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Accelerating Global Climate Change III

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Sore Throat

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Indonesia's Coral Reefs Dying Faster Than Expected PostFri Aug 20, 2010 5:51 am  Reply with quote

Indonesia's Coral Reefs Dying Faster Than Expected

Brian Padden | Jakarta

Scientists studying coral reefs off northwestern Indonesia say coral that survived the 2004 tsunami is now dying at one of the fastest rates ever. The cause, they say is a dramatic rise in water temperature and they warn the threat extends to other reefs across Asia.

Marine biologists from the Wildlife Conservation Society say in May they recorded surface water temperatures off the Indonesian island of Sumatra at 34 degrees Celsius. This is four degrees above long-term averages.

Massive bleaching

The teams discovered massive coral bleaching, which occurs when algae living inside coral tissues are expelled. The bleaching is caused by a combination of warmer water and greater exposure to sunlight unfiltered by clouds or wind.

Subsequent surveys by Australia's James Cook University and Indonesia's Syiah Kuala University showed 80 percent of those corals have since died. And that has serious implications for marine life, fishermen and communities across Asia.

Clive Wilkinson, a coordinator at the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network in Australia, says scientists are seeing bleaching throughout the region.

"In sort of May, June, we started seeing massive bleaching in the Andaman Sea side and then in the Gulf of Thailand and now it is appearing to spread across through Indonesia and up into Vietnam and Southeast Asia. And it will possibly start to affect Taiwan and southern Japan very soon," he said.

El Nino

Wilkinson says researchers have seen similar coral destruction in the past, the worst during the El Nino of 1998. An El Nino is a weather pattern marked by warmer ocean temperatures in the tropical Pacific, which can affect rainfall and droughts

Scientists estimate 16 percent of the world's coral died during the 1998 El Nino. Given time, the reefs can recover when water temperatures return to normal. But there are concerns that global warming will slow or prevent that recovery.

"We're sadly quite convinced that this is a climate change event," Wilkinson said. "What's happened is that there is far more energy in the atmosphere and in the oceans at the moment because of global warming. Which means that there will be far bigger swings in all the weather parameters.

International climate scientists say that greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide from burning fuels such as oil and wood, contribute to warmer global temperatures. Scores of nations have pledged to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, although many environmentalists say those cuts are not enough to reduce the damage from a warmer world.

Why reefs are important

Corals reefs are some of the most diverse ecosystems on earth. They occupy only one percent of the world's ocean surface but provide a home for 25 percent of all sea life - including fish that millions of people rely on for food. The reefs also protect the coastlines of many islands in the Pacific from storm surges.

Before the bleaching began, the reefs in northern Indonesia were recovering from the 2004 earthquake near Sumatra that triggered a tsunami killing more than 230,000 people around the Indian Ocean. The disaster damaged more than a third of these reefs, but scientists say they were recovering faster than expected, thanks largely to natural colonization and a drop in illegal fishing.
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Sore Throat

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Drought Drives Decade-Long Decline in Plant Growth PostFri Aug 20, 2010 5:57 am  Reply with quote

Drought Drives Decade-Long Decline in Plant Growth


WASHINGTON, Aug. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Global plant productivity that once was on the rise with warming temperatures and a lengthened growing season is now on the decline because of regional drought according to a new study of NASA satellite data.

Plant productivity is a measure of the rate of the photosynthesis process that green plants use to convert solar energy, carbon dioxide and water to sugar, oxygen and eventually plant tissue. Compared with a 6 percent increase in plant productivity during the 1980s and 1990s, the decline observed over the last decade is only 1 percent. The shift, however, could impact food security, biofuels and the global carbon cycle.

Researchers Maosheng Zhao and Steven Running of the University of Montana in Missoula discovered the global shift from an analysis of NASA satellite data. The discovery comes from an analysis of plant productivity data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA's Terra satellite, combined with other growing season climate data, including temperature, solar radiation and water.

"We see this as a bit of a surprise, and potentially significant on a policy level because previous interpretations suggested global warming might actually help plant growth around the world," Running said.

Previous research found land plant productivity was on the rise. A 2003 paper in the journal Science led by scientist Ramakrishna Nemani, now a researcher at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., showed the 6 percent increase in global terrestrial plant productivity between 1982 and 1999. The increase was traced to nearly two decades of temperature, solar radiation and water availability conditions, influenced by climate change, that were favorable for plant growth.

Setting out to update that analysis, Zhao and Running expected to see similar results as global average temperatures continued to climb. Instead, they found the negative impact of regional drought overwhelmed the positive influence of a longer growing season, driving down global plant productivity between 2000 and 2009. The team published its findings Thursday in Science.

"This is a pretty serious warning that warmer temperatures are not going to endlessly improve plant growth," Running said.

Zhao and Running's analysis showed that since 2000, high-latitude Northern Hemisphere ecosystems have continued to benefit from warmer temperatures and a longer growing season. But that effect was offset by warming-associated drought that limited growth in the Southern Hemisphere, resulting in a net global loss of land productivity.

"This past decade's net decline in terrestrial productivity illustrates that a complex interplay between temperature, rainfall, cloudiness, and carbon dioxide, probably in combination with other factors such as nutrients and land management, will determine future patterns and trends in productivity," said Diane Wickland, program manager of the Terrestrial Ecology research program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Researchers want to continue monitoring these trends in the future because plant productivity is linked to shifting levels of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and stresses on plant growth that could challenge food production.

"Even if the declining trend of the past decade does not continue, managing forests and crop lands for multiple benefits to include food production, biofuel harvest, and carbon storage may become exceedingly challenging in light of the possible impacts of such decadal-scale changes," Wickland said.

For information and video about this new research, visit:
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Sore Throat

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Why Pakistan monsoons support evidence of global warming PostSun Aug 22, 2010 7:15 pm  Reply with quote

Why Pakistan monsoons support evidence of global warming

-Lord Julian Hunt is visiting Professor at Delft University, and former Director-General of the UK Met Office. The opinions expressed are his own.-

The unusually large rainfall from this year’s monsoon has caused the most catastrophic flooding in Pakistan for 80 years, with the U.N. estimating that around one fifth of the country is underwater. This is thus truly a crisis of the very first order.

