Michael Mann Counters Climate Denial With Simple Statistics
By Tim Radford
Each of the last three years has seen record temperatures worldwide, further evidence that climate warms the Earth, not mere chance. Each has been named the warmest year since records began.
The chance of this being pure co-incidence is little more than one in a thousand, unless human-induced or anthropogenic climate change is factored in. The chance of 2016 reaching the temperature it did, when it did, would have been one in a million, unless climate change was counted as a contributor.
And if anthropogenic global warming, driven by the profligate combustion of fossil fuels over the last two centuries, is fed into the calculations, then the probability becomes quite high: In fact there would be a 50 percent chance of three consecutive record-breaking years at any time since the beginning of the century, according to a new study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Calculating the Odds
Michael Mann, the distinguished climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, is at it again. He and colleagues have been calculating the odds on the recent run of high temperatures to see if they can be explained by any factors other than climate change.
He has done this before: At the beginning of the year he calculated the chance that 13 of the warmest 15 years ever had all occurred in the first 15 years of this century. The probabilities at their highest worked out at one chance in 5,000, unless climate change was taken into account. At their lowest, the probability was one in 170,000.
Prof. Mann, who first drew the "hockey stick" graph that shows a steep rise in global temperatures with ever greater levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, also attracts considerable abuse from those who claim that climate change is not happening.
Relying on Statistics
But he prefers to counter denial with simple statistics. The run of record breaking temperatures from 2014 to 2016 would have a chance of no more than 0.03 percent without anthropogenic influence: that is, without all that extra greenhouse gas from fossil fuels.
"With climate change, this is the kind of thing we would expect to see. And without climate change, we really would not expect to see it," he said.
Since the late 19th century, the average surface temperature of the planet has risen by about 1.1°C. Most of this warming has been in the past 35 years. According to the U.S. space agency NASA, 16 of the 17 warmest years have all happened since 2001.
If natural and human events—these include cyclic natural weather phenomena such as El Niño and volcanic eruptions and of course the increasing emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere—are taken into account, and understood to overlap the three years in question, then the chance of 2014 to 2016 becoming the hottest consecutive years on record since 1880 rises to up to 3 percent.
This kind of statistical calculation delivers odds that professional gamblers, merchant bankers, stockbrokers and hedge fund managers would take seriously. The challenge is now to get the rest of the human race to take the hazards seriously.
The odds are shortening on increasingly destructive consequences. Even a modest further rise in temperatures will be accompanied by a series of dangerous extremes of rainfall and potentially lethal heat.
"The things that are likely to impact us most about climate change aren't the averages, they're the extremes," said Prof. Mann. "Whether it's extreme droughts, or extreme floods, or extreme heat waves, when it comes to climate change impacts ... a lot of the most impactful climate related events are extreme events. The events are being made more frequent and more extreme by human-caused climate change."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.
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By Matt Kasson, Brian Lovett and Carolee Bull
Home gardening is having a boom year across the U.S. Whether they're growing their own food in response to pandemic shortages or just looking for a diversion, numerous aspiring gardeners have constructed their first raised beds, and seeds are flying off suppliers' shelves. Now that gardens are largely planted, much of the work for the next several months revolves around keeping them healthy.
