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Limits To Growth, Beyond The Limits, Last Call… Is there anybody out there?

Last night I attended a screening of ‘Last call’ in the House of Commons. This documentary, produced over a period of 7 years by Italian film director Enrico Cerasuolo, tracks the legacy of the seminal work of the MIT scientists who authored ‘Limits To Growth’ in the 1970’s. Famously, the book challenged the iron clad belief of economists, politicians and the public alike, that human civilisation can enjoy unlimited growth on a finite planet.

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Survivable IPCC Projections Are Based On Science Fiction

IPCC ‘Representative Concentration Pathways’ are based on fantasy technology, concealing  a very bleak trajectory for humanity. Is this why policymakers are getting it so wrong?

Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP’s)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published in their latest report, AR5, a set of ‘Representative Concentration Pathways’ (RCP’s). These RCP’s consist of four scenarios that project global temperature rises based on different quantities of greenhouse gas concentrations.

IPCC Representative Concentration Pathways - RCP's

The scenarios are assumed to all be linked directly to emissions scenarios. The more carbon we emit then the hotter it gets. Currently humanity is on the worst case scenario of RCP 8.5 which takes us to 2°C warming by mid century and 4°C warming by the end of the century. As Professor Schellnhuber, from Potsdam Institute for Climate Research (PIK) said, “the difference between two and four degrees is human civilisation

In 2009 the International Union of Forest Research Organisations delivered a report to the UN that stated that the natural carbon sink of trees could be lost at a 2.5°C temperature increase. The ranges for RCP 4.5 and RCP 6 both take us over 2.5°C and any idea that we can survive when the tree sink flips from being a carbon sink to a carbon source is delusional.

Where does this leave us?

Of the four shown RCP’s only one keeps us within the range that climate scientists regard as survivable. This is RCP 2.6 that has a projected temperature range of 0.9°C and 2.3°C. Considering we are currently at 0.85°C above the preindustrial level of greenhouse gas concentrations, we are already entering the range and as Professor Martin Rees says, “I honestly would bet, sad though it is, that the annual CO2 emissions are going to rise year by year for at least the next 20 years and that will build up accumulative levels close to 500 parts per million”. The recent US/China ‘agreement supports the contentions of Rees.

rcp2 6 slides.002

Even if Rees is wrong and we do manage to curtail our carbon emissions, a closer look at RCP 2.6 shows something much more disturbing. In the attached image, IPCC SMP Expert Reviewer, David Tattershall has inserted vertical red lines to mark the decades between years 2000 and 2100. Within this 21st Century range he has also highlighted a steep decline in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (shown by the steep declining thick red line). 

It is interesting that concerted action for emissions reductions is timed to occur just beyond the date for the implementation of a supposed legally binding international agreement.

Stopping emissions does not reduce atmospheric carbon. The emissions to date are colossal and the warming effect is delayed by around 40 years. Therefore, even if we halt emissions, we know there is much more warming to come. That will also set off other positive feedbacks along the way that will amplify the warming further, stretching over centuries.

So how does the IPCC achieve these vast reductions in greenhouse gases?

If we look at the vertical red lines, at around 2025 the steep decline in atmospheric greenhouse gases begins. Accumulated emissions not only are reduced to zero in 2070 but actually go negative. This chart shows that carbon is removed from the atmosphere in quantities of hundreds of billions of tonnes, for as far ahead as 2300 to sustain a temperature beneath 2°C.

What makes this idea of projected large-scale Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) even more perverse is the talk by policymakers of a “carbon budget”. This refers to the amount of fossil fuel that can be burned before we are at risk of reaching a 2°C rise in global mean temperature. It is quite clear that we have no carbon budget whatsoever. The account, far from being in surplus, is horrendously overdrawn. To claim we have a few decades of safely burning coal, oil and gas is an utter nonsense.

Sequestering billions of tonnes of carbon for centuries

If all of the above has not raised any alarm bells then perhaps it is time to consider the proposed methods for sucking the billions of tonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere. 

In February 2015 the National Research Council in the United States launched their two reports on “climate interventions”. Dr Nutt concluded with this statement on CDR: “Carbon Dioxide Removal strategies offer the potential to decrease carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere but they are limited right now by their slow response, by their inability to scale up and their high cost.”