Heavy monsoon precipitation has increased in frequency in Pakistan and Western India in recent years. For instance, in July 2005, Mumbai was deluged by almost 950 mm (37 inches) of rain in just one day, and more than 1,000 people were killed in floods in the state of Maharashtra. Last year, deadly flash floods hit Northwestern Pakistan, and Karachi was also flooded.

It is my clear view that this trend is being fueled both by global warming (which also means extremes of rainfall are also a growing world-wide trend), and indeed potentially by any intensification of the El-Nino/La-Nino cycle.

To understand the reasons why global warming is playing a role here, one needs to look at the main climatic trends in South Asia. In addition to more extreme rainfall events, there is also a decreasing thickness of ice over the Tibetan plateau and changing patterns of precipitation, with less snow at higher levels, plus more rapid run off from mountains.

How does climate change help explain this?

First, the warming in temperatures leads to less snow.

Second, the less stable atmosphere causes deeper convection and intense rainfall events.

The less stable atmosphere also leads to more airflow over mountains and less lateral deviation — so that the monsoon winds and precipitation can be higher in North West India and Pakistan and weaker in North East. In 2006, there was an unusually intense drought in Assam and rain in North West India. This year with the strong precipitation in North West, there is no pronounced decrease in rains in North East.

Recent U.S. studies have also concluded that the mountain meteorology is changing but as a result of the aerosols emitted into the atmosphere from urban areas of South Asia.

The biggest question going forwards is whether the El-Nino southern oscillation, that determines the large 10 year oscillations of weather across the whole Pacific basin and into South Asia and Africa, will change.

Although there is no scientific consensus on this, it seems likely to me that if the Amazon rain forest continues to disappear, and snow/ice melt significantly increases over the Tibetan plateau, there will be significant changes in enso climatic fluctuations as rises in temperature over land areas become comparable with the areas of the Pacific where currently the temperature fluctuates over a few degrees — which is now better monitored and computer modeled.

The reason for concern about changing enso is that depending on its periodic strength, it greatly affects magnitudes and locations of floods, droughts, hurricanes. Until about 2020-2030, these natural fluctuations are expected to be greater than man-made changes (as was pointed out by many scientists in the 1990s).

Given the massive stakes in play, not least because of the sizeable proportion of the world population impacted, these issues need urgent study and also preparations on the ground by the affected countries.
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Sore Throat

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Severe Flooding Hits Northeast China PostSun Aug 22, 2010 9:46 pm  Reply with quote

Severe Flooding Hits Northeast China


SHANGHAI — More than 127,000 people were evacuated in northeastern China over the weekend after torrential rains battered the area and led to severe flooding along the border with North Korea, according to the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The government said that four people were killed and one was missing near the port city of Dandong in the northeastern province of Liaoning after some of the worst flooding to hit the region in decades.

Emergency crews were working early Sunday to evacuate and rescue people after the floods, the latest natural disaster to hit China this summer.

China has been suffering from severe flooding in various parts of the country for months and is still trying to cope with massive mudslides that killed at least 1,400 people this month in Gansu Province, in the northwestern part of the country.

The heavy rains in North China over the weekend flooded the Yalu River, which separates China from North Korea, forcing the river to breach its banks, China’s state-run news media reported.

In North Korea, flooding submerged much of Sinuiju, a city that borders China. The North Korean state-run media said Sunday that the country’s leader, Kim Jong-il, had mobilized military forces to rescue and evacuate thousands of North Koreans from floods that hit Sinuiju, the isolated country’s major trading gate on its border with China.

The North’s Korean Central News Agency said that about 30 centimeters, or about a foot, of rain had fallen around Sinuiju from midnight until 9 a.m. Saturday. The agency reported “severe damage” and said that 5,150 people had been evacuated to higher ground. It reported no deaths.

Sinuiju forms a vital lifeline for the North’s impoverished economy. Much of its land traffic with China, its main trading partner, travels trough Sinuiju.

Since the mid-1990s, North Korea’s agricultural sector has often been devastated by both floods and drought. After decades of denuding its hills for firewood, North Korea remains vulnerable to landslides and flash floods. A chronic lack of fuel and equipment has curtailed its ability to prevent or fight floods.

In the Chinese province of Liaoning, the flood waters damaged five border cities, destroying or damaging thousands of homes and buildings and causing at least $100 million in losses, the government said.

The heavy rains began pounding Liaoning Province on Thursday and did not let up until Saturday. But, the government said Sunday, another wave of heavy rains was expected to worsen the situation.

Choe Sang-Hun contributed reporting from Seoul.
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Sore Throat

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Rain batters China; 250,000 evacuated in flood PostMon Aug 23, 2010 8:43 pm  Reply with quote

Rain batters China; 250,000 evacuated in flood


Associated Press Writer= BEIJING (AP) — Flooding has forced the evacuation of more than a quarter-million people in northern China along its border with North Korea, state media said Monday.

Heavy rains over the last several days caused the Yalu river, which marks the border, to breach its banks, although the water level had started to fall late Sunday, the official Xinhua News Agency state media said Monday.

It said four people died, including a couple in their 70s and a mother and son, after their homes in Dandong were swept away by flash floods. Xinhua said 253,500 residents have been evacuated after the Yalu rose to its highest level in a decade.

An official with the Water Resources Department in Liaoning province, where Dandong is located, confirmed that four people had died though he was unable to provide details. He refused to give his name because he was not authorized to speak with the media.

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said torrential rain and water from the overflowing Yalu — or Amnok as it is known in Korean — swamped houses, public buildings and farmland in more than five villages near Sinuiju, the city opposite Dandong.

The report described Sinuiju and the surrounding area as having been "severely affected" by the flooding and said officials, the military and ordinary civilians were involved in rescue work. It said at least 5,150 people had been evacuated and residents were clambering on rooftops or taking shelter on hilltops.

Much of North Korea's trade with the world passes through the city, forming a vital lifeline for the isolated, economically struggling country. Flooding in previous years has destroyed crops and pushed North Korea deeper into poverty, increasing its dependence on international food aid.

