Category: Communicating climate change

Time to Act climate march – what was missing?

by Jonathan Bosch

On Saturday, 7th March 2015, I attended the Time to Act climate march. After a winding route through the historic streets of central London, an impromptu sit-down on the Strand, and a spirit-raising day under an early spring sun, we converged on Parliament Square where a number of speakers from charities, trade unions, political parties and other activist groups launched their rallying cries for climate justice, aiming their anger squarely upon the walls of the houses of parliament: the centre of British democracy – those with the power to make change, but who perhaps far too often stand in its way.

With climate models, simpler isn’t necessarily better

Grantham Institute Co-Director Professor Joanna Haigh discusses a recent paper which argues that  existing climate models ‘run hot’ and overstate the extent of manmade climate change.

It is perplexing that some climate change sceptics, who expend much energy in decrying global circulation (computer) models of the climate, on the basis that they cannot properly represent the entire complexities of the climate system and/or that they contain too many approximations, are now resorting to an extremely simplified model to support their arguments.

The model used in the Sci. Bull. article is a very useful tool for conceptualising the factors which contribute to the relationship between increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and global average temperature – indeed, we use such models as teaching aids for students studying atmospheric physics – but it is in no way fit for purpose as an accurate predictor of climate change.  

The costs of decarbonising the UK

By Dr Flora WhitmarshGrantham Institute

The costs associated with reducing emissions in the UK have been discussed recently in the press. In an article in the Mail on Sunday, David Rose made the claim that energy policies shaped by the so-called “Green Blob” –  a term coined by Owen Paterson for what he called “the mutually supportive network of environmental pressure groups, renewable energy companies and some public officials” – will cost the UK up to £400 billion by 2030, and that bills will rise by at least a third.

How much will action on climate change actually cost?

Has climate change been exaggerated? Fact-checking Owen Paterson’s comments

By Dr Flora WhitmarshGrantham Institute

In a lecture to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the former UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has criticised the current government’s climate and energy policies, suggesting there is too much emphasis on renewables and that the consequences of climate change have been exaggerated. A discussion of Mr Paterson’s comments on UK energy policy appears in another Grantham blog by Dr Simon Buckle. Here I will discuss one of the reasons for Paterson’s position, the belief that climate change has been exaggerated.

Paterson suggested that the Earth has not warmed as much as had been predicted, “ … I also accept the unambiguous failure of the atmosphere to warm anything like as fast as predicted by the vast majority of climate models over the past 35 years, when measured by both satellites and surface thermometers.

2°C or not 2°C – should we ditch the below 2°C target for global warming?

By Professor Joanna Haigh, Co-Director, Grantham Institute

A commentary published in Nature this week has opened up a discussion about the value of using the goal of keeping global warming to below 2°C.

David Victor and Charles Kennel are concerned that the below 2°C target for global warming is not useful, partly because they consider it is no longer achievable and partly because global mean surface temperature does not present a full picture of climate change.  The problem comes, of course, in identifying an alternative approach to establishing what is required from attempts to mitigate global warming.

The 2 degree target is in a sense nominal, in that it there is no precise threshold at which everything goes from bearable to unbearable, but it does have the advantage of being easy to understand, for both policy makers and the wider public .

Ocean heat uptake – checking the facts

The Climate and Environment at Imperial blog has moved. View this post on our new blog 

By Dr Flora Whitmarsh, Grantham Institute

The recent slowdown in global temperature rise has led to suggestions that global warming has stopped. In fact, the Earth system is still gaining heat, and the slowdown was likely caused by a series of small volcanic eruptions, a downward trend in the solar cycle, and increased heat uptake of the ocean. Writing in the Telegraph, Christopher Booker claims that a new paper by Professor Carl Wunsch (Wunsch, 2014) shows that ocean warming cannot explain the slowdown because the deeper ocean is in fact cooling rather than warming.

Ocean warming in the media

A recent paper on ocean warming has been reported on in a number of newspaper articles, most recently by Christopher Booker in the Sunday Telegraph.

The author of the paper, Professor Carl Wunsch of MIT, wrote a letter to the editor of the Sunday Telegraph in response to Christopher Booker’s article. As the letter has yet to be published in the Sunday Telegraph, with the permission of Professor Wunsch we have decided to post it here.

Dear Editor,

In the Sunday Telegraph of 27 July 2014, Christopher Booker pretends to understand a highly technical paper on ocean warming to such a degree that he can explain it to his lay-audience.

Fact checking a recent Telegraph article by Christopher Booker

by Dr Flora WhitmarshGrantham Institute

In an article for the Telegraph, Christopher Booker gave his views on Professor Sir Brian Hoskins’ appearance on the Today programme earlier this year. In the article, Booker made several claims about climate science relating to rainfall, atmospheric humidity, polar sea ice extent, global temperatures and sea level rise. In this blog I will assess his claims against the findings of the latest report of Working Group 1 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a hugely comprehensive assessment of the scientific literature.

  Rainfall and floods

Booker’s comment: “Not even the latest technical report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) could find any evidence that rainfall and floods were increasing.”

 Scientific Evidence:

The IPCC report found a significant climate influence on global scale changes in precipitation patterns (with medium confidence), including increases in precipitation in northern hemisphere mid to high latitudes.

What is the best way to write about climate change in fiction?

By Dr Flora Whitmarsh, Grantham Institute

Last week I attended Weather Fronts, an event organised by Tipping Point. The event brought climate scientists together with writers of fiction and poetry to discuss how authors can bring climate change into their work.

Climate change is a global problem and solving it requires collective action. When too many citizens fail to exercise their voice, it is harder for such problems to be adequately addressed at the societal level. Artists have a voice they can use to communicate about the things that concern them. Writing about global warming of course has the potential to raise awareness of its impacts and possible solutions.

Question Time and what the IPCC really said about tropical storms

By Dr Simon Buckle

BBC’s Question Time on 14 November saw Lord Lawson citing the IPCC findings to support one of his arguments.  Did I dream that? Then I realised that, of course, the reference to the IPCC was incomplete and misleading so I knew I was awake and back in the strange media-distorted world of the UK debate on climate change.

According to the Daily Express, Lord Lawson said that “If you look at the inter-governmental panel on climate change they say there is absolutely no connection between climate change and tropical storms.” Wrong, but convenient for someone who argues we probably don’t need to do anything much about climate change.