Dr Nutt’s conclusion points to very important factor that we can elaborate on with a rare case of certainty. There is no proposed CDR technology that can be scaled up to suck billions of tonnes out of the Earth’s atmosphere. It simply does not exist in the real world.

This is reiterated by Dr Hugh Hunt in the Department of Engineering, at the University of Cambridge, who points out,

“10 billion tonnes a year of carbon sequestration? We don’t do anything on this planet on that scale. We don’t manufacture food on that scale, we don’t mine iron ore on that scale. We don’t even produce coal, oil or gas on that scale. Iron ore is below a billion tonnes a year! How are we going to create a technology, from scratch, a highly complicated technology, to the tune of 10 billion tonnes a year in the next 10 years?”

Science Fiction

It is not just that there are currently no ideas being researched to such a degree where they are likely to be able to bring down atmospheric carbon to a safe level of around 300 parts per million. It is also that the level of funding available to the scientists doing the research is woefully inadequate. 

These RCP’s are used by policymakers to decide what actions are required to sustain a safe climate for our own and future generations. The information they are using, presented by the IPCC, is nothing more than science fiction. It makes for sober thinking when glossy images of President Obama and the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, are presented to the world shaking hands on global emissions reductions by 2030 that we know will commit us to catastrophe.


Interview with Professor Helga Kromp-Kolb

Conducted in January 2015 in Vienna, Austria

Interview Transcript:

Vienna Jan 2 2015 - Professor Helga Kromp-Kolb

What is the role of the public in proposing responses to climate change?

I think the public has the main role because, living in a democracy it’s really the public that should push the politicians, seeing that the politicians by themselves are not acting and we cannot really expect industry and commerce to be the drivers.

So it is left to the public.

One of the main problems is how the public gets the information. Of course there is science with a whole lot of information but it is not very well presented for the public and my main concern is that science always presents the main concerns, the catastrophes that could evolve and this is not what makes the public act. I think the public would act much more readily if they saw the chances that were involved in appropriate climate policy.

On immigration:

This issue is a very difficult one. Where we should really should start is in making sure people do not have to leave the places we live in now. Any type of infrastructure you put up will not be sufficient to achieve the goal that apparently is we want to have to keep people out of Europe. Thats not a solution. That’s just something that might just help Europe for a limited period time. but it is not a solution on a global scale. So what we really want to do is to make sure that there are places that people can leave, called home, and as far as possible where they live now.

Of course coastal areas will be affected so some moving will be inevitable but to make that as small as possible and as smooth as possible is, I think, what politics is all about.

Intrinsic versus Extrinsic

I think one of the chief issues that need to be discussed is what we call prosperity. Or rather, what we want to achieve because I don’t think it is prosperity in the normal sense of the word, its not having things, it is more like being somebody. and having a fulfilled life and that does not depend on material things and the whole issue of economic growth is about material things. So we are discussing the wrong thing. Really we should be looking at the values that are important to people and help people to find their own values. I don’t think they are so obvious to everyone because we are so covered with all sorts of potential wishes, things we should have and that our neighbour has and so on.

It is only after exceptional situations where people start to think about what do they really want. It’s like after having a serious illness, or somewhere being in danger of life and then people start to think: “What is it I really want?”

And those are the values that I think we need to address. I think we can address those and i think we can fulfill those values and we can come much closer to fulfilling those values under a policy that comes closer to “saving the planet”.

On emissions:

It might be easier to reduce greenhouse gas emissions considerably that it is to reduce them slightly. Sometimes big changes are easier to make than small changes. I am not sure about this but I think it might be worth considering. It is really a mental process. It’s really a question of wanting to change something or being willing to change something.

And then I think we could really achieve big progress in a really short space of time. I still tink the last tonnes of CO2 will be more difficult to get rid of but the first half at least should be no serious effort at all.

Warming in the system

We have a certain amount of warming in the system and we only have a certain limit of greenhouse gases that we can still add if we want to stay within the 2 degrees that are internationally agreed upon more or less. So even if we do not add anything now we still have a temperature rise of about half a degree or so to expect which is considerable on a global scale. The remaining amount if we want to stay just below the 2 degrees means that we can only make use of conventional oil and gas resources, not with reserves of unconventional oil and gas and not with coal. From an energy point of view it means we have to switch very fast to renewable energies and I think we can do that. Combined with efficiency increases and sufficiency, meaning that we don’t need to have everything that we possibly could have.