For China, the Dandong flooding is the latest disaster in the country's worst flood season in over a decade. Landslides caused by heavy rains have smothered communities in western China and accounted for most of the more than 2,500 people killed.

Authorities in the northwestern province of Gansu on Sunday called off rescue efforts for 330 people still missing after an Aug. 8 mudslide tore through Zhouqu county, killing 1,435 people, Xinhua said. The Zhouqu government forbade digging in the debris, fearing that recovering corpses buried for two weeks would spread disease.

In the tropical island of Hainan in southern China, communities were bracing for the arrival of a tropical storm, expected to reach land late Monday or early Tuesday.

Xinhua said more than 20,000 fishing boats had been called back to their ports ahead of the arrival of "Mindulle," which means dandelion in Korean.
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Sore Throat

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England struck by flash flooding PostMon Aug 23, 2010 8:48 pm  Reply with quote

England struck by flash flooding

Heavy rain is causing flash floods across the Midlands and northern England, as storms continue for a second day across swathes of the UK.

Police say a 27-year-old man died in a mudslide in Stroud, Gloucestershire due to the rain. A teenage girl from south London died in Wales on Friday.

The Environment Agency says Morpeth in Northumberland is under water, with an estimated 1,000 properties flooded.

The Agency has issued 97 flood warnings in England and Wales.

Seven of these are severe - all in north-east England.

The Environment Agency has warned of an increased threat of flooding as rainwater drains into river systems.

The death in Stroud also took place on Friday.

Police said the man, from Cheltenham, was working on a trench at a construction site when it collapsed, burying him under tonnes of mud. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

An estimated 1,000 properties in Morpeth have been evacuated after the River Wansbeck burst its banks. Minibuses are being used to move people to higher ground.

BBC correspondent Chris Buckler, in Morpeth, said more and more streets were disappearing under floodwater, while the rain continued to fall.

In the Pickering area of North Yorkshire, several properties and roads have been flooded after the local beck burst its banks.

Fire crews have been on hand to pump out houses and residents have been told to move possessions upstairs.

In the village of Kirkley Mill, Northumberland, an RSPCA emergency team, called out to help some horses, found themselves rescuing a baby trapped in a car.

Spokeswoman Katie Geary said: "The horses were fine but when we got there we found a couple trying to get their baby out of a car. The door had been jammed - they were very relieved we were able to help."

Meanwhile, West Mercia police have reported flooding in Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire.

Motorists are being urged to be cautious.

Chief Superintendent Viv Howells of West Mercia Constabulary said: "Some localised flooding is being experienced and there is a large amount of surface water on the roads. However, there is no cause for major concern."

Many sporting and cultural events also had to be cancelled due to the wet weather.

Gloucestershire's biggest agricultural event, the Moreton-in-Marsh show, was abandoned, as were race meetings at Haydock Park, Merseyside; Stratford, Warwickshire; Gosforth Park, Newcastle, and Worcester, Worcestershire.

Phil Rothwell, from the Environment Agency, says the wet summer hasn't helped the situation.

"I think our catchments and the soils are very wet and saturated, and river levels are therefore responding very quickly."

Story from BBC NEWS:
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Sore Throat

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PostTue Aug 24, 2010 7:31 pm  Reply with quote

New Model Shows Stopping Global Warming Will Stop Ocean Acidification

Tiffany Kaiser

Earth's oceans are absorbing carbon dioxide and turning acidic

Global warming is a sticky subject and many climate scientists that think global warming is real are also convinced that it was caused by human activities like burning fossil fuels, which led to an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Researchers have constructed new computer scenarios that show how the rapidity and timing of carbon dioxide emission cuts will affect ocean acidification in the future. According to Dr. Toby Tyrrell from the University of Southampton's School of Ocean and Earth Science, a third of these carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by the Earth's oceans, which is helpful in the case of global warming, but it is still negatively affecting the planet. The oceans are becoming acidic, which could eventually affect the biogeochemistry and ecosystems of the oceans.

Climate models have been made to understand how decreased carbon emissions will affect the Earth's climate, but now, Tyrrell, Dan Bernie (Met Office Hadley Centre), Jason Lowe (University of Reading) and Oliver Legge (SOES) have created a new model that simulates the different effects of mitigation scenarios on ocean acidification. Climate, ocean chemistry, and ocean-atmosphere interactions are taken into account to create these simulations. Such research could be helpful to policy makers because it helps form a timeline of what could result in what period of time with certain mitigation scenarios.

According to this research, a decrease in pH means an increase in acidity. In 1750, the global mean ocean surface pH was at 8.2, and now it is at 8.1. If carbon dioxide emissions are not cut, the researchers' simulations predict that the pH could decrease to as low as 7.7 by 2100. On the other hand, if carbon dioxide emissions are controlled, the simulations predict that the pH won't fall below 8.0 by 2100. Research indicates that there will be an emissions peak in 2016, then it will decrease by five percent each year after.

"As far as we know, such a rate of change would be without precedent for millions of years, and a concern must be whether and how quickly organisms could adapt to such a rate of change after such a long period of relative stability in ocean pH," said Tyrrell.

The study, "Influence of mitigation policy on ocean acidification" was published in Geophysical Research Letters in August 2010.
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Sore Throat

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Now is the summer of our discontent with climatic extremes PostWed Aug 25, 2010 6:22 pm  Reply with quote

Now is the summer of our discontent with climatic extremes

By Stefan Rahmstorf

This summer has been one of weather-related extremes in Russia, Pakistan, China, Europe, the Arctic – you name it. But does this have anything to do with global warming, and are human emissions to blame?

While it cannot be scientifically proven (or disproven, for that matter) that global warming has caused any particular extreme event, we can say that global warming very likely makes many kinds of extreme weather both more frequent and more severe.

