.

Although the worldwide decadal average was five times more heat waves than expected without long-term warming, there were large regional differences. Hardest hit, with 10 times more damaging heat waves, were eastern Europe, Africa, southern Asia and Amazonia.

The Potsdam paper, published in the journal Climatic Change, concludes:  “Our statistical analysis does not consider the causes behind climatic change, but given the overwhelming evidence that global warming in the second half of the 20th century is anthropogenic one may conclude that 80% of the monthly heat records would not have occurred without human influence on climate.”

This trend is expected to continue, with the number of records globally by 2040 being more than 12 times as high as in a climate with no long-term warming.

There has been a steep global warming trend over the last 40 years. Superimposed on this long-term rise, the team’s data show the effect of natural variability, with especially high numbers of heat records during years with El Niño events. This natural variability, however, does not explain the overall development of the record events they found, the researchers say.

Lead author Dim Coumou says: “The last decade brought unprecedented heat waves; for instance in the US in 2012, in Russia in 2010, in Australia in 2009, and in Europe in 2003. Heat extremes are causing many deaths.”

The study projection that the number of new monthly records will be 12 times as high in 30 years is misleading, the researchers say,  because although it sounds very bad, the reality – on present trends – will be even worse.

The new records set in the 2040s will be hot not just by today’s standards. “To count as new records, they actually have to beat heat records set in the 2020s and 2030s, which will already be hotter than anything we have experienced to date,” explains Coumou.

“And this is just the global average – in some continental regions, the increase in new records will be even greater.”

“Statistics alone cannot tell us what the cause of any single heat wave is, but they show a large and systematic increase in the number of heat records due to global warming,” says Stefan Rahmstorf, a co-author of the study and co-chair of PIK’s research domain Earth System Analysis.

“Today this increase is already so large that by far most monthly heat records are due to climate change. The science is clear that only a small fraction would have occurred naturally.” – Climate News Network

EMBARGOED till 0001 GMT on Tuesday 15 January
Researchers say there are now on average five times as many record-breaking hot months worldwide as we could expect without long-term global warming, with human activities responsible for four-fifths of them.

LONDON, 15 January – Climate change has already increased the incidence of dangerous heat waves five-fold, and 80% of them have been caused by man-made emissions. The last decade has been particularly affected.

These conclusions, by researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the Complutense University of Madrid, look at the increasing incidence of record-breaking hot months since 1880. The last 40 years has seen a steady rise, but in the last decade the upward curve has been far greater. Even these disturbing figures do not include the recent record temperatures and disastrous fires in Australia.

The new study relies on 131 years of monthly temperature data for more than 12,000 grid points around the world, provided by NASA.

Heat waves matter because they kill large numbers of people through heat stress, cause forest fires, reduce crop yields and damage ecosystems, which are not adapted to high temperatures.

Although the worldwide decadal average was five times more heat waves than expected without long-term warming, there were large regional differences. Hardest hit, with 10 times more damaging heat waves, were eastern Europe, Africa, southern Asia and Amazonia.

The Potsdam paper, published in the journal Climatic Change, concludes:  “Our statistical analysis does not consider the causes behind climatic change, but given the overwhelming evidence that global warming in the second half of the 20th century is anthropogenic one may conclude that 80% of the monthly heat records would not have occurred without human influence on climate.”

This trend is expected to continue, with the number of records globally by 2040 being more than 12 times as high as in a climate with no long-term warming.

There has been a steep global warming trend over the last 40 years. Superimposed on this long-term rise, the team’s data show the effect of natural variability, with especially high numbers of heat records during years with El Niño events. This natural variability, however, does not explain the overall development of the record events they found, the researchers say.

Lead author Dim Coumou says: “The last decade brought unprecedented heat waves; for instance in the US in 2012, in Russia in 2010, in Australia in 2009, and in Europe in 2003. Heat extremes are causing many deaths.”

The study projection that the number of new monthly records will be 12 times as high in 30 years is misleading, the researchers say,  because although it sounds very bad, the reality – on present trends – will be even worse.

The new records set in the 2040s will be hot not just by today’s standards. “To count as new records, they actually have to beat heat records set in the 2020s and 2030s, which will already be hotter than anything we have experienced to date,” explains Coumou.

“And this is just the global average – in some continental regions, the increase in new records will be even greater.”

“Statistics alone cannot tell us what the cause of any single heat wave is, but they show a large and systematic increase in the number of heat records due to global warming,” says Stefan Rahmstorf, a co-author of the study and co-chair of PIK’s research domain Earth System Analysis.

