Islands Adapting to Change: Tuvalu

H/T Brett Keane for pointing to research by Paul Kench regarding viability of Pacific islands. Paul S. Kench, Murray R. Ford & Susan D. Owen published: 09 February 2018 Patterns of island change and persistence offer alternate adaptation pathways for atoll nations Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Sea-level rise and climatic change threaten the existence of atoll nations. Inundation and erosion are expected to render islands uninhabitable over the next century, forcing human migration. Here we present analysis of shoreline change in all 101 islands in the Pacific atoll nation of Tuvalu. Using remotely sensed data, change is analysed over the past four decades, a period when local sea level has risen at twice the global average (~3.90 ± 0.4 mm.yr−1). Results highlight a net increase in land area in Tuvalu of 73.5 ha (2.9%), despite sea-level rise, and land area increase in eight of nine atolls. Island change has lacked uniformity with 74% increasing and 27% decreasing in size. Results challenge perceptions of island loss, showing islands are dynamic features that will persist as sites for habitation over the next century, presenting alternate opportunities for adaptation that embrace the heterogeneity of island types and their dynamics.

Examples of island change and dynamics in Tuvalu from 1971 to 2014. a Nanumaga reef platform island (301 ha) increased in area 4.7 ha (1.6%) and remained stable on its reef platform. b Fangaia island (22.4 ha), Nukulaelae atoll, increased in area 3.1 ha (13.7%) and remained stable on reef rim. c Fenualango island (14.1 ha), Nukulaelae atoll rim, increased in area 2.3 ha (16%). Note smaller island on left Teafuafatu (0.29 ha), which reduced in area 0.15 ha (49%) and had significant lagoonward movement. d Two smaller reef islands on Nukulaelae reef rim. Tapuaelani island, (0.19 ha) top left, increased in area 0.21 ha (113%) and migrated lagoonward. Kalilaia island, (0.52 ha) bottom right, reduced in area 0.45 ha (85%) migrating substantially lagoonward. e Teafuone island (1.37 ha) Nukufetau atoll, increased in area 0.04 ha (3%). Note lateral migration of island along reef platform. Yellow lines represent the 1971 shoreline, blue lines represent the 1984 shoreline, green lines represent the 2006 shoreline and red lines represent the 2014 shoreline. Images ©2017 DigitalGlobe Inc.

Under these environmental scenarios, conjectures of habitability and mobility become entwined and have driven an urgency in socio-political discourse about atoll nation futures and human security. Strategies for adaptation to changing biophysical conditions are coupled with narratives of environmentally determined exodus. Such persistent messages have normalised island loss and undermined robust and sustainable adaptive planning in small island nations. In their place are adaptive responses characterised by in-place solutions, seeking to defend the line and include solutions such as reclamation and seawalls, potentially reinforcing maladaptive practices. Notwithstanding the maladaptive outcomes of such approaches, such dialogues present a binary of stay and defend the line or eventual displacement. There is limited space within these constructs to reflect on possibilities that a heterogeneous archipelago (size, number and dynamics of islands) may offer in terms of sustained habitability, beyond the historic imprint of colonial agendas and entrenched land tenure systems that may constrain novel adaptation responses at the national scale.

Summary data of physical island change of islands in Tuvalu between 1971 and 2014. a Absolute changes in island area in hectares with respect to island size. b Percentage change in islands per decade with respect to island size. Raw data contained in Supplementary Data 1. Note: square symbols denote reef platform islands; solid circles denote atoll rim islands; and light blue circles enclosing symbols denote populated islands

We argue that indeed there are a more nuanced set of options to be explored to support adaptation in atoll states. Existing paradigms are based on flawed assumptions that islands are static landforms, which will simply drown as the sea level rises4,23. There is growing evidence that islands are geologically dynamic features that will adjust to changing sea level and climatic conditions. However, such studies have typically examined a limited number of islands within atoll nations, and not provided forward trajectories of land availability, thereby limiting the findings for broader adaptation considerations. Furthermore, the existing range of adaptive solutions are narrowly constrained and do not reflect the inherent physical heterogeneity and dynamics of archipelagic systems.

Here we present the first comprehensive national-scale analysis of the transformation in physical land resources of the Pacific atoll nation Tuvalu, situated in the central western Pacific (Supplementary Note 1). Comprising 9 atolls and 101 individual reef islands, the nation is home to 10,600 people, 50% of whom are located on the urban island of Fogafale, in Funafuti atoll. We specifically examine spatial differences in island behaviour, of all 101 islands in Tuvalu, over the past four decades (1971–2014), a period in which local sea level has risen at twice the global average (Supplementary Note 2). Surprisingly, we show that all islands have changed and that the dominant mode of change has been island expansion, which has increased the land area of the nation. Results are used to project future landform availability and consider opportunities for a vastly more nuanced and creative set of adaptation pathways for atoll nations.


EU Seeks “Populist-Proof” Carbon Reductions

Polish coal miners protest against liquidation of Polish coal mines.

The story July 10, 2018 by Sonja van Renssen EU wants new climate policy to be “populism-proof” [EPW] Excerpts from energypost, who like the idea, with my bolds.

van Renssen: No new targets, gas is in, jobs and growth are key: the EU is designing a new climate and energy strategy for the coming decades that must reflect a new EU identity post-Brexit – and must drive economic opportunity to ensure it is “populism-proof”.

Brussels is usually deserted in summer. The institutions shut down and everyone takes a break. This year, there are two big energy projects that will keep some people busy however.

First, the Austrian EU Presidency, which took over from Bulgaria on 1 July, will lead technical talks on a new electricity market design for Europe. This is part of the EU’s Clean Energy Package. With new laws on renewables, energy efficiency and governance concluded last month, market design is the Package’s last outstanding file. Austria wants to wrap it – and therefore the EU’s climate and energy framework fror 2030 – up by the end of the year.