For several weeks recently, central Russia was in the grips of its worst-ever heat wave, which caused probably thousands of fatalities. As a result of drought and heat, more than 500 wildfires raged out of control, smothering Moscow in smoke and threatening several nuclear facilities. Russia’s government banned wheat exports, sending world grain prices soaring.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is struggling with unprecedented flooding that has killed more than 1,500 people, though the true number may very well be higher, and affected millions more. In China, flash floods have so far killed more than 1,000 people and destroyed more than 1 million homes. On a smaller scale, European countries like Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic have also suffered from serious flooding.

Meanwhile, global temperatures in recent months have been at their highest levels in records that go back 130 years. Arctic sea-ice cover reached its lowest recorded average level for the month of June ever. In Greenland two huge chunks of ice broke off in July and August.

Are these events connected?

Looking only at individual extreme events will not reveal their cause, just like watching a few scenes from a movie does not reveal the plot. But, viewed in a broader context, and using the logic of physics, key parts of the plot can be understood.

This decade has been marked by a number of stunning extremes. In 2003, the most severe heat wave in living memory broke previous temperature records by a large margin and caused 70,000 deaths in Europe. In 2005, the most severe hurricane season ever witnessed in the Atlantic devastated New Orleans and broke records in terms of the number and intensity of storms.

In 2007, unprecedented wildfires raged across Greece, nearly destroying the ancient site of Olympia. And the Northwest Passage in the Arctic became ice-free for the first time in living memory. Last year, more than 100 people were killed in bush fires in Australia, following drought and record-breaking heat.

This cluster of record-breaking events could be merely an astonishing streak of bad luck. But that is extremely unlikely. This is far more likely to be the result of a warming climate – a consequence of this decade being, worldwide, the hottest for 1,000 years.

All weather is driven by energy, and the sun ultimately provides this energy. But the biggest change in Earth’s energy budget by far over the past century is due to the accumulation in our atmosphere of greenhouse gases, which limit the exit of heat into space. Owing to fossil-fuel emissions, there is now one-third more carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere than at any time in at least 1 million years, as the latest ice drilling in Antarctica has revealed.

The changes in the planet’s energy budget caused by solar variations are at least 10 times smaller in comparison. And they go in the wrong direction: in recent years, the sun has been at its dimmest since satellite measurements began in the 1970s. So, when unprecedented extreme weather events occur, the prime suspect is naturally the biggest atmospheric change that has happened over the past century – one that has been caused by human emissions.

The fact that heat waves like the one in Russia become more frequent and extreme in a warmer world is easy to understand. Extreme rainfall events will also become more frequent and intense in a warmer climate, owing to another simple fact of physics: warm air can hold more moisture. For each degree Celsius of warming, 7 percent more water is available to rain down from saturated air masses. Drought risk also increases with warming: even where rainfall does not decline, increased evaporation dries out the soils.

The carbon-dioxide effect can also change the preferred patterns of atmospheric circulation, which can exacerbate extremes of heat, drought, or rainfall in some regions, while reducing them in others. The problem is that a reduction in those extremes to which we are already well-adapted provides only modest benefits, whereas the new extremes to which we are not adapted can be devastating, as recent events in Pakistan show.

The events of this summer show how vulnerable our societies are to weather-related extremes. But what we see now is happening after only 0.8 degrees Celsius of global warming. With swift and decisive action, we can still limit global warming to a total of 2 degrees Celsius or a bit less. Even that much warming would require a massive effort to adapt to weather extremes and rising sea levels, which needs to start now.

With weak action, like that promised by governments in Copenhagen last December, we will be on course for 3-4 degrees Celsius of global warming. This is bound to outstrip the ability of many societies and ecosystems to adapt. And, with no action at all, the planet could even heat up by 5-7 degrees Celsius by the end of this century- – and more thereafter. Knowingly marching down that road would be insane.

We must face the facts: our emissions of greenhouse gases probably are at least partly to blame for this summer of extremes. Clinging to the hope that it is all chance, and all natural, seems naive. Let us hope that this summer of extremes is a last-minute wake-up call to policy makers, the corporate world and citizens alike.

Stefan Rahmstorf is a professor of physics of the oceans at Potsdam University, and a member of the German Advisory Council on Global Change. His latest book is “The Climate Crisis” (co-written with David Archer). THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with Project Syndicate © (
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Sore Throat

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Study: Upper layer of atmosphere shrinking PostFri Aug 27, 2010 6:05 pm  Reply with quote  

So much for the deniers of climate change contention that Earth is heating up due to solar activity. Facts have a way of piercing unsupportable dogma.

Study: Upper layer of atmosphere shrinking

Good news for satellites, and bad, as low sun activity shrinks thermosphere

One of the highest sections of the atmosphere is shrinking as a result of low sun activity, researchers reported Thursday.

That may sound scary, but they say it actually can be good news for satellites. It means they can stay in orbit longer because they have less drag from the gasses they encounter.

On the other hand, of course, space junk orbiting the Earth also can remain up there longer.

According to the study, published in the American Geophysical Union's journal Geophysical Research Letters, the sun's energy output was unusually low from 2007 to 2009.

During that period the atmospheric layer called the thermosphere — from 55 miles to 300 miles above the Earth — cooled and shrank.

That reduced the density of gas at high levels where many satellites orbit, explained Thomas Woods of the University of Colorado, a co-author of the report.

The decline in high-level density was as much. as 30 percent, Woods said, even less than the last solar minimum.

"Our work demonstrates that the solar cycle not only varies on the typical 11-year time scale, but also can vary from one solar minimum to another," said lead author Stanley Solomon of the National Center for Atmospheric Research's High Altitude Observatory. "All solar minima are not equal."

Solar energy output tends to vary over 11-year cycles marked by increases and decreases in sunspots. From 2007 to 2009 there were almost no sunspots or solar storms.

"With lower thermosphere density, our satellites will have a longer life in orbit," said Woods. "This is good news for those satellites that are actually operating, but it is also bad because of the thousands of non-operating objects remaining in space that could potentially have collisions with our working satellites."

