Denialism and Tropospheric Temperatures

FYI. The study can be found at:

Troposphere Is Warming Too, Decades Of Data Show

Date: 16-Nov-10
Country: USA
Author: Deborah Zabarenko

Not only is Earth’s surface warming, but the troposphere — the lowest level of the atmosphere, where weather occurs — is heating up too, U.S. and British meteorologists reported on Monday.

In a review of four decades of data on troposphere temperatures, the scientists found that warming in this key atmospheric layer was occurring, just as many researchers expected it would as more greenhouse gases built up and trapped heat close to the Earth.

This study aims to put to rest a controversy that began 20 years ago, when a 1990 scientific report based on satellite observations raised questions about whether the troposphere was warming, even as Earth’s surface temperatures climbed.

The original discrepancy between what the climate models predicted and what satellites and weather balloons measured had to do with how the observations were made, according to Dian Seidel, research meteorologist for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

It was relatively easy to track surface temperatures, since most weather stations sat on or close to the ground, Seidel said by telephone from NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory in Silver Spring, Maryland, outside Washington.

Measuring temperature in the troposphere is more complicated. Starting in the late 1950s, scientists dangled weather instruments from big balloons, with the data sent back to researchers by radio transmission as the balloons rose through the six miles of the troposphere.


The first satellite data on troposphere temperature was gathered in 1979, but neither weather balloons nor these early satellite weather observations were accurate measures of climate change, Seidel said.

“They’re weather balloons and weather satellites, they’re not climate balloons and climate satellites,” she said. “They’re not calibrated precisely enough to monitor small changes in climate that we expect to see.”

When the 1990 study was published, showing a lack of warming in the troposphere especially in the tropics, it prompted some to question the reality of surface warming and whether climate models could be relied upon, NOAA said in a statement.

This latest paper reviewed 195 cited papers, climate model results and atmospheric data sets, and found no fundamental discrepancy between what was predicted and what is happening in the troposphere. It is warming, the study found.

This study is one of several published this year pushing back against those who doubt the reality of climate change and the role human activities play in it.

Scientists at NOAA, the United Kingdom Met Office and the University of Reading contributed to the paper, published on Monday in Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews – Climate Change, a peer-reviewed journal.

International climate change talks are set to start on November 29 in Cancun, Mexico, but prospects for a global deal to curb greenhouse emissions are considered slim.

Climate, Food and Farming Research Network Call for Proposals

The Climate, Food and Farming research network (CLIFF) is a newly established initiative by the CGIAR Challenge Programme for Climate, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and The Department of Agriculture and Ecology at the University of Copenhagen. The aim of network is to bring together PhD students and established researchers working on climate change mitigation and related adaptation activities in small-scale farming and food systems in developing countries. You can read more about the network at

One of the main objectives of the network is to build research capacity by supporting PhD research within the networks’ themes. CLIFF’s first call for research proposals has just been announced. The call is for research looking at the GHG abatement potential of various agricultural practices and technologies and their synergies with adaptation. Deadline for applications is 6 December 2010. The full call can be viewed here

Myles Oelofse, Ph.D. M.Sc.

Plant and Soil Science

Dep. of Agriculture and Ecology
Faculty of Life Sciences
University of Copenhagen
Thorvaldsensvej 40; DK-1871 Frederiksberg C


Office:  (+ 45) 35 33 34 42
Mobile: (+ 45) 28 73 48 68

Skype: mylesoelofse

Impacts of Biofuel Production

For those who are interested in the second-order impacts of the production of bio-fuels, the Institute for European Environmental Policy has produced a report entitled “Anticipated Indirect Land Use Change Associated with Expanded Use of Biofuels and Bioliquids in the EU – An Analysis of the National Renewable Energy Action Plans”, which examines the consequences of the European Union’s renewable energy Directive. This could serve as the basis for a discussion of renewable energy policy, the connections between energy policy and other environmental policies (such as bio-diversity), or the unintended consequences of legislation.