Essentially we have seen that economic growth is coupled based only to energy and material use and though there has been some progress in a relative decoupling, meaning that material and energy growth are not just as fast as GDP growth, they still grow and what we really need is for them to stabilise and even to be reduced. This means we can not do it with economic growth. So we need to stabilise economic growth, we need to stabilise GDP which does not mean that it has to be static. In some areas, especially the industrialised nations it will probably mean degrowth which means reducing GDP and therefore reducing energy and material resource use because we need some room for developing countries and countries in transition to reach a level of development that makes it possible for people there to live a decent life without fear of hunger or fear of cold or heat.

Degrowth sounds terribly terrifying but it is not, it doesn’t have to be. If degrowth occurs just because growth didn’t happen, then we really have a problem because we have people out of work and so on. But if its a planned matter, it’s something that follows a structure and a plan then we can really achieve more quality of life. A quality of life that is closer to the values we have deep inside us. So I do not think  degrowth is something we have to fear, degrowth is something we have to work towards. Of course, it will not work starting tomorrow but we will have to make sure it starts soon.

I think it is quite clear that an economy in a sustainable world, a world with more equity and a resilient world would look different to the economy we have now. I don’t think anybody would really disagree with that. The question is just: what would it look like? There is not the masterplan… we don’t really have the full picture of where we want to go, and the question is just “how do we get there?”

We sort of know some of the cornerstones. What it should be.. for instance, it shouldn’t grow! But we do not really have a master plan. We have a lot of different attempts and a lot of different ideas out there, and they are great ideas. I don’t think anybody can say which idea will carry the day, will turn out as the best or whether it will be a combination. i think we need this diversity because we do not have this one solution and I think what is necessary is to help these ideas forward, to keep testing. Like the economy for the common good, Nicopias thinking. So there is a lot of things where we could say “just go on try new things… try them on local level, try them on a company level. And then see what works and what doesn’t work and produce a transition in this manner. Of course transition towns are already on their way.

Well, I think there is a difference in the interests of nations but there is not a difference in the interests of people. I think individuals have the same interests everywhere; a decent fulfilled life and I think  we can achieve this together.

Of course, the people representing the nations at the COPS come from a different thinking. Our democracies and other state forms as well, have for the last 2 decades at least have been serving economic interests, that’s not the people. We cannot expect these to find solutions, how can they? Because the economic interests are obviously very divergent. If we go back to the interests of the people, then I think we can find solutions. I am not sure how to do that. I don’t know, it makes no sense to set up a counter COP. I think we really need to get the transition working in the countries themselves.

There’s this idea by Ros Jackson of the small countries who are closer to their people starting out with a new type of thinking and forming a union and inviting others to join them.

This link between politics and economics is a very interesting one. It is very promising that the students of economics are starting to protest against their curricula and the things they are taught because they are only taught one type of thinking and one methodology. So i think there is a movement out there and hopefully things will change!

Can we change in time?

You know in climate we talk a lot about tipping points, that there are points beyond which we can no longer stop developments. Well I think there is tipping points in other fields as well and I think there is also tipping points in public perception and public awareness and public action. I think we are getting closer to that tipping point and if we reach that tipping point where change becomes inevitable then I think it can be very fast.

Science and economics

I find for instance when I talk to people who come up with new ideas about economic growth… about the monetary system, as another example of the driver of climate change that needs to be addressed, very few of them also consider the biogeophysical limits to our planet. So the ecological limits they are not so much aware of them.

So, for instance, the doughnut idea of the Kate Allworth is something which is extremely helpful in thinking about this. he has defined outside boundaries given by ecology, very similar to Rockstrom and coauthors about the safe operating space of humanity. So there is the outer limit. Climate is one of the aspects but she says there is also an inner limit. The inner limit is well being and is education and work and so on. The space between is where economics should be operating. If economists became aware of the fact that they have an inner limit and an outer limit; the outer limit being defined by nature and the inner limit being defined ourselves - what do we consider to be acceptable in terms of societal or social sustainability - then their operating space is quite well defined and they just have to find a model that will keep us in this space. That automatically retracts the economy when it tends to push the limits.

Why start the journey to resilience right now?

I am climatologist so climate is always in the centre of my views and climate does not just wait, climate change is happening and if we do not act now, we will have to employ much more serious measures and much faster in order to avoid tipping points beyond which we can no longer be sure we can stabilise climate. But of course it is not just nature… we have an economic crisis, we have a financial crisis, we have a social crisis… I mean, if everything goes wrong… obviously it does... it is time to act. The way to act in my point of view, and this is an ethical question, is of course to act towards sustainability.

