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AGU 2016

Filed under: — group @ 12 December 2016

It’s that time of year again. Fall AGU is the biggest gathering of geophysical scientists in the world (~24,000 attendees) and while it includes planetary science, seismology and magnetophysics, it is swamped by earth scientists, whose work covers the atmosphere, oceans, cryosphere, climate, natural hazards and paleoclimate.

As in previous years, many sessions and most of the keynotes will be available On-Demand (which is free but you do need to register) and there is a E-poster facility that lets non-attendees view some of the posters.

Some interesting sessions related to discussions at RealClimate will be the “Betting on Climate Change” (Mon, posters), “El Niño: Global Anomalies and Societal Impacts at Regional Scale” (Wed, Union Channel On-demand), and “The Up‐Goer Five Challenge: A Fun and Radical Way to Distill Your Science” (Fri). Of course, there are always the usual paleo-climate (e.g. Climate of the Common Era), model evaluation, and observational sessions to follow.

Keynotes from Isaac Held,  Christine Hulbe, Nathalie Cabrol, Daniel Jacob and Bette Otto-Bleisner all sound promising, covering tropical cyclones, the last glacial maximum, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, air quality and astrobiology (though probably not all at once).

If there are any other specific sessions or talks, you’d like to advertise or comment on, put them in the comments. Discussion on Twitter is using the #AGU16 hashtag. If anyone wants to write up some sessions or highlights, send them along and we’ll post them.

8 Responses to “AGU 2016”

  1. 1


    At least 18 litigations, some quite similar, having the potential of a profound environmental impact, are in progress across the globe. They concern the relationship of government to the health and safety of its citizens, and the safety of the atmosphere on which all life depends. Many of these lawsuits are supported by Our Children’s Trust (, a non-profit organization based in Eugene, Oregon, dedicated to the proposition that today’s youth must secure a legal right to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate.

    In August 2015, a group of 21 young people (plaintiffs) ages 8 to 19, and Dr. James Hansen, renowned climate scientist at Columbia University Earth Institute (previously with NASA as head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies), sued President Obama, the EPA, Departments of Energy, Interior, Agriculture, and Defense, for its actions that have caused, and continue to cause, climate change. 

    The suit is formally designated as: “KELSEY CASCADE ROSE JULIANA; et al., Plaintiffs, v. The UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; et al., defendants. The youth allege, “….in causing climate change, the federal government has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, property, as well has failed to protect essential public trust resources.”

    Dr. James Hansen submitted a declaration when the lawsuit was filed that laid out the physical and chemical reasons for climate change, and the “myriad ways” the government has promoted the exploitation and consumption of fossil fuels, leading to excessive concentrations of atmospheric CO2 that “…in turn, will impose profound and mounting risks of ecological, economic, and social collapse.” After describing the horrifying effects of the energy imbalance in our oceans and atmosphere, he documented the processes that would likely “devastate our coasts, civilization and nature as we know it.” He said (page 30): “Our government’s permitting of additional, new, or renewed fossil fuel projects is entirely antithetical to its fundamental responsibility to our children and their posterity. Their fundamental rights now hang in the balance.”

    While the fossil fuel industry was not an original defendant in the case, through three trade associations, it intervened on the side of the government. Those trade associations represent the interest of fossil fuel giants, including BP, Exxon/Mobil, Koch Industries, Honeywell, , BHP Billiton, ConocoPhillips, Maersk Drilling, Shell, and hundreds of others, all asserting that the litigation is “extraordinary” and a “direct threat” to their business and, therefore, should not go forward.

    The lawsuit also includes a cause of action based on the Public Trust Doctrine, pillar of jurisprudence, originating in ancient Rome, Spain, and England as a fundamental part of property law, and now vigorously upheld in many states as environmental law. The Public Trust Doctrine, as seen by the plaintiffs in the Juliana case, places on the government the responsibility to maintain our atmosphere’s health as it does our waters.