World Energy Outlook 2010

The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2010 was released this week. Among the take-aways of the Executive Summary that are germane to climate change courses, based on the Agency’s “New Policies” central scenario for energy use and GHG emissions:

  1. World energy demand is projected to grow by 1.2% annually through 2035, slightly lower than the Current Policies scenario, which sees a 1.4% annual increase; fossil fuels still accounts for over half of total primary energy demand;
  2. The use of renewable energy sources triples under the New Policies Outlook, meeting 14% of primary energy demand by 2035, up from 7% currently. Renewable energy could a third of electricity production by 2035, but this requires a very substantial increase in government support;
  3. The commitments made under the Copenhagen Accord put the world on pace to stabilize GHG emissions at 650ppm, resulting in temperature increases of more than 3.5C in the long term;
    • By contrast, stabilizing atmospheric concentrations at 450ppm, which provides a reasonable prospect for avoiding temperature increases of more than 2C would require reducing emissions from 35GT to 22 by 2035. This would necessitate a “far reaching transformation of the global energy system,” including oil demand peaking in 2020 at only 4 million barrels/day above current use in 2020, and declining substantially thereafter, and coal demand reverting to 2003 levels by 2035. Renewable energy would have to reach 45% of global energy generation also. Other assumptions include a 50% increase in nuclear power, advanced vehicles comprising 70% of the transportation market by 2035, and big increases in the use of biofuels;
  4. Under the scenario of stabilizing emissions at 450ppm, the tepid commitments of Copenhagen now translate into an increase in expenditures required after 2020 of more than $1 trillion and global GDP could be reduced by 1.9% in 2030 instead of 0.9% with more ambitious commitments;
  5. Countries must meet the top of the ranges for emissions reductions, or reductions in emissions intensity for there to be a plausible chance of not passing the 2C threshold;
  6. Cutting the $312 billion in annual fossil fuel subsidies would reduce energy demand by 5% in 2020, and GHG emissions by 5.8.

The Executive Summary is 18 pages and suitable for undergraduate or graduate-level courses; it provides an excellent overview of the nexus of energy use and GHG emissions, the daunting challenge we face in not exceeding the 2C threshold, and some potential policy options that could prove critical in the years ahead. There’s also some excellent graphs for Power Point presentations.

The new U.S. Congress and Climate Change

Some of you teaching a climate change course this semester are undoubtedly discussing the implications of the takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives by the GOP. Here’s an interesting tidbit for the mix: Representative John Shimkus (R. Illinois), who is seeking the chairmanship of  the House Energy & Commerce Committee, recently stated that we don’t have to worry about climate change because, citing the Bible (actually, brandishing it in a hearing) that God promised after the flood that he would never again destroy the world. Of course, it’s cold comfort that Representative Joe Barton (R. Texas) is also vying for the position, also a climate change denier and the apologist to BP for the alleged “shakedown” that compelled it to pay for the clean up effort. Just some grist for the mill in discussing the future of U.S. climate policy.

Insights from Disaster Law . . . part 1

Last week, I hosted the 12th Annual Northeast Florida Environmental Summit at Florida Coastal School of Law.  Presenters offered various perspectives on the theme “Environmental Disasters:  Linking Law, Science, & Policy.”  Several of the presentations may be of interest to readers of this blog, and I’ll highlight them in a series of posts complete with links to the video recordings. 

Jim Chen has already beaten me to the punch with a post on Jurisdynamics featuring his excellent keynote address opening the Summit, “Disaster and Its Dimensions: Legal responses to distortions of time and space.”  Regardless, there is more to say . . .

Professor James  May delivered a very engaging presentation on constitutional issues in recent climate change litigation, such as Comer v. Murphy Oil USA.  The talk, titled  Courting Disaster: Constitutional Climate Litigation, takes on the question of the courts’ role in addressing climate-related disasters.  In a presentation that is both interesting to experts and accessible to non-lawyers, Jimmy challenges recent invocations of political question doctrine and prudential standing to avoid tort cases seeking redress for injuries related to climate change.  He argues that the Supreme Court should accept certiorari in these cases because, among other reasons, courts are our mechanism for resolving civil disputes and the disputes underlying these cases arise from perhaps the most important issue of our day.