It organised a first “trilogue” or negotiating session between Member States, the European Parliament and the European Commission on 27 June. This was basically a “meet and greet” session. Work will now get underway at a technical level over the summer ahead of a second trilogue scheduled for 11 September.

The second big topic this summer is a new EU climate and energy strategy for 2050. European heads of state and government called for it by next spring; the European Commission aims to deliver it by November. It is holding a big two-day stakeholder conference on it in Brussels on 10-11 July – in a room big enough for 1000 people, an official said (see programme).

Next week, the Commission will launch a 3-month public consultation on the strategy, ensuring that stakeholders as well as officials are kept busy over the summer months…

Update: Climate Change Theater


Today we can see again a post discussing Chantal Bilodeau’s theatrical productions concerning warming in Arctic Canada.  At Pacific Standard is today’s article  Chantal Bilodeau Brings Climate Change to the Theater.   Thus I am reposting my previous efforts to find scientific validation for the concerns expressed in her plays, and indeed by residents on Nunavut.

Nunavut is Melting! Or not.

From Yale Climate Connections we heard last week about Nunavut melting and a theatrical production to spread news and concerns about this dangerous development.

“I come from a place of rugged mountains, imperial glaciers and tender-covered permafrost. But Nunavut, our land, is only as rich as it is cold, and today most of it is melting.”That’s Chantal Bilodeau, reading a passage from “Sila,” a play about the effects of climate change in the Arctic.

The characters in her play include polar bears, an Inuit goddess, scientists, and coast guard officers – all working together to save their land.

No doubt her personal experience and feelings for her Nunavut are sincere and profound. (Originally I thought it was her homeland, but in fact she is a New York playwright and translator, born in Montreal.) And there will be a large audience receptive to her concerns about global warming. (Bilodeau has writen six plays about the Arctic and founded the international network Artists And Climate Change.) But I wonder if scientific measurements support her belief that Nunavut is melting.

After all, we have learned from medical research that individual life experiences (anecdotes) may not be true more generally. That is why drugs are tested on population samples with double-blind studies: neither the patient nor the doctor knows who gets the medicine and who gets the placebo.  And when it comes to climate change, every weather event is proclaimed as man made global warming rearing its ugly head.

So I went looking for weather station records to see what is the warming trend in that region. As curiosity does so often, it led me on a journey of discovery, learning some new things, and relearning old ones with fresh implications.

Where are temperatures measured in Nunavut?

It is by far the Northernmost territory of Canada, just off the coast of Northern Greenland.

According to Environment Canada, weather is reported at 29 places in Nunavut. So I went to look at the record at Iqaluit, the capital of the territory. You get monthly normals for the period 1981 to 2010. Historical data (daily averages) can be accessed only 1 individual month/year at a time, the menu stops at 2004. Even then, some months are filled with “M” for missing. Historical data from which trends can be analyzed is hard to come by.

Disappearing Weather Records

It turns out that Nunavut also suffered from the great purging of weather station records that was noticed by skeptics years ago.

Graph showing the correlation between Global Mean Temperature (Average T) and the number of stations included in the global database. Source: Ross McKitrick, U of Guelph

I was aware of this because of a recent study looking at trends at stations around the Arctic circle. Arctic Warming Unalarming.  That study included graphs that showed the dramatic removal of station records in the North.  Though the depletion was not limited to the far North, many Canadian and Russian records disappeared from the global database.


Fig. 6 Temperature change for annual Arctic averages relative to the temperature during 1961 to 1990 for stations in Europe having more than 150 years of observations. The red curve is the moving 5-year average while the blue curve shows the number of stations reporting in each year. 118 stations contributed to the study. W. A. van Wijngaarden, Theoretical & Applied Climatology (2015)

Eureka, Nunavut, Canada “Last Station above latitude 65N”

Eureka got considerable attention in 2010 due to its surviving the dying out of weather stations. The phrase in quotes above reflects an observation that GISS uses Eureka data to infill across the whole Arctic Circle. That single station record is hugely magnified in its global impact in that temperature reconstruction product. Somewhat like the influence of a single tree in Yamal upon the infamous hockey stick graph.

The first High Arctic Weather Station in history, Eureka was established in April 1947 at 80-degrees north latitude in the vicinity of two rivers, which provided fresh water to the six-man United States Army Air Force team that parachuted in. They erected Jamesway huts to shelter themselves and their equipment until August, when an icebreaker reached Eureka – as it has every year since – and brought permanent buildings and supplies. For decades after that, small, all-male crews would hunker down for entire winters, going a little stir-crazy from the isolation. WUWT 2010

GHCN Records for Nunavut

It turns out that in addition to Eureka, GCHN has data for Alert and Clyde (River), but the latter two histories end in 2004 and 2010, respectively. The adjusted files have a few differences in details, but little change from the unadjusted files. The chart below shows the temperatures measured at Eureka, Nunavut, Canada 79° 98’ N, 85° 93’ W.  The other two stations tell the same story as Eureka, though temperatures at Clyde are warmer in absolute terms due to its more Southerly location.

Eureka temps4

The chart shows Annual, July and January averages along with the lifetime averages of Eureka station from 1948 through 2015.  There is slight variability, and a few years higher than average, but nothing alarming or even enough for people to sense any change.  Note also that annual averages are well below freezing, because only 3 months are above 0° C.  I suppose that someone could play with anomalies and generate a chart that looked scary, but the numbers in the record do not support fears of global warming and melting in Nunavut.


Once again we see media announcements that confuse subjective beliefs with empirical observations of objective reality.  And unfortunately, those observations are less and less available to counter the herd instincts of fearing the future and blaming someone.


The map at the top shows how crucial is Nunavut to the Polar Ocean Challenge.  If the Northabout  successfuly negotiates the Northern Sea Route (the Russian side), they then must pass from Beaufort Sea through the Parry Channel (or alternative passages) to get to Baffin Bay.  Laptev is the first hurdle, and Nunavut is the last one.