Start With Prevention<p>Just as preventive steps like maintaining a balanced diet help keep humans healthy, home growers can take many actions to help their gardens thrive.</p><p>One key step is assessing soil fertility – the ability of soil to sustain plant growth – which can vary widely depending on your location and soil type. Low soil fertility limits food production and predisposes plants to disease and pests. University extension <a href="https://soiltesting.wvu.edu/" target="_blank">soil testing labs</a> can help evaluate the quality of garden soil and identify nutrient deficiencies and acidic soils, often at no charge.</p>
Using weed barrier landscape cloth for planting rows and mulching between rows is an effective way to suppress weeds. Matt Kasson, CC BY-ND
Diagnosing Problems<p>Common plant pathogens include <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/viral/introduction/Pages/PlantViruses.aspx" target="_blank">viruses</a>, <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/prokaryote/intro/Pages/Bacteria.aspx" target="_blank">bacteria</a>, <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/nematode/intro/Pages/IntroNematodes.aspx" target="_blank">nematodes</a>, <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/oomycete/introduction/Pages/IntroOomycetes.aspx#:%7E:text=The%20oomycetes%2C%20also%20known%20as,foliar%20blights%20and%20downy%20mildews." target="_blank">oomycetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/fungalasco/intro/Pages/IntroFungi.aspx" target="_blank">fungi</a>. All of these microorganisms, especially at an early stage of infection, are too small to see. But when they proliferate, they cause changes in plants that we can recognize.</p><p>Unlike insects, which move around on six legs or on wings through the air, pathogens can move unseen and unchecked from leaf to leaf on the wind, through the soil or in droplets of water. Some microbes have even formed intimate relationships with insects and use them as vehicles to move from plant to plant, which makes these pathogens even more challenging to manage. Unfortunately, by the time some pathogens make their presence known, the damage is already done.</p><p>We recently conducted a <a href="https://twitter.com/kasson_wvu/status/1265989041725624323" target="_blank">Twitter poll</a> of gardeners nationwide to find out which culprits plagued their gardens. People named <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/aphids" target="_blank">aphids</a>, <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/squash-vine-borer" target="_blank">squash vine borers</a>, <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/squash-bug" target="_blank">squash bugs</a> and <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/flea-beetle" target="_blank">flea beetles</a> as the most problematic insect pests. Their most troublesome pathogens included <a href="https://extension.wvu.edu/lawn-gardening-pests/plant-disease/fruit-vegetable-diseases/powdery-mildew" target="_blank">powdery mildew</a>, <a href="https://plantpath.ifas.ufl.edu/rsol/Trainingmodules/BWTomato_Module.html" target="_blank">tomato bacterial wilt</a> and <a href="https://extension.wvu.edu/lawn-gardening-pests/plant-disease/fruit-vegetable-diseases/downy-mildew" target="_blank">cucurbit downy mildew</a>.</p><p>To manage such perennial challenges, the first step is to spend time closely looking at your plants. Do you notice any insects consistently hanging around, or molds colonizing leaves or other plant parts? How about symptoms such as blight, stunting, or leaves that are yellowing, browning or wilting?</p>
This white fungal growth is an early sign of powdery mildew on a leaf of susceptible summer squash. Matt Kasson, CC BY-ND
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By Emma Charlton
The effects of climate change may more far-reaching than you think.
Hotter temperatures have been linked to a rise in energy poverty, with more people struggling to meet their energy bills from their household income, according to a new study published on ScienceDirect by researchers from Italy's Ca' Foscari University.
Value of air conditioning imports in selected OECD countries. ScienceDirect
The ‘Golden Thread’<p>The <a href="https://www.endenergypoverty.org/reports" target="_blank">Global Commission to End Energy Poverty</a> calls access to energy the "golden thread" that weaves together economic growth, human development, and environmental sustainability. And one of the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/archive/sdg-07-affordable-and-clean-energy" target="_blank">United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals</a> is to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.</p><p>Sustainability also has a large role to play in the future of energy and failing to embed green policies in COVID-19 stimulus packages and underinvesting in green infrastructure are current risks, according to the <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_COVID_19_Risks_Outlook_Special_Edition_Pages.pdf" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</p><p>In its vision for a 'Great Reset' – building a better world after the pandemic – the Forum and the IMF jointly backed the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/end-fossil-fuel-subsidies-economy-imf-georgieva-great-reset-climate/" target="_blank">transition to a green economy</a> and called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies.</p>
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Scores of people remained stranded in southern Japan on Sunday after heavy rain the day before caused deep flooding and mudslides that left at least 34 people confirmed or presumed dead.
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