Dennis Meadows says it is too late for sustainability, we’ve gone beyond that point, what we have to address now is resilience. I think he is right to a certain extent, nevertheless, I would strive towards sustainability but make sure we are resilient on the way.

The very encouraging thing is that you take the same measures to achieve sustainability as you take to achieve resilience. So if we are fast and we are dedicated, maybe we can achieve both at the same time.

2015 is a key year

There’s a lot of decisions that are being taken in 2015 and my feeling is that we cannot expect too much of the COP in Paris but we must all try our best to do our own home work at home.. I am trying all I can to get Austria to do its homework, which is a tough job.

IPCC RCP’s viability of CDR

I think it is viable. The question is how and the question is when? I do not think it should be at the beginning. I think the beginning should be to reduce emissions and if we start out by discussing the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere then people will say ‘well then we can continue to emit’. So I think the beginning should be to reduce emissions. then when we have done that and we are the clear path, and we see how it is going and how fast it is going and how far we can get, then it is time to start thinking about removing it from the atmosphere.

Science needs a lot of time before it can really produce results so it makes sense to do the research on that. The question is with what idea in your head do you do the research? It should not be in order to take the burden of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from humanity. It should be to achieve the last tenth of degrees necessary to stay below the 2 degrees limit.

What about SRM?

We have been trained over the last decade to look for technological solutions. I do not think we need these technological solutions if we can rethink our attitude towards the environment, towards the Earth, also towards other humans and towards our own life. I would strongly prefer that we start rethinking process, to look what we can do in terms of changing our lifestyles, new values and then start worrying about technological fixes that are needed for the last few tenths of degrees centigrade.

Because we are so trained to look for technological solutions, I am very hesitant about pushing these now because people again will not find the limit. They will not use them to solve the remaining problems but they will try to evade the problem by these technological solutions.

IPCC projections

I think that we should be aware that the IPCC, the three volumes of IPCC are quite different in their character. The 1st volume is science and is more or less undisputed. The last volume on measures has a lot to do with ideology and has a lot to do with what kind of economic thinking people go into the work. Mainstream economics are not geared to make big changes.

If we talk about economical science and the people writing volume 3, we are not talking about the revolutionary thinkers. So I would not take IPCC volume 3 as a roadmap. I think IPCC vol 3 is a piece of work that shows us, within the present type of thinking, where we can get. And it is obvious that we can’t get there. We can’t get where we should get!

Should it be challenged with new thinking?

There is a divergence of views in the IPCC volume 3, of course there is. But you will not find anything there on degrowth. You will not find anything on new economic thinking because it is not mainstream.

The assessments are really important. I think the IPCC is very important process but you must be aware that the combination of science with policy, especially in volume 3, is something where you have to find consensus. Consensus is never revolutionary. You cannot expect IPCC volume 3 to have the really forward looking and transformational ideas.

Own thoughts on where we are?

I myself keep thinking about what can I do in my own life but that is sort of trivial… if everybody did it then we would get very far but…. the other thing is what can I do in terms of my networks, my job; how can I make a difference? It was very helpful for me to understand that the burden of saving the world is not on my shoulders alone. So I am not responsible for saving the world but I am responsible to do whatever I can and finding out what I can do is something that occupies me. I try a lot of things, some things work, some things don’t work. I have a lot of ideas, I talk with people about these ideas and if everybody did that within his or her domain, within his or her scope, I think we would get really far, because afterall, the sum of all our scopes is what the world is about.

Al Gore In Davos - Excellent Climate Crisis Summary

“What’s Next? A Climate for Action” This is an excellent overview by Al Gore on the current climate situation. 

In this presentation at Davos 2015, former US vice-president Al Gore was joined on stage by popstar Pharrell Williams, to announce Live Earth 2015. Aimed at promoting awareness of the climate change crisis, the series of concerts will take place across all seven continents that include Antarctica – on June 18. 