Updated: Pacific Sea Level Data


PSLMPThis post is about the SEAFRAME network measuring sea levels in the Pacific, and about the difficulty to discern multi-decadal trends of rising or accelerating sea levels as evidence of climate change.

Update July 9, 2018

Asked a question today about sea levels and Pacific islands, I referred to this article.  Realizing it was posted 2 years ago, it seemed important to check the most recent project report.  Thus at the bottom there are now results through May 2018.

Update May 10 below, regarding recent Solomon Islands news

Pacific Sea Level Monitoring Network

The PSLM project was established in response to concerns voiced by Pacific Island countries about the potential effects of climate change. The project aims to provide an accurate long-term record of sea levels in the area for partner countries and the international scientific community, and enable the former to make informed decisions about managing their coastal environments and resources.

In 1991, the National Tidal Facility (NTF) of the Flinders University of South Australia was awarded the contract to undertake the management of the project.  Between July 1991 and December 2000 sea level and meteorological monitoring stations were installed at 11 sites. Between 2001 and 2005 another station was established in the Federated States of Micronesia and continuous global positioning systems (CGPS) were installed in numerous locations to monitor the islands’ vertical movements.

The 14 Pacific Island countries now participating in the project provide a wide coverage across the Pacific Basin: the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.


Each of these SEA Level Fine Resolution Acoustic Measuring Equipment (SEAFRAME) stations in the Pacific region are continuously monitoring the Sea Level, Wind Speed and Direction, Wind Gust, Air and Water Temperatures and Atmospheric Pressure.

In addition to its system of tide gauge facilities, the Pacific Sea-Level Monitoring Network also includes a network of earth monitoring stations for geodetic observations, implemented and maintained by Geoscience Australia. The earth monitoring installations provide Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) measurements to allow absolute determination of the vertical height of the tide gauges that measure sea level.

Sea Level Datasets from PSLM

Data and reports are here.

Monthly reports are detailed and informative. At each station water levels are measured every six minutes in order to calculate daily maxs, mins and means, as a basis for monthly averages. So the daily mean sea level value is averaged from 240 readings, and the daily min and max are single readings taken from the 240.



A typical monthly graph appears above. It shows how tides for these stations range between 1 to 3 meters daily, as well variations during the month.

According to the calibrations, measurement errors are in the range of +/- 1 mm. Vertical movement of the land is monitored relative to a GPS benchmark. So far, land movement at these stations has also been within the +/- 1 mm range (with one exception related to an earthquake).

The PSLM Record

March SL range

In the Monthly reports are graphs showing results of six minute observations, indicating tidal movements daily over the course of a month.The chart above shows how sea level varied in each location during March 2016 compared to long term March results. Since many stations were installed in 1993, long term means about 22 years of history.

This dataset for Pacific Sea Level Monitoring provides a realistic context for interpreting studies claiming sea level trends and/or acceleration of such trends. Of course, one can draw a line through any scatter of datapoints and assert the existence of a trend. And the error ranges above allow for annual changes of a few mm to be meaningful. Here is a table produced in just that way.

Location Installation date Sea-level trend (mm/yr)
Cook Islands Feb 2003 +5.5
Federated States of Micronesia Dec 2001 +17.7
Fiji Oct 1992 +2.9
Kiribati Dec 1992 +2.9
Marshall Islands May 1993 +5.2
Nauru Jul 1993 +3.6
Papua New Guinea Sept 1994 +8.0
Samoa Feb 1993 +6.9
Solomon Islands Jul 1994 +7.7
Tonga Jan 1993 +8.6
Tuvalu Mar 1993 +4.1
Vanuatu Jan 1993 +5.3

The rising trends range from 2.9 to 8.6 mm/year (FSM is too short to be meaningful).

Looking into the details of the monthly anomalies, it is clear that sea level changes at the mm level are swamped by volatility of movements greater by orders of magnitude.  And there are obvious effects from ENSO events. The 1997-98 El Nino shows up in a dramatic fall of sea levels almost everywhere, and that event alone creates most of the rising trends in the table above.  The 2014-2016 El Nino is also causing sea levels to fall, but is too recent to affect the long term trend.

Picture17revUpdate July 9, 2018

Here are the sea level records updated to May 2018.

Pacific Sea Levels May 2018

The records are dominated by two Major El Nino events in 1997-8 and 2015-6.  When Westerly winds pick up, warm surface water is pushed from western (Asian) Pacific toward eastern (American) Pacific.  Thus sea levels decline temporarily during those periods, as seen in the blue deficits in the charts above.  Below the updated sea level trends.
Seaframe trends May 2018

Sea Level Rise is another metric for climate change that demonstrates the difficulty discerning a small change of a few millimeters in a dataset where tides vary thousands of millimeters every day. And the record is also subject to irregular fluctuations from storms, currents and oceanic oscillations, such as the ENSO.

On page 8 of its monthly reports (here), PSLM project provides this caution regarding the measurements:

The overall rates of movement are updated every month by calculating the linear slope during the tidal analysis of all the data available at individual stations. The rates are relative to the SEAFRAME sensor benchmark, whose movement relative to inland benchmarks is monitored by Geosciences Australia.
Please exercise caution in interpreting the overall rates of movement of sea level – the records are too short to be inferring long-term trends.

A longer record will bring more insight, but even then sea level trends are a very weak signal inside a noisy dataset. Even with state-of-the-art equipment, it is a fool’s errand to discern any acceleration in sea levels, in order to link it to CO2. Such changes are in fractions of millimeters when the measurement error is +/- 1 mm.

For more on the worldwide network of tidal gauges, as well as satellite systems attempting to measure sea level, sea Dave Burton’s excellent website.

May 10 update Regarding recent news about Solomon Islands.

As the charts above show, there is negligible sea level rise in the West Pacific, and receding a bit lately at Solomon Islands.  So it was curious that the media was declaring those islands inundating because of climate change.