Also included in the video is a presentaiton by Carl R. Nelson, an attorney with Fowler White Boggs P.A.  This presentation, titled Oil Pollution Act Litigation:  Recovery of Purely Economic Losses, provides an insightful discussion of liability issues connected with oil spills, based on Nelson’s experience heading the legal team that litigated the 1993 Tampa Bay oil spill.

Upcoming Webinars on Climate Change Teaching

Hi Folks,

This Friday kicks off our new webinar series for teaching climate change and energy. We have 8 slots open in this webinar, so please join us!
The title of the talk is: Can Carbon Capture and Storage Clean up Fossil Fuels? It will be presented by Geoff Thyne of the University of Wyoming.

The webinar will take place at 10:00 am Pacific | 11:00 am Mountain | 12:00 pm Central | 1:00 pm Eastern and will last for one hour.

For more information and to register, please see

All the details about the webinar series are below. Please forward this note to interested colleagues.

Karin Kirk – Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College

On the Cutting Edge’s new Climate and Energy Webinar and Book Club Series is launching Friday November 12 with a 1-hr online webinar on

Can Carbon Capture and Storage Clean up Fossil Fuels?

presented by Geoff Thyne of the University of Wyoming.
(10:00 am Pacific | 11:00 am Mountain | 12:00 pm Central | 1:00 pm Eastern)

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) involves capturing carbon dioxide from industrial processes, compressing the gas and injecting it into geologic reservoirs for long term storage and isolation from the atmosphere. Dr. Thyne has a background in geochemistry, petroleum geology, and hydrogeology and is a senior research scientist at the Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute, which resides in the School of Energy Resources at the University of Wyoming.

Webinar goal: Assist educators of climate and energy science in better understanding the challenges and potential of CSS to offset global carbon emissions and in developing ideas for how to incorporate these concepts into classroom learning.
Format: Approximately 30 minutes of presentation followed by 30 minutes of discussion and Q&A.
Registration info: 20 participants maximum. There is no registration fee, but registration is required to save a space (and because of limited space, be sure you can commit before registering). Registration closes when the spaces fill or by Friday November 5, whichever comes first.
Web page and registration:

The second event in our Climate and Energy Webinar and Book Club Series is an online book discussion on Friday, December 10.

Book: Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air, 2009, David MacKay.

(10:00 am Pacific | 11:00 am Mountain | 12:00 pm Central | 1:00 pm Eastern)
Publisher’s book description: “In case study format, this informative reference answers questions surrounding nuclear energy, the potential of sustainable fossil fuels, and the possibilities of sharing renewable power with foreign countries. While underlining the difficulty of minimizing consumption, the tone remains positive as it debunks misinformation and clearly explains the calculations of expenditure per person to encourage people to make individual changes that will benefit the world at large.”
Book club goal: Assist educators of climate and energy science in quantifying sustainable energy alternatives and sharing ideas for in-class activities that will demonstrate to our students the relevancy of this issue in their lives and the roles they can play.
Format: 1 hour of interactive discussion of the themes of the book and sharing of creative strategies for better engaging our students with these topics.
Registration info: 10 participants maximum. There is no registration fee, but registration is required to save a space (and because of limited space, be sure you can commit before registering). Registration closes when the spaces fill or by Friday December 3, whichever comes first.
Web page and registration:

The Climate and Energy Webinar and Book Club Series is a new On the Cutting Edge series that consists of alternating webinars and book club discussions delving into emerging topics in climate change and energy. These issues are evolving quickly and are constantly in the news, which is why our students find them to be relevant and interesting. On the other hand, keeping ourselves up to date becomes challenging. This monthly series will explore the science of energy and climate, along with promising teaching approaches for these topics. Each month we will alternate between a 1-hr webinar or a 1-hr book club discussion per the descriptions above.
Webpage for series:

Please visit our website to register for and learn more about our upcoming events. We hope you’ll join us!

Series Conveners
Karin Kirk, Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College
Jimm Myers, University of Wyoming
Katryn Wiese, City College of San Francisco