    In Wisconsin, the Public Trust doctrine has been used as a basis for the establishment of state regulations regarding high-capacity water wells, prevention of development of wetlands, ground water, trout stream maintenance, and many other water-related matters. But the Juliana case, and similar legal actions against state governments (Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington, and Pennsylvania), is a federal case, bringing the Public Trust Doctrine front-and-center in federal court, alleging (1) the U. S. government has failed in its duty to safeguard its citizens from a catastrophic future as the climate becomes hostile and (2) government promotion of the fossil fuel industry has caused the pollution of the atmosphere to such an extent that the children’s survival is open to question. 

    Well, the lawsuit is going forward and a federal trial will soon be scheduled. U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken has ruled for the plaintiffs, rejecting motions to dismiss by the government and the fossil fuel industry.

    “The federal court flatly rejected the U.S. government’s and the fossil fuel industry’s arguments that these youth have no climate rights to protect and no right to be in court,” said Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel of Our Children’s Trust. “We’ve now secured two solid federal court decisions advancing our youth on their way to a final decision declaring their constitutional and public trust rights to a stable climate system and a real remedy to address the ongoing government and industry threats to their rights.”

    Judge Aiken’s intelligently written 52-page decision and the press release, can be read on the website of Our Children’s Trust ().

    The highest risk is implicitly understood to be far beyond these children. As climate change progresses in the coming centuries, challenges will be extreme in virtually every aspect of our lives, encompassing much more than the human race. Climate change jeopardizes more than our ecosystem. Of course, the carbon-based fuel industry will continue to contest allegations put forth by Our Children’s Trust, and other similar groups, because the lawsuits have the potential to lead eventually to legislation placing a substantial monetary burden on these industries, perhaps in the form of a carbon tax or a carbon-fee-and-dividend, the latter proposed by the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, an international advocacy group. Shareholders are beginning to demand an acceptable environmental response from the oil, gas, coal, and other extractive industries. These litigations are not unlike those brought against tobacco manufacturers decades ago, and are still being adjudicated. 

    At stake is the future health and security of humanity. Our Children’s Trust is laying part of the foundation for a long-projected battle against those who have seriously endangered our way of life. The doctrine is already deeply entrenched in international law to a significant extent mainly as a basis for environmental protection. If our waters are protected by the Public Trust Doctrine, and they are, so should be our atmosphere.

    Read more:

    Acknowledgement: Editing by Curtis Morrison, Our Children’s Trust, is sincerely appreciated.

  2. 2
    prokaryotes says:

    Messaging, alerting the laymen requires some not so dry notes. Looking forward to many sessions, and talks, hopefully summing up the latest.

  3. 3
    Thomas says:

    A summary page with links videos Arctic Sea Ice News from AGU December 13, 2016 incl N-ICE2015 researchers press conference
    from fwiw

    eg Record warmest year in the arctic oct 2015 – sept 2016 and +2C above 1981-2010 average arctic temp – very interesting

  4. 4
    Jim Hunt says:

    Thomas @3 – Thanks for the mention! Personally I found the N-ICE2015 stuff even more interesting than the Arctic Report Card. A couple more bullet points:

    One winter storm raised the air temperature from -40 F to +32 F in less than 48 hours, while the moisture in the air increased 10 times. All of these factors significantly warm the surface of the snow, even in mid-winter, and slow the growth of ice.