Now the real story is coming out (but don’t wait for the retractions)

A new study published in Environmental Research Letters shows that some low-lying reef islands in the Solomon Islands are being gobbled up by “extreme events, seawalls and inappropriate development, rather than sea level rise alone.” Despite headlines claiming that man-made climate change has caused five Islands (out of nearly a thousand) to disappear from rising sea levels, a closer inspection of the study reveals the true cause is natural, and the report’s lead author says many of the headlines have been ‘exaggerated’ to ill-effect.




Ocean Air Temps Keep Cool

Presently sea surface temperatures (SST) are the best available indicator of heat content gained or lost from earth’s climate system.  Enthalpy is the thermodynamic term for total heat content in a system, and humidity differences in air parcels affect enthalpy.  Measuring water temperature directly avoids distorted impressions from air measurements.  In addition, ocean covers 71% of the planet surface and thus dominates surface temperature estimates.  Eventually we will likely have reliable means of recording water temperatures at depth.

Recently, Dr. Ole Humlum reported from his research that air temperatures lag 2-3 months behind changes in SST.  He also observed that changes in CO2 atmospheric concentrations lag behind SST by 11-12 months.  This latter point is addressed in a previous post Who to Blame for Rising CO2?

The June update to HadSST3 will appear later this month, but in the meantime we can look at lower troposphere temperatures (TLT) from UAHv6 which are already posted for June. The temperature record is derived from microwave sounding units (MSU) on board satellites like the one pictured above.

The UAH dataset includes temperature results for air above the oceans, and thus should be most comparable to the SSTs. The graph below shows monthly anomalies for ocean temps since January 2015.

The anomalies are holding close to the same levels as 2015. In June, both the Tropics and SH rose, while NH declined slightly, resulting in a small increase in the Global average of air over oceans. Taking a longer view, we can look at the record since 1995, that year being an ENSO neutral year and thus a reasonable starting point for considering the past two decades.  On that basis we can see the plateau in ocean temps is persisting. Since last October all oceans have cooled, with offsetting bumps up and down.

Monthly Ocean
Average Since 1995 Ocean 6/2018
Global 0.13 0.14
NH 0.16 0.28
SH 0.11 0.03
Tropics 0.12 0.11

As of June 2018, global ocean temps are slightly higher than May and close to the average since 1995.  NH remains higher, but not enough to offset much lower temps in SH and  nearly average Tropics (between 20N and 20S latitudes).  Global ocean air temps are matching the last two March temps, but are the lowest June temps since 2012.  Both NH and SH are the lowest June temps since 2014.

The details of UAH ocean temps are provided below.  The monthly data make for a noisy picture, but seasonal fluxes between January and July are important.

Open image in new tab to enlarge.

The greater volatility of the Tropics is evident, leading the oceans through three major El Nino events during this period.  Note also the flat period between 7/1999 and 7/2009.  The 2010 El Nino was erased by La Nina in 2011 and 2012.  Then the record shows a fairly steady rise peaking in 2016, with strong support from warmer NH anomalies, before returning to the 22-year average.


TLTs include mixing above the oceans and probably some influence from nearby more volatile land temps.  They started the recent cooling later than SSTs from HadSST3, but are now showing the same pattern.  It seems obvious that despite the three El Ninos, their warming has not persisted, and without them it would probably have cooled since 1995.  Of course, the future has not yet been written.


Arctic Ice Persisting in July


In June 2018, Arctic ice extent held up against previous years despite the Pacific basins of Bering and Okhotsk being ice-free.  Now in July when ice extent typically declines, 2018 extents were flat, and now declining slowly.  The Arctic core is showing little change, perhaps due to increased thickness (volume) as reported by DMI.  The image above from AARI shows ice extents first week of July for years 2008 through 2018. (Image format was different for previous years.  In 2018, water is showing typically in Chukchi in July, a bit more than usual in Laptev and less in Beaufort.

The graph below shows how the Arctic extent has faired from mid June to July 7 (yesterday) compared to the 11 year average and to some years of interest.
Arctic day 188Note that 2018  was on average and comparable to other years from Mid June on.  Then recently ice extents have held steady just below 10M km2, while averages and other years declined.  2018 is now 288k km2 above the 11 year average,  400k km2 higher than 2017, and 624k km2 greater than 2007 at this date.   SII 2018 was tracking the same as MASIE in June but is now showing 335k km2 lower.

The table below shows ice extents by regions comparing 2018 with 11-year average (2007 to 2017 inclusive) and 2017 as of day 179.

Region 2018188 Day 179 
2018-Ave. 2007188 2018-2007
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 9465018 9181173 283844 8841116 623902
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 977561 863028 114533 871601 105960
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 635350 682991 -47641 622583 12767
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1037340 996766 40574 855273 182067
 (4) Laptev_Sea 545304 684244 -138941 644539 -99236
 (5) Kara_Sea 568399 477164 91236 523575 44824
 (6) Barents_Sea 54547 88754 -34206 91567 -37020
 (7) Greenland_Sea 353292 477433 -124141 506546 -153254
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 592755 393419 199336 411743 181013
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 778940 756496 22444 752103 26837
 (10) Hudson_Bay 791754 543956 247798 354253 437502
 (11) Central_Arctic 3128568 3203921 -75353 3202400 -73832

2018 is above the 11 year average,  with BCE (Beaufort, Chukchi, East Siberian) higher, Laptev and Kara offsetting.  Barents and Greenland Sea are down, but Baffin and Hudson Bays have larger surpluses.


Arctic extents are shaped by the three Ws: Water, Wind and Weather.  This video shows how a massive cyclone in 2012 broke up the ice, moved it around and flushed much of it out through the Fram strait.The ice has recovered since then and is now quite thick.




Takeaways from Green Fund Meltdown

From Climate Home is this post today by Megan Darby 8 takeaways from the Green Climate Fund meltdown  Excerpts in italics below with my bolds and images.

The UN’s flagship climate finance initiative had a public setback this week. What went wrong, what are the political implications and what happens next?

