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Unforced variations: Nov 2014

Filed under: — group @ 2 November 2014

This month’s open thread. In honour of today’s New York Marathon, we are expecting the fastest of you to read and digest the final IPCC Synthesis report in sub-3 hours. For those who didn’t keep up with the IPCC training regime, the Summary for Policy Makers provides a more accessible target.

Also in the news, follow #ArcticCircle2014 for some great info on the Arctic Circle meeting in Iceland.

Storm surge: Hurricane Sandy

Filed under: — group @ 29 October 2014

On the second anniversary of Superstorm Sandy making landfall, we are running an extract from a new book by Adam Sobel “Storm Surge: Hurricane Sandy, Our Changing Climate, and Extreme Weather of the Past and Future”. It’s a great read covering the meteorology of the event, the preparation, the response and the implications for the future.

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How do trees change the climate?

Filed under: — group @ 27 October 2014 - (Deutsch)

Guest commentary from Abby Swann (U. Washington)

This past month, an op-ed by Nadine Unger appeared in the New York Times with the headline “To save the climate, don’t plant trees”.  The author’s main argument is that UN programs to address climate change by planting trees or preserving existing forests are “high risk” and a “bad bet”. [Ed. There is more background on the op-ed here]

However, I don’t think that these conclusions are supported by the science.  The author connects unrelated issues about trees, conflates what we know about trees from different latitudes, and fails to convey the main point: tropical trees keep climate cool locally, help keep rainfall rates high, and have innumerable non-climate benefits including maintaining habitat and supporting biodiversity.

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Ocean heat storage: a particularly lousy policy target + Update

Filed under: — stefan @ 20 October 2014

The New York Times, 12 December 2027: After 12 years of debate and negotiation, kicked off in Paris in 2015, world leaders have finally agreed to ditch the goal of limiting global warming to below 2 °C. Instead, they have agreed to the new goal of limiting global ocean heat content to 1024 Joules. The decision was widely welcomed by the science and policy communities as a great step forward. “In the past, the 2 °C goal has allowed some governments to pretend that they are taking serious action to mitigate global warming, when in reality they have achieved almost nothing. I’m sure that this can’t happen again with the new 1024 Joules goal”, said David Victor, a professor of international relations who originally proposed this change back in 2014. And an unnamed senior EU negotiator commented: “Perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but some heads of state had trouble understanding the implications of the 2 °C target; sometimes they even accidentally talked of limiting global warming to 2%. I’m glad that we now have those 1024 Joules which are much easier to grasp for policy makers and the public.”

This fictitious newspaper item is of course absurd and will never become reality, because ocean heat content is unsuited as a climate policy target. Here are three main reasons why. More »

New developments: Climate services for health

Filed under: — rasmus @ 13 October 2014

I recently received a joint email from the World Meteorological and Health organisations (WMO & WHO) which I like to bring to the attention of our readers. Both because it shows the direction of some new developments, but also because the WMO and WHO are inviting people to share their experience with health and climate. We wrote a post on the subject climate and health in 2011, based on a book by Paul Epstein (who sadly pased away in November 2011) and Dan Ferber (Health on a Changing Planet), and are glad to see an increased emphasis on this topic. The call from WMO/WHO goes as follows:

Guest commentary from Joy Shumake-Guillemot

Climate Services for Health
Enhancing Decision Support for Climate Risk Management and Adaptation

Climate services for health are an emerging technical field for both the health and climate communities. In 2012, WHO and WMO jointly published the Atlas on Climate and Health, drawing attention to the key linkages between climate and health, and how climate information can be used to understand and manage climate sensitive health risks. A new follow-up publication of Case Studies on Climate Services for Health is in preparation, and will take a next step to outline with greater detail how a wide range of health applications can benefit from using climate and weather information; what steps and processes can be used to co-develop and use climate and weather information in the health sector; and showcase how such partnerships and services can really make a difference to the health community. 

Submission Guidance – Deadline October 31, 2014
We invite you to share your experiences and call attention to the increasing opportunities to solve health problems with climate service solutions. Case studies should highlight existing partnerships and good practices that demonstrate the broad range of possible applications and the value of using climate information to inform health decisions. Case studies from across health science and practice are welcomed, including examples of climate services for integrated surveillance, disease forecasting, early warning systems, risk mapping, health service planning, risk communication, research, evaluation, infrastructure siting, etc. Additionally, the publication aims to highlight the full range climate-related health issues and risks (i.e. nutrition, NCDs, air pollution, allergens, infectious diseases, water and sanitation, extreme temperatures and weather, etc.) where health decision-making can benefit from climate and weather knowledge at historic, immediate, seasonal, or long-term time scales.

Case studies should be short (~600 words, 2 pages incl. images/diagrams and references) and designed to highlight the added-value that climate services have made for managing climate risks to health. Please find additional guidance on the structure and four elements to be included at  

For questions and submission please contact
Dr.Joy Shumake-Guillemot
WHO/WMO Climate and Health Office, World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, Switzerland

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