Geoengineering at the Royal Society


The findings of 3 projects – SPICE, led by the University of Bristol; IAGP, led by the University of Leeds; and CGG, led by the University of Oxford – were announced at an event at The Royal Society, London, on 26/11/2014.


i. SPICE - Stratospheric Particle Injection Climate Engineering

SPICE has looked at Solar Radiation Management, involving offsetting the effects of greenhouse gas by increasing the reflectivity of the Earth's atmosphere. It focused on aerosol injection using volcanoes as a model.

ii. IAGP - Integrated Assessment of Geoengineering Proposals

IAGP is the UK’s 1st interdisciplinary research study into the controversial subject of climate engineering. Bringing together a range of expertise, from climate modelling to philosophy, engineering and public perceptions, assessing geoengineering within wider societal values. IAGP researchers have carried out public and stakeholder workshops in five cities in the UK. In addition, IAGP has vreated models to simulate seven different proposed technologies.

iii. CGG - Climate Geoengineering Governance

CGG has conducted research into the ethical, legal, social and geopolitical implications of a range of geoengineering approaches, building on the foundations of the Oxford Principles on Geoengineering Governance.

Opening speakers:

Dr Matthew Watson, Reader in Natural Hazards at the University of Bristol and Principal Investigator, SPICE
Prof Piers Forster, Professor of Climate Change at the University of Leeds and Principal Investigator, IAGP
Prof Steve Rayner, Director of the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society at the University of Oxford and Principal Investigator, CGG

Dr Hugh Hunt, University of Cambridge, SPICE
Prof. Jim Hayward, University of Exeter, SPICE
Dr Lawrence Jackson, University of Leeds, IAGP
Dr Naomi Vaughan, University of East Anglia, IAGP
Prof. Nicholas Pidgeon, Cardiff University, IAGP
Dr Rose Cairns, University of Sussex, CGG
Prof. Catherine Redgwell, University of Oxford



Tyndall Centre Deputy Director, Professor Kevin Anderson: “No” to Fracking

Distinguished UK climate scientist, Professor Kevin Anderson, states very clearly that if we are serious about tackling climate change and reducing the risk of a global catastrophe, then there is no room whatsoever for any unconventional sources of energy such as shale gas or shale oil. 


Professor Anderson emphasises that if we are to avoid a disastrous climate change then we will have to leave as much as 3/4 of the known fossil fuel reserves in the ground. Processes such as hydraulic fracturing (fracking), being promoted by the US and UK governments among others as cleaner alternatives to coal should be abandoned as part of a much bigger directional shift in our energy generation. The trouble is that we are now burning coal in tandem with natural gas, so rather than an alternative, we simply have both. Rogue emissions from the fracking process have also raised significant alarm as they appear to be much higher than previously thought. Methane gas that escapes into the atmosphere is around 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat trapping gas over a 20 year period. This means short term warming is intensified creating further ice melt at the poles and disruption to global weather patterns.


With the recent collapse in the price of oil, institutional investors may be wise to start thinking about moving their traditional carbon based investments into the renewable energy sector. This would signal a change in direction that would benefit global climate and the future of life on the planet. It would also see a spike in employment and stimulate genuine economic growth.


We live in hope!


Special thanks to colleague Mike Coe for conducting this interview and making the footage available to us.


Post by Nick Breeze (Interview with Prof. Kevin Anderson produced by Mike Coe)


Most important movie of 2014? ‘Cowspiracy’ explores the darkest driver of environmental destruction on the planet.

By Nick Breeze


As someone who spends a great deal of time interviewing climate scientists and writing articles on what climate change really means for us in our lifetimes, I have often overlooked the minutia elements in my own daily routines that are unnecessarily contributing to the destruction of the Earth’s life support system.




For parents striving to do the very best for their children in every aspect from education to exercise and social mobility, there is now the greater understanding by scientists that the challenges they will face in the next few decades alone will be driven by the impacts of climate change, only currently visible in the form of weird weather or remote extreme climate events.


However, the IPCC conservatively estimate a 2 degrees centigrade rise in temperature by mid century if we continue polluting as we are today.  At 2 degrees centigrade we will have already triggered other warming processes within the Earth system that will accelerate the heating further. The predicted impacts on regional climates and other factors such as agriculture, mean that we will see an exponential rise in conflicts, food price spikes and shortages, mass immigration on a scale never before witnessed (and certainly not on UKIP’s radar!!), and much more.


Words like “sustainability” or “global warming” are now so tired, we tend raise our eyebrows in mock fatigue when ever they’re mentioned as if their relevance was a matter of yesterday, as opposed to today. However, our problems have never been more severe and one of the biggest drivers of climate change and environmental degradation, is virtually omitted from the national and even international discourse.