The UN’s flagship climate finance initiative had a major setback this week, with the board failing to agree on any big ticket decisions.

Longstanding tensions at the Green Climate Fund came to a head in Songdo, South Korea, as it opened talks on raising a new round of contributions.

On top of that, the head of the secretariat abruptly resigned, adding top level recruitment to the fund’s woes.

As the dust settled, Climate Home News spoke to several participants and observers about what went wrong, the fallout and next steps. Here are eight takeaways.

1. Absent Oquist

The meeting got off to a bad start when the Nicaraguan co-chair failed to show up. Ok, so things were pretty bad back home, with anti-government protests turning violent.

But it was ironic, given Paul Oquist had done a major U-turn to get the job. He notoriously refused to endorse the Paris Agreement in 2015, saying it was too weak. Nicaragua only joined last year when it became apparent Oquist otherwise had no chance at leading the GCF board.

In his absence, developing country board members complained they had not been properly consulted on the agenda, kicking off a protracted procedural dispute.

2. Trump towers

After president Donald Trump made clear he had no plans to put any more money into the GCF, you may wonder why the US still has a seat on the board.

Trump sizes up the benefits were Paris Accord to actually succeed.

Well, the country has already handed over $1 billion and Geoffrey Okamoto is the Trump appointee charged with seeing it is spent wisely. But he can afford to be provocative, having no stake in the fund’s sustainability.

His insistence that the replenishment process should be “donor-driven” did not go down well, on a board deliberately structured to give the developing world an equal say. Nor did his lobbying to end talks on time, while others were trying to salvage some agreement.

3. Fundraising

If there was any doubt on where the talks got stuck, a glance at the video page should dispel it. There are no fewer than six sessions recorded on “matters related to replenishment”, spanning more than 24 hours.

At heart, it is a rich-poor fight of the kind familiar to anyone who follows UN climate negotiations. Donor countries try to attach conditions to funding, while beneficiaries demand they quit stalling and deliver.

In previous meetings, the board has tended to push through some headline outcomes – usually project approvals – at the last minute, while deferring contentious policy decisions. This time round, representatives from Canada and Finland as well as the US were not prepared to just muddle through.

4. Performance review

Before it can raise new money, the fund will need to show donors what it has done with the initial round of contributions. This and other preparatory work is expected to take six months or so.

“If there is one thing we need to decide this time, it is to start a review, because that is a precondition to replenishment processes,” said Germany’s Karsten Sach in the meeting.

The problem was in deciding who should carry out the review. Most saw it as the natural remit of the fund’s independent evaluator Jyotsna Puri, but a handful of developing countries wanted to outsource it. So here too, there was no agreement.

5. Bamsey bails

After a weary-looking chair admitted defeat on replenishment, he dropped a bombshell: the fund’s top executive Howard Bamsey resigned with immediate effect.

Nobody blamed Bamsey for the chaos, which was essentially political, or cast doubt on his explanation the move was for “pressing personal reasons”. The Songdo-based role had kept him away from his family in Australia. (He could not be reached for further comment.)

But the timing took some – including the secretariat’s communications team – by surprise. He had been expected to oversee the replenishment process before leaving. His replacement must take on the heavy lift of fundraising and resolving a backlog of governance issues, while navigating the heated boardroom politics.

6. Projects in limbo

The collapse means a three-month delay for 11 projects bidding for nearly $1 billion of GCF money. Solar panels in Tonga, water management in the Guatemalan highlands and climate finance upscaling across 17 countries are some of the interventions that will just have to wait.

“The people and communities the GCF is meant to support – those who are most vulnerable – are the ones who suffer the most when progress is delayed,” said Action Aid’s Brandon Wu.

It does nothing to help the fund’s reputation for being slow to get money moving. Then again, with a cash crunch looming, the fund cannot afford to make cavalier spending decisions.

7. Political fallout

It comes in a critical year for the UN climate process. Ministers are due to take stock of global action at the Cop24 negotiations in Katowice, Poland this December.

Climate finance is a key part of that. The industrialised world has promised to mobilise $100 billion a year by 2020. Many countries’ climate plans hinge on that support.

The GCF is not expected to deliver all that investment, but is a totem of international cooperation. If it breaks down, it bodes poorly for the Paris Agreement.

8. Optimism

Despite the public meltdown, everyone CHN contacted was hopeful of getting things back on track. There is time for the fund to redeem itself before Cop24, at the next board meeting in October. Behind the scenes, its advocates will knock some heads together in the coming months.

While finance people may be horrified at the inefficiency and game-playing, those coming from a climate negotiations background see the occasional political upset as par for the course.

“Anything about new money is always very thorny,” said Meena Raman of the Third World Network. “I don’t think we have given up on [the GCF] and I don’t think anyone should.”

Footnote:  The last takeaway is wishful thinking from Climate Home, who are desperately hopeful that Paris Accord and the Green Fund succeed, despite the obvious signs of collapse.  Staying hopeful is also a signal of virtue.

Climate Change Induces Biodiversity

Quartz reports Climate change will force species to find new homes. We have to embrace it. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

During the last Ice Age, species adapted to warmer climes survived in refugia: places that, through some quirk of topography and geography, stayed temperate in a glacial world. By this century’s end, new refugia will emerge—locales where plants and animals will shelter from rising temperatures, protected until such time as they can proliferate again.

For that to happen, though, nature-loving people will need to be open-minded to change. After all, these places will become very different from what they are now.

“The important species turnover expected in northern protected areas emphasizes the hopelessness of trying to preserve a snapshot of today’s biodiversity,” write researchers led by biologist Dominique Berteaux of the Univery of Quebec in Rimouski. “This challenges the traditional paradigm of conserving the ecological integrity of national parks.”