“Today this increase is already so large that by far most monthly heat records are due to climate change. The science is clear that only a small fraction would have occurred naturally.” – Climate News Network

Climate ‘causing more and worse heat waves’

EMBARGOED till 0001 GMT on Tuesday 15 January Researchers say there are now on average five times as many record-breaking hot months worldwide as we could expect without long-term global warming, with human activities responsible for four-fifths of them. LONDON, 15 January – Climate change has already increased the incidence of dangerous heat waves five-fold, and 80% of them have been caused by man-made emissions. The last decade has been particularly affected. These conclusions, by researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the Complutense University of Madrid, look at the increasing incidence of record-breaking hot months since 1880. The last 40 years has seen a steady rise, but in the last decade the upward curve has been far greater. Even these disturbing figures do not include the recent record temperatures and disastrous fires in Australia. The new study relies on 131 years of monthly temperature data for more than 12,000 grid points around the world, provided by NASA. Heat waves matter because they kill large numbers of people through heat stress, cause forest fires, reduce crop yields and damage ecosystems, which are not adapted to high temperatures. Although the worldwide decadal average was five times more heat waves than expected without long-term warming, there were large regional differences. Hardest hit, with 10 times more damaging heat waves, were eastern Europe, Africa, southern Asia and Amazonia. The Potsdam paper, published in the journal Climatic Change, concludes:  “Our statistical analysis does not consider the causes behind climatic change, but given the overwhelming evidence that global warming in the second half of the 20th century is anthropogenic one may conclude that 80% of the monthly heat records would not have occurred without human influence on climate.” This trend is expected to continue, with the number of records globally by 2040 being more than 12 times as high as in a climate with no long-term warming. There has been a steep global warming trend over the last 40 years. Superimposed on this long-term rise, the team’s data show the effect of natural variability, with especially high numbers of heat records during years with El Niño events. This natural variability, however, does not explain the overall development of the record events they found, the researchers say. Lead author Dim Coumou says: “The last decade brought unprecedented heat waves; for instance in the US in 2012, in Russia in 2010, in Australia in 2009, and in Europe in 2003. Heat extremes are causing many deaths.” The study projection that the number of new monthly records will be 12 times as high in 30 years is misleading, the researchers say,  because although it sounds very bad, the reality – on present trends – will be even worse. The new records set in the 2040s will be hot not just by today’s standards. “To count as new records, they actually have to beat heat records set in the 2020s and 2030s, which will already be hotter than anything we have experienced to date,” explains Coumou. “And this is just the global average – in some continental regions, the increase in new records will be even greater.” “Statistics alone cannot tell us what the cause of any single heat wave is, but they show a large and systematic increase in the number of heat records due to global warming,” says Stefan Rahmstorf, a co-author of the study and co-chair of PIK’s research domain Earth System Analysis. “Today this increase is already so large that by far most monthly heat records are due to climate change. The science is clear that only a small fraction would have occurred naturally.” – Climate News Network

EMBARGOED till 0001 GMT on Tuesday 15 January Researchers say there are now on average five times as many record-breaking hot months worldwide as we could expect without long-term global warming, with human activities responsible for four-fifths of them. LONDON, 15 January – Climate change has already increased the incidence of dangerous heat waves five-fold, and 80% of them have been caused by man-made emissions. The last decade has been particularly affected. These conclusions, by researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the Complutense University of Madrid, look at the increasing incidence of record-breaking hot months since 1880. The last 40 years has seen a steady rise, but in the last decade the upward curve has been far greater. Even these disturbing figures do not include the recent record temperatures and disastrous fires in Australia. The new study relies on 131 years of monthly temperature data for more than 12,000 grid points around the world, provided by NASA. Heat waves matter because they kill large numbers of people through heat stress, cause forest fires, reduce crop yields and damage ecosystems, which are not adapted to high temperatures. Although the worldwide decadal average was five times more heat waves than expected without long-term warming, there were large regional differences. Hardest hit, with 10 times more damaging heat waves, were eastern Europe, Africa, southern Asia and Amazonia. The Potsdam paper, published in the journal Climatic Change, concludes:  “Our statistical analysis does not consider the causes behind climatic change, but given the overwhelming evidence that global warming in the second half of the 20th century is anthropogenic one may conclude that 80% of the monthly heat records would not have occurred without human influence on climate.” This trend is expected to continue, with the number of records globally by 2040 being more than 12 times as high as in a climate with no long-term warming. There has been a steep global warming trend over the last 40 years. Superimposed on this long-term rise, the team’s data show the effect of natural variability, with especially high numbers of heat records during years with El Niño events. This natural variability, however, does not explain the overall development of the record events they found, the researchers say. Lead author Dim Coumou says: “The last decade brought unprecedented heat waves; for instance in the US in 2012, in Russia in 2010, in Australia in 2009, and in Europe in 2003. Heat extremes are causing many deaths.” The study projection that the number of new monthly records will be 12 times as high in 30 years is misleading, the researchers say,  because although it sounds very bad, the reality – on present trends – will be even worse. The new records set in the 2040s will be hot not just by today’s standards. “To count as new records, they actually have to beat heat records set in the 2020s and 2030s, which will already be hotter than anything we have experienced to date,” explains Coumou. “And this is just the global average – in some continental regions, the increase in new records will be even greater.” “Statistics alone cannot tell us what the cause of any single heat wave is, but they show a large and systematic increase in the number of heat records due to global warming,” says Stefan Rahmstorf, a co-author of the study and co-chair of PIK’s research domain Earth System Analysis. “Today this increase is already so large that by far most monthly heat records are due to climate change. The science is clear that only a small fraction would have occurred naturally.” – Climate News Network