What is this hidden driver? I’ll give you a clue: Cowspiracy! 



I am not a vegetarian and neither have I considered any radical shift in my dietary make-up. Over the last few years I took a lead from the McCartney’s ‘Meat-Free Monday’ campaign and started eating much less meat, trying to buy better quality meat and seeing its consumption as more of a treat. Earlier this year I was made aware that eating meat accounts for between 30-50% of a persons carbon emissions. 


The makers of Cowspiracy have been very brave in uncovering an industry that is so unsustainable and environmentally destructive that we have to take notice. If we really see ourselves as animal loving, community loving, good and honest people, then this is one issue that will not pass the viewer by without some serious consideration.


In the film’s journey we see exposed how organisations such as Greenpeace in the US are refusing to discuss agriculture despite the fact it is the biggest driver of rainforest destruction in the Amazon (1 acre every second cleared mostly for livestock grazing), also water depletion (staggering amounts of water that go into producing 1 kg of beef), and associated disastrous impacts from producing the feed required for all these animals. The facts keep pouring out of the movie at an alarming rate.


Aside from all this there is also the wellbeing of the animals. One of the lasting images is of the cows being marched around the industrial meat complex, resembling the images we have seen from broken individuals in concentration camps or such like environments. This is surely not the mechanism for how an intelligent and empathetic species sees itself in harmony with the natural world? 


I urge you to watch this movie and form your own opinion on the content. The more these issues are engaged with then the more we can encourage a change that will create a better world for the next generation.


VISIT http://www.cowspiracy.com/ to WATCH THE MOVIE!


Nick Breeze

Follow on Twitter: @NGBreeze


Video: Connecting Climate Change And Weather - Interview With Jennifer Francis

2014 will be remembered for the range of weather extremes persistent storms that battered the country at the beginning of the year, to record high temperatures at the end of October. Scientists now have evidence that these persistent extreme weather patterns are increasing in their frequency, due to the rapid heating up of the Arctic that is changing the behaviour of the jet stream.



Dr. Jennifer Francis who is one of the leading scientists in the U.S. studying the relationship between Arctic warming and changes in the jet stream, says: 


“The Arctic is generally very cold and the areas farther south are warm and that difference in area between those two areas is really what fuels that vast river of weather moving high over our head that we call the jet stream. 


The jet stream in turn creates the weather that we feel all around the northern hemisphere and the middle latitudes, so anything that affects this jet stream is going to affect weather patterns. So as the Arctic warms up much faster than the areas farther south, we’re seeing this temperature difference between these two regions get smaller. This means the force that drives those winds in the jet stream are getting smaller and that means the winds themselves in the jet stream are getting weaker.


The colour band shows the jet stream moving around the northern hemisphere from west to east. Source: NASA


When that happens, the jet stream tends to take a wavier path as it travels around the northern hemisphere and those waves are actually what create the stormy patterns [and] the nice weather patterns. As those waves get larger because of this weakening of those winds of the jet streams, they tend to move more slowly from west to east. That means it feels like the weather patterns are sticking around longer, because those patterns are moving much more slowly and this then makes it more likely to have the kind of extreme events that are related to persistent weather patterns.”


Are critical findings influencing policy?


These changes in climate have huge implications as Dr. Francis points out, there are “people who worry about whether there is enough fresh water to supply cities, whether there is enough snowpack on mountains to supply reservoirs, and for agriculture… Drought and agriculture is a big problem. Storminess in certain areas is another big problem. Yes, it has a huge impact for a whole range of issues that affect the way we live.”

It is no wonder then that Dr. Francis and her colleagues have attracted the attention of President Obama’s chief science advisor, Dr. John Holdren. Dr. Holdren has been reporting directly to the President on the real time effects of climate change and is keen to understand what this new research tells us about the future impact of changes to the jet stream. Francis muses and says:


“Yes, we’ve had a lot of interest from policymakers… I think we’re starting to make a lot of progress now in getting policymakers to understand that this is a big problem they have to face… I think decision makers and the policymakers at the local level get it much better because they’re already seeing effects on their local areas. Sea level rise is an obvious one. They’re already seeing changes in drought and agricultural problems and dealing with fresh water issues. It is really at the local level that we’re having more success.”