In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, Berteaux’s team model the likely near-future climate suitability of a 230,000-square-mile network of protected areas in Quebec for 529 species of birds, amphibians, plants, and trees. That’s only a portion of possible biodiversity, but it’s enough to signify larger trends—and by the year 2100, Quebec’s nature could be a jumble of existing and newly-arrived species.

The total number of species living in the region will soar by about 92%. An estimated 24% of species now found there will become locally extinct. Species turnover—a metric used by ecologists to represent these gains and losses—comes in at 55%. Those are just averages: Some places are predicted to experience less change, but others could have far more.

Reality is more complicated than models, of course, and the results are not intended to be exact predictions. Rather, they “provide the best-available indication of the strong pressure that climate change will impose on biodiversity,” write Berteaux and colleagues. There are several implications.

First and foremost, “northern protected areas should ultimately become important refuges for species tracking climate northward”—but only if they can get there. Urbanization and habitat fragmentation could block them, squeezing species between inhospitable climate to the south and impassable landscapes to the north. Protecting migration corridors is vital.

And once new species do arrive, ecological disruption is inevitable. Newcomers may degrade ecosystem function; they may also be necessary to preserve ecosystem function. These are not mutually exclusive propositions. “In this context,” write Berteaux’s team, “deciding which new species should be controlled and which should be tolerated or favored will represent an immense challenge.”

Ultimately it may make more sense to take a big-picture approach, protecting a diversity of habitats rather than worrying about particular species. It may also be sensible, says Berteaux, to be more welcoming of newcomers than conservationists now tend to be.

People tend to “see all the bad things they could bring. We forget that nature is always transient,” said Berteaux when asked about dismay over the northward expansion of beavers into the Arctic—something not discussed in this study, but emblematic of its themes. “Change has to be accepted and conservation must be thought in this context of permanent change.”

Source: Berteaux et al. “Northern protected areas will become important refuges for biodiversity tracking suitable climates.” Scientific Reports, 2018.

Berteaux et al provide a summary of results and a plan for adapting.

The Northern Biodiversity Paradox predicts that, despite its globally negative effects on biodiversity, climate change will increase biodiversity in northern regions where many species are limited by low temperatures. We assessed the potential impacts of climate change on the biodiversity of a northern network of 1,749 protected areas spread over >600,000 km2 in Quebec, Canada. Using ecological niche modeling, we calculated potential changes in the probability of occurrence of 529 species to evaluate the potential impacts of climate change on (1) species gain, loss, turnover, and richness in protected areas, (2) representativity of protected areas, and (3) extent of species ranges located in protected areas.

We predict a major species turnover over time, with 49% of total protected land area potentially experiencing a species turnover >80%. We also predict increases in regional species richness, representativity of protected areas, and species protection provided by protected areas. Although we did not model the likelihood of species colonising habitats that become suitable as a result of climate change, northern protected areas should ultimately become important refuges for species tracking climate northward. This is the first study to examine in such details the potential effects of climate change on a northern protected area network.

Conservation implications
The protected areas of Quebec are poised to becoming biodiversity refuges of continental importance, which has four imbricated conservation implications. First, the efficiency of the Quebec network of protected areas in preserving biodiversity could be compromised by limitations to species dispersal. A biodiversity deficit could occur in some areas of Quebec if many species are trapped for decades or centuries between rapid retreat at their southern edge and slow advance at their northern edge38. Therefore, increasing connectivity between protected areas and preserving and restoring potential immigration corridors are priorities.

Second, colonizing species favour protected over unprotected sites and managers of protected areas in northern regions will have to deal with an increasing number of new immigrant species. Newly arriving species can impact negatively ecosystem structure and function. At the same time, self-sustaining populations of non-native species could become necessary in some protected areas to ensure local ecosystem functions and services if historical communities are deeply modified. In this context, deciding which new species should be controlled and which should be tolerated or favored will represent an immense challenge.

Third, in Canada as in several other high-latitude countries, northern peripheral species are already a significant portion of species at risk. These species can have negative impacts on native communities locally, but from a wider point of view, genetic diversity of leading-edge peripheral populations may help species to cope with climate change. Hence, assigning conservation status to rare and recently naturalized species is a thorny issue, and conservation value of rare new species should be considered in a long-term continental perspective rather than short-term national perspective.

Fourth, the important species turnover expected in northern protected areas emphasizes the hopelessness of trying to preserve a snapshot of today’s biodiversity. This challenges the traditional paradigm of conserving the ecological integrity of National Parks. Designing conservation to preserve site resilience and a diversity of physical features and abiotic conditions that are associated with ecological diversity could be a valuable biodiversity conservation strategy under climate change.

Source: Phanerozoic_Biodiversity.png Author: SVG version by Albert Mestre

See Also:  Sixth Mass Genesis, Not Extinction

Arctic Ice Resilient in July


In June 2018, Arctic ice extent held up against previous years despite the Pacific basins of Bering and Okhotsk being ice-free.  Now in July when ice extent typically declines, 2018 extents are essentially flat.  The Arctic core is showing little change, perhaps due to increased thickness (volume) as reported by DMI.  The image above shows ice extents on day 179 for years 2007 through 2018.

The graph below shows how the Arctic extent has faired from mid June to July 3 (yesterday) compared to the 11 year average and to some years of interest.
NH arctic ice day 184Note that 2018  was on average and comparable to other years from Mid June on.  Then recently ice extents have held steady just below 10M km2, while averages and other years declined.  2018 is now 370k km2 above the 11 year average,  535k km2 higher than 2017, and 660k km2 greater than 2007 at this date.   SII 2018 was tracking the same as MASIE in June but has now dropped 360k km2 lower.

The table below shows ice extents by regions comparing 2018 with 11-year average (2007 to 2017 inclusive) and 2017 as of day 179.