While the reduce solar activity resulted in a cooling of the upper thermosphere the same cannot be said of the Earth's surface, as 2009 was the fifth warmest year on record and the decade of 2000 to 2009 was the warmest on record.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Office of Naval Research.
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This Is the Hottest Year Ever, and the Climate Catastrophe H PostFri Aug 27, 2010 6:19 pm  Reply with quote

This Is the Hottest Year Ever, and the Climate Catastrophe Has Begun

Johann Hari
Columnist for the London Independent

Thank god man-made global warming was proven to be a hoax. Just imagine what the world might have looked like now if those conspiring scientists had been telling the truth. No doubt NASA would be telling us that this year is now, so far, the hottest since humans began keeping records. The weather satellites would show that even when heat from the sun significantly dipped earlier this year, the world still got hotter. Russia's vast forests would be burning to the ground in the fiercest drought they have ever seen, turning the air black in Moscow, killing 15,000 people, and forcing foreign embassies to evacuate. Because warm air holds more water vapor, the world's storms would be hugely increasing in intensity and violence -- drowning one fifth of Pakistan, and causing giant mudslides in China.

The world's ice sheets would be sloughing off massive melting chunks four times the size of Manhattan. The cost of bread would be soaring across the world as heat shriveled the wheat crops. The increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be fizzing into the oceans, making them more acidic and so killing 40 percent of the phytoplankton that make up the irreplaceable base of the oceanic food chain. The denialists would be conceding at last that everything the climate scientists said would happen -- with their pesky graphs and studies and computers -- came to pass.

This is all happening today, except for that final stubborn step. It's hard to pin any one event on man-made global warming: There were occasional freak weather events before we started altering the atmosphere, and on their own, any of these events could be just another example. But they are, cumulatively, part of a plain pattern where extreme weather is occurring "with greater frequency and in many cases with greater intensity" as the temperature soars, as the US National Climatic Data Center puts it. This is exactly what climate scientists have been warning us man-made global warming will look like, to the letter. Ashen-faced, they add that all this is coming after less than one degree celsius of global warming since the Industrial Revolution. We are revving up for as much as five degrees more this century.

Yet as the evidence of global warming becomes ever clearer, the momentum to stop it has died. The Copenhagen climate summit evaporated, Barack Obama has given up on passing any climate change legislation, Hu Jintao is heaving even more coal, David Cameron has shot his huskies, and even sweet liberal Canada now has a government determined to pioneer a fuel -- tar sands -- that causes three times more warming than oil. True, the victims are starting to see the connections. The Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has been opposed to meaningful action on global warming, until he found the smoke-choked air in the Kremlin hard to breathe. But if we wait until every leader can taste the effects of warming in their mouths, the damage will be irreparable.

Given the stakes, the reasons why so many people still refuse to accept the evidence can seem oddly trivial. A common one is: "It snowed a lot in the US and Britain last year. Where was your warming then, eh?" But scientific theories are based on patterns, not individual events. You might know a 90-year-old woman who has smoked a pack of cigarettes every day of her life and is totally healthy. (I do.) It doesn't disprove the theory that smoking causes lung cancer. In the same way, one heavy snowfall doesn't prove anything if it is part of a wider overall pattern of dramatic warming. And that snow provably was. While it snowed a lot in a few places, there were at the very same time harsher, more bitter droughts in many more places -- making it globally the fifth hottest winter ever recorded, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (All the others were in the past decade). And that winter is your punchline proof that warming isn't happening?

But the broader public mood, smeared like sunscreen over us all, isn't active denial. No -- it's the desire to endlessly postpone this issue for another day. In 1848, a 25-year-old man called Phineas Gage was working on constructing the American railroads. It was his job to lay explosives to clear rocks out of the way -- but one day his explosive went off too soon, and a huge metal rod went through into his skull and out the other side. Amazingly, he survived -- but his personality changed. Suddenly, he was incapable of thinking about the future. The idea of restraining himself was impossible to grasp. If he had an urge, he would act on it at once. He could only ever live in an eternal present. As a civilization, we are beginning to look like Phineas Gage on a planetary scale.

Yet scattered among us there is a fascinating group of people who are offering a path to safety. Every summer since 2006, ordinary British citizens have built impromptu camps next to some of the most environmentally-destructive sites in Britain and taken direct action to shut their pollution down. So far, it has worked: They played a crucial role in the cancellation of the third runway at Heathrow and a big new coal power station at Kingsnorth.

That's how earlier this week I found myself on a high wooden siege tower in a camp in the Scottish hills, staring down across a moat towards the glistening, empty offices of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). You own this bank: 84 percent of it belongs to the taxpayer after the bailouts. Yet it is using your money to endanger you by funding the most environmentally-destructive behavior on earth, like burning the tar sands. The protesters chose to come here democratically -- everything at the climate camps is done by discussion and consensus -- because they have a better idea. Why not turn it into a Green Investment Bank, transforming Britain into a global hub for wind, solar and wave power? Why not go from promoting misery across the world to being a beacon of sanity?

So the protesters risked arrest in marching on RBS' offices because they know the stakes. As Professor Tim Flannery, one of the world's leading climate scientists, explains:

My great fear is that within the next few decades -- it could be next year, or it could be in fifty years, we don't know exactly when -- we will trap enough heat close to the surface to our planet to precipitate a collapse, or partial collapse, of a major ice shelf... I have friends who work on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, and they say [when a collapse happens] you'll hear it in Sydney... Sea levels would rise pretty much instantaneously, certainly over a few months. We don't know how much it would rise. It could be ten centimeters, or a meter. We will have begun a retreat from our coasts... Once you have started that process, we wouldn't know when the next part of the ice sheet would collapse, we don't know whether sea level will stabilize. There's no point of retreat where you can safely go back to... I doubt whether our global civilization could survive such a blow, particularly the uncertainty it would bring.

Nature doesn't follow political fashion. Global warming may not be hot today, but the planet is -- hotter than ever. When you stare out over the wave of Weather of Mass Destruction we are unleashing, who looks crazy -- the protesters, or the people who have yet to join them?

An excellent source of clear, accessible videos debunking denialist claims can be found here:

Johann Hari is a writer for the Independent. To read more of his articles, click here:

You can follow Johann at or email him at j.hari [at]

To read his latest article for Slate, click here:
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Record heat may be our new normal PostMon Aug 30, 2010 3:43 am  Reply with quote

Record heat may be our new normal

Scientists say this summer fits the pattern of a warming world


Boiling, blazing and blistering are all words one might apply to this August, which likely will end Tuesday as Houston's warmest month ever.