    Winter storms caused the sea ice to drift so fast that it increased mixing of the water beneath the ice. Deeper, warmer water was mixed up closer to the sea ice, causing it to melt from below despite winter air temperatures that were below freezing

    Note that several papers are being published as we speak:

  5. 5
    Jim Baird says:

    GC21J-06: NEOTEC: Negative-CO2-Emissions Marine Energy With Direct Mitigation of Global Warming, Sea-Level Rise and Ocean Acidification

    The vertical thermal energy potential in the ocean is a massive renewable energy resource that is growing due to anthropogenic warming of the surface and near-surface ocean. The conversion of this thermal energy to useful forms via Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) has been demonstrated over the past century, albeit at small scales. Because OTEC removes heat from the surface ocean, this could help directly counter ongoing, deleterious ocean/atmosphere warming. The only other climate intervention that could do this is solar radiation “geoengineering”. Conventional OTEC requires energy intensive, vertical movement of seawater resulting in ocean and atmospheric chemistry alteration, but this can be avoided via more energy efficient, vertical closed-cycle heating and cooling of working fluid like CO2 or NH3. An energy carrier such as H2 is required to transport energy optimally extracted far offshore, and methods of electrochemically generating H2 while also consuming CO2 and converting it to ocean alkalinity have been demonstrated. The addition of such alkalinity to the ocean would provide vast, stable, carbon storage, while also helping chemically counter the effects of ocean acidification. The process might currently be profitable given the >$100/tonne CO2 credit offered by California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard for transportation fuels like H2. Negative-Emissions OTEC, NEOTEC, thus can potentially provide constant, cost effective, high capacity, negative-emissions energy while: a) reducing surface ocean heat load, b) reducing thermal ocean expansion and sea-level rise, c) utilizing a very large, natural marine carbon storage reservoir, and d) helping mitigate ocean acidification. The technology also avoids the biophysical and land use limitations posed by negative emissions methods that rely on terrestrial biology, such as afforestation and BECCS. NEOTEC and other marine-based, renewable energy and CO2 removal approaches could therefore greatly increase the likelihood of satisfying growing global energy demand while helping to stabilize or reduce atmospheric CO2 and its impacts. Policies supporting the search and evaluation of renewable energy and negative emissions options beyond biotic- and land-based methods are needed.

    Greg H Rau
    University of California Santa Cruz
    Jim Baird
    Gary Noland
    G. Noland & Assoc.

    Video on the subject of negative emissions production of hydrogen to sequester ocean heat and CO2 –

  6. 6
    Thomas says:

    re Our children’s trust … ref from

    The advantage of public interest litigation is that it can focus public attention on a particular issue through media exposure. Even unsuccessful cases can expose weaknesses in the law and highlight the need for law reform.

    This article examines the extent to which climate change litigation has influenced governmental decision-makers, legislatures and polluters to curb emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

    eg new coal mine approvals pg8 “The decision in Gray v Minister for Planning NSW has had at least three influences.”

  7. 7
    patrick says:

    “Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee – I’m in Los Angeles and it’s freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!” [–Donald Trump] 9:13 AM – 6 Dec 2013

    No that’s not a fake tweet.

    This is about protecting America’s environmental data and websites from the incoming regime, from people with experience of the Harper regime in Canada.

    “First, we need to identify vulnerable programs and then seed their URLs to the webcrawler of the End of Term project, which will make copies of those webpages. Second, we are researching and evaluating the many data repositories that the EPA has online: some of this data we know will be backed up and protected by laws, some data will be archivable at the Internet Archive through their webcrawler, and yet other sources of data will need to identified as in need of saving at a library. Libraries, such as at the University of Pennsylvania, are arranging to become repositories of this kind of vulnerable data not easily preserved. We will be passing on what we build and research to our colleagues in other cities so that they can pick up where we have left off.”

  8. 8
    Thomas says:

    I’m curious, that if the AGU is swamped by earth scientists, whose work covers the atmosphere, oceans, cryosphere, climate, natural hazards and paleoclimate then how come this year and prior years barely a peep is ever made of it in the global news media for dissemination to the public?

    Did nothing significant get spoken about, no new papers, no new insights about AGW/CC science or progress or developments since last years event?

    I don’t get why it’s important.(apart from good scientists getting together to share their knowledge and data and experience with each other and building common interest networks.

    If it is significantly important then what could be done to communicate the important findings to the public via the media or some other format?