Region 2018179 Day 179
2018-Ave. 2007179 2018-2007
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 10029935 10054734 -24798 10034293 -4358
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 1015808 919074 96734 948463 67345
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 711178 732616 -21437 680534 30645
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1053171 1032249 20923 963850 89321
 (4) Laptev_Sea 647574 745700 -98126 663276 -15702
 (5) Kara_Sea 726226 598140 128086 665920 60307
 (6) Barents_Sea 60948 134229 -73281 177419 -116471
 (7) Greenland_Sea 356614 552157 -195543 627602 -270989
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 714402 552083 162319 531706 182696
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 794355 783057 11298 775033 19322
 (10) Hudson_Bay 900609 761919 138690 777550 123058
 (11) Central_Arctic 3047677 3217803 -170125 3216654 -168977
 (12) Bering_Sea 185 6350 -6165 1080 -895
 (13) Baltic_Sea 0 4 -4 0 0
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 0 17972 -17972 3531 -3531

2018 is 25k km2 below average, entirely due to Okhotsk plus Bering being ice-free.  Greenland Sea and Barents are down, offset by surpluses in Beaufort, Kara, Baffin and Hudson Bays.


Arctic extents are shaped by the three Ws: Water, Wind and Weather.  This video shows how a massive cyclone in 2012 broke up the ice, moved it around and flushed much of it out through the Fram strait.The ice has recovered since then and is now quite thick.




California: World Leading Climate Hypocrite

California’s Climate Extremism
Joel Kotkin reports from the Golden State. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The pursuit of environmental purity in the Golden State does nothing to reverse global warming—but it’s costing the poor and middle class dearly.

Environmental extremism increasingly dominates California. The state is making a concerted attack on energy companies in the courts; a bill is pending in the legislature to fine waiters $1,000—or jail them—if they offer people plastic straws; and UCLA issued a report describing pets as a climate threat. The state has taken upon itself the mission of limiting the flatulence of cows and other farm animals. As the self-described capital of the anti-Trump resistance, California presents itself as the herald of a green, more socially and racially just society. That view has been utterly devastated by a new report from Chapman University, in which coauthors David Friedman and Jennifer Hernandez demonstrate that California’s draconian anti-climate-change regime has exacerbated economic, geographic, and racial inequality. And to make things worse, California’s efforts to save the planet have actually done little more than divert greenhouse-gas emissions (GHG) to other states and countries.

Jerry Brown’s return to Sacramento in 2011 brought back to power one of the first American politicians to embrace the “limits of growth.” Brown has long worried about resource depletion (including such debunked notions as “peak oil”), taken a Malthusian approach to population growth, and opposed middle-class suburban development. Like many climate-change activists, he has limitless confidence in the possibility for engineering a green socially just society through “the coercive power of the state,” but little faith that humans can find ways to address the challenge of climate change. If Brown’s “era of limits” message in the 1970s failed to catch on with the state’s voters, who promptly elected two Republican governors in his wake, he has found in climate change a more effective rallying cry, albeit one that often teeters at the edge of hysteria. Few politicians can outdo Brown for alarmism; recently, he predicted that climate change will cause 3 to 4 billion deaths, leading eventually to human extinction. To save the planet, he openly endorses a campaign to brainwash the masses.

The result: relentless ratcheting-up of climate-change policies. In 2016, the state committed to reduce greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. In response, the California Air Resource Board (CARB), tasked with making the rules required to achieve the state’s legislated goals, took the opportunity to set policies for an (unlegislated) target of an 80 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2050.

Brown and his supporters often tout their policies as in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement, note Friedman and Hernandez, but California’s reductions under the agreement require it to make cutbacks double those pledged by Germany and other stalwart climate-committed countries, many of which have actually increased their emissions in recent years, despite their Paris pledges.

Governor Brown has preened in Paris, at the Vatican, in China, in newspapers, and on national television. But few have considered how his policies have worked out in practice. California is unlikely to achieve even its modest 2020 goals; nor is it cutting emissions faster than other states lacking such dramatic legislative mandates. Since 2007, when the Golden State’s “landmark” global-warming legislation was passed, California has accounted for barely 5 percent of the nation’s GHG reductions. The combined total reductions achieved over the past decade by Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Indiana are about 5 times greater than California’s. Even Texas, that bogeyman of fossil-fuel excess, has been reducing its per-capita emissions more rapidly.

In fact, virtually nothing that California does will have an impact on global climate. California per-capita emissions have always been relatively low, due to the mild climate along the coast, which reduces the need for much energy consumption on heating and cooling. In 2010, the state accounted for less than 1 percent of global GHG emissions; the disproportionately large reductions sought by state activists and bureaucrats would have no discernible effect on global emissions under the Paris Agreement. “If California ceased to exist in 2030,” Friedman and Hernandez note, “global GHG emissions would be still be 99.54 percent of the Paris Agreement total.”

Many of California’s “green” policies may make matters worse. California, for example, does not encourage biomass energy use, though the state’s vast forested areas—some 33 million acres— could provide renewable energy and reduce the excessive emissions from wildfires caused by years of forest mismanagement. Similarly, California greens have been adamant in shutting down nuclear power plants, which continue to reduce emissions in France, and they refuse to count hydro-electricity as renewable energy. As a result, California now imports roughly one-third of its electricity from other states, the highest percentage of any state, up from 25 percent in 2010. This is part of what Hernandez and Friedman show to be California’s increasing propensity to export energy production and GHG emissions, while maintaining the fiction that the state has reduced its total carbon output.

Overall, California tends to send its “dirty work”—whether for making goods or in the form of fossil fuels—elsewhere. Unwanted middle- and working-class people, driven out by the high cost of California’s green policies, leave, taking their carbon footprints to other places, many of which have much higher per-capita emission rates. Net migration to other, less temperate states and countries has been large enough to offset the annual emissions cuts within the state. Similarly, the state’s regulatory policies make it difficult for industrial firms to expand or even to remain in California. Green-signaling firms like Apple produce most of their tangible products abroad, mainly in high-GHG emitting China, while other companies, like Facebook and Google, tend to place energy-intensive data centers in other, higher GHG emission states. The study estimates that GHG emissions just from California’s international imports in 2015, and not even counting imports from the rest of the U.S., amounted to about 35 percent of the state’s total emissions.