Here's one more: foreshadowing.

Although careful not to attribute any particular weather event to climate change, scientists say Houston's sultry summer fits the pattern of what to expect in a warmer world.

"Temperatures 4 to 5 degrees above normal and near-normal precipitation — it sounds like a typical summer around about 2060 according to the climate projections," said John Nielsen-Gammon, a Texas A&M University professor and the state climatologist.

But wait, didn't Houston have a really cold winter?

It did. The past December-January-February period ranked as the sixth-coldest on record for Houston. Even so, much of the rest of the world was warm. In fact, through July, this year is on pace to be the planet's warmest on record, besting even 1998.

"This is something I don't think the public fully gets," said Kevin Trenberth, a leading U.S. climate scientist. "It's still possible to have cold weather. The difference is, when things come together, when you have a warm summer in a changing climate, you start to break records."

Climate scientists have been fielding a lot of questions from reporters this summer after heat waves in Russia - Moscow's temperature reached 100 degrees after never doing so in 130 years of records - as well as extreme flooding in Pakistan and events elsewhere.

It's made it easier for scientists to discuss the perils of a warming world.

"For years the Russians have been semi-privately suggesting that warmer temperatures would be good for them," said Andrew Dessler, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M. "Now that they've arrived, I think the Russians are reconsidering that position."

There's an irony, of course, in talking about climate during weather events that's not lost on scientists.

"It was much easier to talk about climate change in the wake of Katrina, even though there was no direct connection because people were primed to hear about that," said Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeler for NASA. "The last couple of weeks, with the heat waves in Moscow, and the rainstorms in Pakistan, the media has been much more primed to talk to people about climate change.

"I'm only on TV because of the weather, and I only have time to say the weather is not the climate. It is a bit of a dilemma but I don't see it changing any time soon."

So how much of this is global warming, and how much natural variability?

It's a complex question scientists are now beginning to address.

David Easterling, a chief climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said climate scientists from around the world recently met in Colorado to devise plans to attack the question.

For now the best climate scientists can do is say which weather events are likely to be more common in a warmer world - such as Houston's warm August this summer.

Houston gets much of its summer air from the Atlantic Ocean, which has seen near record warmth this year.

6 degrees above normal

This warmer air flowing into Texas increases evaporation over both the land and sea, and in addition, warmer air can hold more water vapor. So if it's possible, Houston is more humid this summer.

Water vapor is itself a greenhouse gas like carbon dioxide, and overnight it traps heat accumulated during the day from the sun and prevents it from bouncing back into space.

This is partly why Houston has had such warm nights this August, nearly six degrees above normal.

In a warmer world, the ocean temperatures seen in the Atlantic this summer could be expected to be the norm, and so this August may well typify a mid-century summer in Houston.

"It definitely fits the pattern of what you would expect in a warmer world," Easterling said.

This summer follows a winter that, in addition to being cold in parts of North America, rocked the climate science community with the Internet leak of thousands of e-mails, a controversy dubbed Climategate. Several errors were also identified in the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

Since then several independent commissions have found no evidence of systematic wrongdoing by scientists, and the foundation of the case for concern about rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere appears to remain sound.

Skeptics not alarmed

That doesn't mean climate change skeptics are convinced that a warmer world is catastrophic for the planet.

"My message from the 2010 record is that the trend is not alarming," said Rob Bradley, president of the Institute for Energy Research, a Houston-based think tank. We need to depoliticize the issue now that we see how feeble politics is to try to reverse out the human influence on climate. Adaptation, not mitigation, is the order of the day."

And so far the warm year has yet to substantially impact public opinion, at least in polls that track public acceptance of climate science views.

"The public has a similarly long-standing belief in the realty of a human influence on climate, upwards of 70 percent, for more than 20 years," said Roger Pielke Jr., a University of Colorado science policy researcher and author of The Climate Fix. "These views have bounced up and down, and certainly the weather has some role in that, but over time these views have been remarkably stable."
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Latest heat wave could set records PostMon Aug 30, 2010 3:49 am  Reply with quote

Latest heat wave could set records

By Martin Weil

Forecasts predict that Sunday's temperatures in Washington will again reach the 90s, starting a new heat wave that could run at least through the end of the month and set not one -- but two -- records.

Through Saturday, the average temperature for this month has been close to 80 degrees. Highs in the 90s through Tuesday would raise the average.

It could also make 2010 the first year in the city's recorded weather history to have three months with average temperatures of 80 or higher. Few years have had two such months.

There's also another record that could fall. Preliminary figures from the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University show 28 cities from Washington, D.C., to Caribou, Maine, set record highs for average temperature from March through August.

The records are expected to stand with the remaining days of August forecast to be hot.

Art DeGaetano of the climate center says the average temperature during spring and summer in Manhattan's Central Park is up by 5 degrees, to 67.5.

Meteorologists often consider summer to run from June 1 to Aug. 31. By this standard, this summer could be Washington's hottest since the National Weather Service records began in 1871.

Saturday fell short of starting the new spell of 90-degree temperatures by just one degree.

With an 89-degree high and two major demonstrations being held, D.C. fire and rescue personnel reported treating more than 300 people, with more than 40 taken to hospitals.

When the historic March on Washington was held Aug. 28, 1963, the high was 83.

A news account said more than 1,700 were treated, with more than 50 sent to hospitals.
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Bjørn Lomborg: $100bn a year needed to fight climate change PostTue Aug 31, 2010 5:43 pm  Reply with quote

Bjørn Lomborg: $100bn a year needed to fight climate change

Exclusive 'Sceptical environmentalist' and critic of climate scientists to declare global warming a chief concern facing world

Juliette Jowit

The world's most high-profile climate change sceptic is to declare that global warming is "undoubtedly one of the chief concerns facing the world today" and "a challenge humanity must confront", in an apparent U-turn that will give a huge boost to the embattled environmental lobby.

