Climate Letter #1083

What is China now doing about climate change?  A new analytical report from a large institution details the rapid changes that are occurring, both at home and abroad.  Carbon Brief has the story, which gives an impression of very high ambition on a global scale, clearly favoring renewable energy over fossil fuels.  Economic development, market domination and political leadership all have a role as motivating factors, and are obviously working effectively.
A new study challenges common perceptions of how clouds affect the Earth’s radiation energy balance.  One main conclusion, based on a close look at all the ways clouds change, and the timing of such changes, is that their overall cooling effect is being underestimated, by an amount that is fairly significant.  That would imply that other factors that make up the radiation balance also contain errors somewhere, enough to make up the difference. This could affect historical estimates of the planet’s warming and likewise introduce errors into the way future estimates are modeled.  Clouds are already recognized for having other kinds of major uncertainties—there was a story in yesterday’s Climate Letter that dealt with one of them—so now things are yet more complicated.  This paper, coming from Princeton University, is likely to draw much attention.  One reviewer said, “I am sure this type of work will offer new perspectives to improve the representation of clouds. I would not be surprised to see this paper highly cited in future IPCC [U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] reports.”
Denmark used wind turbines to cover 43.6% of its power demand in 2017, aiming for 50% by 2020.  The country sets an example of what can be done wherever wind conditions are of the right type.
Scientific evidence supports a quest for sustainable lifestyles.  The professor who wrote this piece has a rather “dry” way of communicating, but I believe he is absolutely correct and his message should be heard more often.  Here is a brief example:  “The ways of life in the global North, derived from an increase in wealth, have brought with them intensive consumption of resources that directly affect climate change – and despite the evidence, which shows that materialism imposes a high price on individual welfare, such consumption is still our reference point for what well-being is.”

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