California’s green regulators predict that the implementation of ever-stricter rules related to climate will have a “small” impact on the economy. They point to strong economic and job growth in recent years as evidence that strict regulations are no barrier to prosperity. Though the state’s economic growth is slowing, and now approaches the national average, a superficial look at aggregate performance makes a seemingly plausible case for even the most draconian legislation. California, as the headquarters for three of the nation’s five largest companies by market capitalization—Alphabet, Apple, and Facebook— has enjoyed healthy GDP growth since 2010. But in past recoveries, the state’s job and income growth was widely distributed by region and economic class; since 2007, growth has been uniquely concentrated in one region—the San Francisco Bay Area, where employment has grown by nearly 17 percent, almost three times that of the rest of the state, with growth rates tumbling compared with past decades.

Some of these inequities are tied directly to policies associated with climate change. High electricity prices, and the war on carbon emissions generally, have undermined the state’s blue-collar sectors, traditionally concentrated in Los Angeles and the interior counties. These sectors have all lost jobs since 2007. Manufacturing employment, highly sensitive to energy-related and other regulations, has declined by 160,000 jobs since 2007. California has benefited far less from the national industrial resurgence, particularly this past year. Manufacturing jobs—along with those in construction and logistics, also hurt by high energy prices—have long been key to upward mobility for non-college-educated Californians.

As climate-change policies have become more stringent, California has witnessed an unprecedented level of bifurcation between a growing cadre of high-income earners and a vast, rapidly expanding poor population. Meantime, the state’s percentage of middle-income earners— people making between $75,000 and $125,000—has fallen well below the national average. This decline of the middle class even occurs in the Bay Area, notes a recent report from the California Budget and Policy Center, where in 1989 the middle class accounted for 56 percent of all households in Silicon Valley, but by 2013, only 45.7 percent. Lower-income residents accounted for 30.3 percent of Silicon Valley’s households in 1989, and that number grew to 34.8 percent in 2013.

Perhaps the most egregious impact on middle and working-class residents can be seen in housing, where environmental regulations, often tied directly to climate policies, have discouraged construction, particularly in the suburbs and exurbs. The state’s determination to undo the primarily suburban, single-family development model in order to “save the planet” has succeeded both in raising prices well beyond national norms and creating a shortfall of some 3 million homes.

As shown in a recent UC Berkeley study, even if fully realized, the state’s proposals to force denser housing would only reach about 1 percent of its 2030 emissions goals. Brown and his acolytes ignore the often-unpredictable consequences of their actions, insisting that density will reduce carbon emissions while improving affordability and boosting transit use. Yet, as Los Angeles has densified under its last two mayors, transit ridership has continued to drop, in part, notes a another UC Berkeley report, because incentives for real-estate speculation have driven the area’s predominantly poor transit riders further from trains and buses, forcing many to purchase cars.

Undaunted, California plans to impose even stricter regulations, including the mandatory installation of solar panels on new houses, which could raise prices by roughly $20,000 per home. This is only the latest in a series of actions that undermines the aspirations of people who still seek “the California dream;” since 2007, California homeownership rates have dropped far more than the national average. By 2016, the overall homeownership rate in the state was just under 54 percent, compared with 64 percent in the rest of the country.

The groups most affected by these policies, ironically, are those on whom the ruling progressives rely for electoral majorities. Millennials have seen a more rapid decline in homeownership rates compared with their cohort elsewhere. But the biggest declines have been among historically disadvantaged minorities—Latinos and African-Americans. Latino homeownership rates in California are well below the national average. In 2016, only 31 percent of African-Americans in the Bay Area owned homes, well below the already low rate of 41 percent black homeownership in the rest of nation. Worse yet, the state takes no account of the impact of these policies on poorer Californians. Overall poverty rates in California declined in the decade before 2007, but the state’s poverty numbers have risen during the current boom. Today, 8 million Californians live in poverty, including 2 million children, by far the most of any state. The state’s largest city, Los Angeles, is also now by some measurements America’s poorest big city.

To allay concerns about housing affordability, the state has allocated about $300 million from its cap-and-trade funds for housing, a meager amount given that the cost of building affordable housing in urban areas can exceed $700,000 per unit. These benefits are dwarfed by those that wealthy Californians enjoy for the purchase of electric cars and home solar: Tesla car buyers with average incomes of $320,000 per year got more than $300 million in federal and state subsidies by early 2015 alone. By contrast, in early 2018, state electricity prices were 58 percent higher, and gasoline over 90 cents per gallon higher, than the national average, disproportionately hurting ethnic minorities, the working class, and the poor. Based on cost-of-living estimation tools from the Census Bureau, 28 percent of African-Americans in the state live in poverty, compared with 22 percent nationally. Fully one-third of Latinos, now the state’s largest ethnic group, live in poverty, compared with 21 percent outside the state.

In a normal political environment, such disparities would spark debate, not only among conservatives, but also traditional Democrats. Some, like failed independent candidate and longtime environmentalist Michael Shellenberger, have expressed the view that California’s policies have made it not “the most progressive state” but “the most racist one.” Recently, some 200 veteran civil rights leaders sued CARB, on the basis that state policies are skewed against the poor and minorities. So far, their voices have been largely ignored. The state’s prospective next governor, Gavin Newsom, seems eager to embrace and expand Brown’s policies, and few in the legislature seem likely to challenge them. The Republicans, for now, look incapable of mounting a challenge.

This leaves California on a perilous path toward greater class and racial divides, increasing poverty, and ever-more strenuous regulation. Other ways to reduce greenhouse gases—such as planting trees, more efficient transportation, and making suburbs more sustainable—should be on the table. The Hernandez-Friedman report could be a first step toward addressing these issues, but however it happens, a return to rationality is needed in the Golden State.

Joel Kotkin serves as Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and executive director of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (COU).