Bjørn Lomborg, the self-styled "sceptical environmentalist" once compared to Adolf Hitler by the UN's climate chief, is famous for attacking climate scientists, campaigners, the media and others for exaggerating the rate of global warming and its effects on humans, and the costly waste of policies to stop the problem.

But in a new book to be published next month, Lomborg will call for tens of billions of dollars a year to be invested in tackling climate change. "Investing $100bn annually would mean that we could essentially resolve the climate change problem by the end of this century," the book concludes.

Examining eight methods to reduce or stop global warming, Lomborg and his fellow economists recommend pouring money into researching and developing clean energy sources such as wind, wave, solar and nuclear power, and more work on climate engineering ideas such as "cloud whitening" to reflect the sun's heat back into the outer atmosphere.

In a Guardian interview, he said he would finance investment through a tax on carbon emissions that would also raise $50bn to mitigate the effect of climate change, for example by building better sea defences, and $100bn for global healthcare.

His declaration about the importance of action on climate change comes at a crucial point in the debate, with international efforts to agree a global deal on emissions stalled amid a resurgence in scepticism caused by rows over the reliability of the scientific evidence for global warming.

The fallout from those rows continued yesterday when Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, came under new pressure to step down after an independent review of the panel's work called for tighter term limits for its senior executives and greater transparency in its workings. The IPCC has come under fire in recent months following revelations of inaccuracies in the last assessment of global warming, provided to governments in 2007 – for which it won the Nobel peace prize with former the US vice-president Al Gore. The mistakes, including a claim that the Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035, prompted a review of the IPCC's processes and procedures by the InterAcademy Council (IAC), an organisation of world science bodies.

The IAC said the IPCC needed to be as transparent as possible in how it worked, how it selected people to participate in assessments and its choice of scientific information to assess.

Although Pachauri once compared Lomborg to Hitler, he has now given an unlikely endorsement to the new book, Smart Solutions to Climate Change. In a quote for the launch, Pachauri said: "This book provides not only a reservoir of information on the reality of human-induced climate change, but raises vital questions and examines viable options on what can be done."

Lomborg denies he has performed a volte face, pointing out that even in his first book he accepted the existence of man-made global warming. "The point I've always been making is it's not the end of the world," he told the Guardian. "That's why we should be measuring up to what everybody else says, which is we should be spending our money well."

But he said the crucial turning point in his argument was the Copenhagen Consensus project, in which a group of economists were asked to consider how best to spend $50bn. The first results, in 2004, put global warming near the bottom of the list, arguing instead for policies such as fighting malaria and HIV/Aids. But a repeat analysis in 2008 included new ideas for reducing the temperature rise, some of which emerged about halfway up the ranking. Lomborg said he then decided to consider a much wider variety of policies to reduce global warming, "so it wouldn't end up at the bottom".

The difference was made by examining not just the dominant international policy to cut carbon emissions, but also seven other "solutions" including more investment in technology, climate engineering, and planting more trees and reducing soot and methane, also significant contributors to climate change, said Lomborg.

"If the world is going to spend hundreds of millions to treat climate, where could you get the most bang for your buck?" was the question posed, he added.After the analyses, five economists were asked to rank the 15 possible policies which emerged. Current policies to cut carbon emissions through taxes - of which Lomborg has long been critical - were ranked largely at the bottom of four of the lists. At the top were more direct public investment in research and development rather than spending money on low carbon energy now, and climate engineering.

Lomborg acknowledged trust was a problem when committing to long term R&D, but said politicians were already reneging on promises to cut emissions, and spending on R&D would be easier to monitor. Although many believe private companies are better at R&D than governments, Lomborg said low carbon energy was a special case comparable to massive public investment in computers from the 1950s, which later precpitated the commercial IT revolution.

Lomborg also admitted climate engineering could cause "really bad stuff" to happen, but argued if it could be a cheap and quick way to reduce the worst impacts of climate change and thus there was an "obligation to at least look at it".

He added: "This is not about 'we have all got to live with less, wear hair-shirts and cut our carbon emissions'. It's about technologies, about realising there's a vast array of solutions."

Despite his change of tack, however, Lomborg is likely to continue to have trenchant critics. Writing for today's Guardian, Howard Friel, author of the book The Lomborg Deception, said: "If Lomborg were really looking for smart solutions, he would push for an end to perpetual and brutal war, which diverts scarce resources from nearly everything that Lomborg legitimately says needs more money."
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Sore Throat

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6 global warming skeptics who changed their minds PostWed Sep 01, 2010 8:32 pm  Reply with quote

6 global warming skeptics who changed their minds

Climate change doubters have just lost one of their leading lights, as writer Bjorn Lomborg calls for a worldwide carbon tax. But he's not the first high-profile defector

With 2010 shaping up as the warmest year on record and unprecedented heat waves gripping the planet, global warming skeptics have suffered another blow with the defection of the "most high-profile" member of their camp, author Bjorn Lomborg. But Lomborg isn't the first doubter to accept the scientific consensus that human carbon emissions are warming the planet and need to be curtailed. Here, a review of several prominent cases:

1. Bjorn Lomborg, Danish academic

Lomborg made waves with his 2001 book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, which argued that global warming was no big deal, and fighting it would be a waste of money. This month, he's publishing Smart Solutions to Climate Change, which argues that a global carbon tax should be imposed to raise $150 billion a year to address global warming.

Before quote: "In 20 years' time, we’ll look back and wonder why we worried so much." (2002)

After quote: "We actually have only one option: we all need to start seriously focusing, right now, on the most effective ways to fix global warming." (2010)

2. Dmitri Medvedev, Russian president

Russian leaders are famously skeptical of global warming, with then–President Vladimir Putin quipping in 2003 that a warmer Russia "wouldn't be so bad" because "we could spend less on fur coats, and the grain harvest would go up." Then Russia caught fire this summer, choking Moscow with deadly smoke, devastating agricultural production, and convincing Medvedev and other leaders that perhaps global warming is a threat, after all.