New research supports the case that Arctic sea ice loss is driving climate changes


So in understanding the changes in the jet stream it is important to research how the vast atmospheric river of weather above our heads is connected to other climate mechanisms. To explain this, Francis cites new research by colleagues that has emerged in the last couple of months:


“It appears that over the north Atlantic, and towards Asia, there’s a mechanism that appears to be quite robust, and several groups have found this mechanism using completely different analysis techniques. So what we’re finding is that there’s an area, North of Scandinavia in the Arctic, where the ice has been disappearing particularly rapidly. When that ice disappears… there is regular ocean underneath, and that ocean absorbs a lot more energy from the sun through the summertime. So it becomes very warm there. 


Then as the fall comes around, all that heat that’s been absorbed all summer long, where the ice has retreated, is put back in the atmosphere and that creates a big bubble of hot air… over that region where the ice was lost. This tends to create a northward bulge in the jet stream there… that  creates a surface high pressure area that circulates in the clockwise direction. That sucks cold air down from the Arctic over northern Eurasia, and that creates a southward dip in the jet stream. So what we’re getting is this big northward bulge up over Scandinavia and a southward dip over Asia… creating, first the tendency for a larger wave in the jet stream, which tends to move more slowly, but also we’re seeing this mechanism that creates these colder winters that have been observed over Eurasia.


Once the jet stream gets into this wavier pattern, it sends wave energy up into the highest levels of the atmosphere, which is called the stratosphere, where we have the polar vortex, [which] is kind of similar to the jet stream but it’s much higher up in the atmosphere and it travels much faster. So as that wave energy gets sent up from this larger wave below, up into the stratosphere, it breaks down that polar vortex so that it becomes wavier as well. That wavier polar vortex sends energy back down to the lower atmosphere and it creates an even wavier jet stream in February. So we’re seeing this connection of mechanisms that starts with [Arctic] sea ice loss and it makes a wavier jet stream for different reasons all the way through winter.”


Will the jet stream continue to cause changes in climate?


By identifying these mechanisms and linking them back directly to loss of the Arctic sea ice, Dr Francis and her colleagues are demonstrating how manmade global warming is creating feedback that is changing the climate conditions in the northern hemisphere. So what next? 


[We are] using these climate models, or computer simulations… to try and project what we’re expecting to see happen in the future, as greenhouse gases’s continue to increase.  The early indications are that these large wavy patterns in the jet stream are going to increase in the future, as far as we can tell. It is preliminary research that I haven’t published yet but it does look as if they are going to increase.”


Nick Breeze - Climate change film maker and writer

This article was originally published in The Ecologist 

The International Center For Earth Simulation (ICES) And The Ecosequestration Trust (TEST) Join Forces To Boost Global Resilience

All around the world impacts of changing climate are being felt in a multitude of ways from droughts to tidal surges. The failure of policymakers to take action in the preceding decades and the current policy gridlock means that humanity has little choice but to move to the next stage of action: Resilience!


We are now restricted to what we can do to mitigate against severe climate change impacts. The mega-trends are indicating that we have a range of conditions that will threaten lives around the world in ways that we are not used to. These include water shortages, threats to agriculture, rising tides that inundate coastal cities, and so on. The impacts have begun and we are now moving into what Dr James Hansen called “The Storms of Our Grandchildren”, only the grandparents are still very much with us. How bad things get and how much we can stand against the extremes in climate, will be largely due to what action we take to make our human systems as resilient as possible.


This is why the collaboration between ICES and TEST is so important. We have to accelerate the gathering, the processing, and the dissemination of knowledge that is needed in all regions of the world where livelihoods, lives and habitats are threatened. What is becoming clear is that we are all in this together. The challenges ahead are of a proportion that make us all stakeholders in determining the future quality of human life on this planet.


This film has been produced to promote the collaboration between two organisations: one that is focused on ground-level activity and responses to the environment, the other on the technical gathering, unifying and processing of data from as many sources that are available. The results of this work will be made available in the development of the www.resilience.io platform.



Nick Breeze


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Christiana Figueres is persuasive and influential but in light of recent world events that include the destabilisation of the EU as a political block, and the openly anti-climate action administration of President Trump, it is very clear that the world has changed since Paris.

READ THE COMMENT: Does Figueres interview give clues as to why we went backwards from Copenhagen to Paris?


Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP): 2017 Climate Change Seminar Series

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