Before quote: Climate change is "some kind of tricky campaign made up by some commercial structures to promote their business projects." (2009)

After quote: "Unfortunately, what is happening now in our central regions is evidence of this global climate change, because we have never in our history faced such weather conditions in the past." (2010)

3. Michael Hanlon, British science journalist

Hanlon, science editor for The Daily Mail, was a self-professed skeptic on climate change until a recent trip to Greenland, where he witnessed the accelerated disintegration of the country's massive ice sheet. A few days on the melting ice floes, he says, "is certainly enough to blow a few skeptical cobwebs away."

Before quote: "Global warming, indeed much of environmentalism, has become a new religion. Like the old religions, environmentalism preaches much good sense, is well meaning, but has a worrying lack of logic at its core." (2000)

After quote: "I have long been something of a climate-change sceptic, but my views in recent years have shifted. For me, the most convincing evidence that something worrying is going on lies right here in the Arctic." (2010)

4. Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic Magazine

In 2001, Shermer hosted a Skeptics Society debate on global warming, prompted by Lomborg's Skeptical Environmentalist. He sided, predictably, with the skeptics. Then he looked at the science, and in 2006 reached a "flipping point," acknowledging the "overwhelming evidence for anthropogenic global warming."

Before quote: "Scientists like Bjorn Lomborg in The Skeptical Environmentalist have, in my opinion, properly nailed environmental extremists for these exaggerated scenarios." (2008, referring to 2001)

After quote: "Because of the complexity of the problem, environmental skepticism was once tenable. No longer. It is time to flip from skepticism to activism." (2006)

5. Gregg Easterbrook, American journalist and author

Easterbrook was an early skeptic of global warming, writing an influential book, A Moment on the Earth, in 1995 that was dismissive of mankind's role in climate change. By 2006, he'd been swayed by the decade of climate research, and wrote an essay entitled "Case Closed: The Debate About Global Warming is Over."

Before quote: "Instant-doomsday hyperbole caused the world’s attention to focus on the hypothetical threat of global warming to the exclusion of environmental menaces that are real, palpable, and awful right now." (1995, PDF)

After quote: "The science has changed from ambiguous to near-unanimous... Based on the data I'm now switching sides regarding global warming, from skeptic to convert." (2006)

6. Stu Ostro, Weather Channel senior meteorologist

A recent survey found that many meteorologists and TV weathercasters are skeptical (or even "cynical") about anthropogenic global warming (AGW), and Ostro used to fit in that camp. Now he regularly explains the connection between man-made climate change and the extreme weather roiling the world.

Before quote: Large swings in temperature "happened long before humans had a chance to influence the environment, [and] typically occurred within a 10-year period, indicating that drastic climate change can occur through natural means, and quickly." (1999)

After quote: "When it comes to skepticism about AGW, you could say I have street cred," but "it could be said that I 'converted' and became a 'believer.'" (2010)
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Memo to Media: Republican Senate Candidates are Global Warmi PostThu Sep 09, 2010 5:53 pm  Reply with quote

Memo to Media: Republican Senate Candidates are Global Warming Deniers

Matt Dernoga

The League of Conservation Voters President sent and excellent memo out to media yesterday about how many Republican Senate candidates deny the science of global warming, and if elected will undermine our efforts to transition to clean energy and address greenhouse gas emissions. See below

The failure of the U.S. Senate to act on a comprehensive climate change and clean energy bill before the August recess makes it highly unlikely that such legislation will pass this year – which only serves to underscore the importance of the make-up of the U.S. Senate following this November’s midterm elections.

Unfortunately, a disturbing trend has emerged this year among the Republican Senate candidates running as challengers or in open seat races: a refusal to accept the sound and settled science that man-made carbon pollution is causing the planet to warm. Simply put, these candidates are full-fledged global warming deniers. If they win, the number of card-carrying members of this “Flat Earth Society” will rise exponentially in the world’s greatest deliberative body.

To be clear, despite an orchestrated misinformation campaign – funded in large part by the oil industry and other corporate polluters – independent scientific bodies across the world have found that climate change is unequivocal and driven largely by human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels and the clearing of forests. Worse yet, the impacts are occurring far faster than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projected in its comprehensive 2007 report. Arctic sea ice is melting faster than anticipated. We just witnessed the hottest decade, hottest year, and hottest 6 months in the history of recorded temperature. The devastating floods in Pakistan and the forest fires in Russia are yet the latest reminders of the deadly impact of a warming world.

Yet most of the Republican candidates looking to join the U.S. Senate have taken positions on climate change that are decidedly outside of the mainstream. A few samplings are included below:

Wisconsin: Ron Johnson
“I absolutely do not believe that the science of man-caused climate change is proven. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I think it’s far more likely that it’s just sunspot activity, or something just in the geologic eons of time where we have changes in the climate.” (8/19/10)

New Hampshire: All Republican Senate Candidates
It was symbolic when the six Republican candidates for U.S. Senate stood up together side-by-side during a debate Wednesday. It resembled their positions on major issues. … All said man-made global warming hasn’t been proven. (8/18/10)

Alaska: Joe Miller
“We haven’t heard there’s man-made global warming.” (8/10)

Pennsylvania: Pat Toomey
“There is much debate in the scientific community as to the precise sources of global warming.”

Nevada: Sharon Angle
“I don’t, however, buy into the whole … man-caused global warming, man-caused climate change mantra of the left. I believe that there’s not sound science to back that up.” (5/26/10)

California: Carly Fiorina
(Asked “Is climate change real?”) “I’m not sure. I think we should have the confidence and courage to test the science.” (3/18/10)

Colorado: Ken Buck
“I’ll tell you, I have looked at global warming, now climate change, from both sides. While I think the earth is warming, I don’t think that man-made causes are the primary factor. I am one of those people that Al Gore refers to as a skeptic.”(3/10)

Florida: Marco Rubio
“I don’t think there’s the scientific evidence to justify [climate change].” (2/13/10)

Kentucky: Rand Paul
“…[climate change] may or may not be true, but they’re making up their facts to fit their conclusions.” (2/10)

Missouri: Roy Blunt
“There isn’t any real science to say we are altering the climate path of the earth.” (4/29/09)
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