It’s not tomorrow


Climate change is already here and already messing things up.

Climate change has moved from distant threat to present-day danger and no American will be left unscathed, according to a landmark report due to be unveiled on Tuesday.

The National Climate Assessment, a 1,300-page report compiled by 300 leading scientists and experts, is meant to be the definitive account of the effects of climate change on the US. It will be formally released at a White House event and is expected to drive the remaining two years of Barack Obama’s environmental agenda.

Gary Yohe, an economist at Wesleyan University and vice-chair of the NCA advisory committee, said the US report would be unequivocal that the effects of climate change were occurring in real-time and were evident in every region of the country.

“One major take-home message is that just about every place in the country has observed that the climate has changed,” he told the Guardian. “It is here and happening, and we are not cherrypicking or fearmongering.”

But Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and the entire Republican party will say they are, just the same.

Some changes are already having a measurable effect on food production and public health, the report will say.

John Balbus, senior adviser at the National Institute of Environmenal Health Science and a lead author of the NCA report, said rising temperatures increased the risk of heat stroke and heat-related deaths.

Eugene Takle, convening lead author of the agriculture chapter of the NCA report, and director of the Climate Science programme at Iowa State University, said heatwaves and changes in rainfall had resulted in a levelling off in wheat and corn production and would eventually cause declines.

And elsewhere in the world…the real terror is the melting of Himalayan glaciers and thus the loss of irrigation from the great rivers those glaciers feed and thus famine in much of Asia.

The assessments are the American equivalent of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. This year’s report for the first time looks at what America has done to fight climate change or protect people from its consequences in the future.

Under an act of Congress the reports were supposed to be produced every four years, but no report was produced during George W Bush’s presidency.

Thud.

Comments

  1. Crimson Clupeidae says

    While it doesn’t help directly, I’m glad I’m not having kids.

    I wonder when/if the reality of the GCC will impinge on the consciousness of the deniers. How many of them will actually feel bad towards the end of their lives, that they were so instrumental in inflicting this on their children?

  2. Your Name's not Bruce? says

    Those who get short term benefit from the status quo just aren’t going to give up, are they? It’s weird: years ago I read (I think in a Gwynne Dyer column) that the US military was studying future global warming scenarios in order to prepare for conflicts and crises in this new geopolitical “climate”. Insurance companies have sounded the alarm over increased payouts for weather disasters. Some businesses actually take the issue as a serious reality. When will denialists admit that there really is a problem and we really are causing it? Do they really think their wealth can insulate them from this? I suppose they do, but they’ve got another thing coming. After all,it’s not like there’s another planet they can evacuate to.

  3. Bernard Bumner says

    The rich and powerful (and I include myself in that) will notice the decline in living standards, but we aren’t likely to suffer in the same way that those in the developing world will.

    Ultimately, the deniers will end up paying a little more and perhaps consuming a little less, but they will probably never have to see the piles of bodies and the human misery. They can just change the channel. Wealth will insulate the rich, or at least it will massively delay the onset of the pain until well after the poor start dying.

    If you’re rich enough, then the population may just stall and fall enough to allow technology to compensate suffiiciently well that what is apocalyptic to the poor nations is merely inconvenient to you.

  4. Decker says

    I don’t know what to think.

    What I find disconcerting about the whole climate change scenario is this: No scientists or climatologists have ever explained the wild swings in climate that have occured in only the past 2,000 years.

    Why did Europe’s climate become so much colder right at the end of the Roman Empire? And why did this period last for nearly 5 centuries?

    What caused the great warming that occured at the beginning of the Middle Ages and which lasted until the 14th century?

    In the 12th and 13th centuries Britian’s climate was so mild, and viticulture so widespread and propserous that France was forced to impose an import tax on british wines.

    We associate wine and wine-making with Italy, Spain and France, not Britian.

    These dramatic climate changes…bothways…occured long before the industrial era and its CO2 emissions.

  5. aziraphale says

    Decker:

    For most of the past 2,000 years we don’t have adequate information. Volcanic eruptions, forest fires, even asteroid strikes in regions not then inhabited, or not known to us, could have greatly impacted the climate. It’s not reasonable to expect climatologists to explain the entire record. For the last century we do have adequate information, and it’s clear that no model which ignores human CO2 emissions can explain the global temperature record..

  6. Crimson Clupeidae says

    These dramatic climate changes…bothways…occured long before the industrial era and its CO2 emissions.

    Dishonest, or intentional ignorance? You decide…..

    Watch last night’s episode of COSMOS for a highly simplified explanation of some of those previous scenarios. We have a decent idea, based on geological evidence, of what drove those changes.

    One of the things that drove those changes was:……..increasing CO2. Here’s a clue for you: it doesn’t matter where the CO2 come from, it still has the same effect.

  7. iknklast says

    What I find disconcerting about the whole climate change scenario is this: No scientists or climatologists have ever explained the wild swings in climate that have occured in only the past 2,000 years.

    ????? You need to read more broadly.

  8. Decker says

    @7

    Unfortunately didn’t watch last night’s episode of COSMOS, so please, fill me in about where the CO2 came from at the beginning of the middle ages? Assuming, of course, that CO2 did lead to the medieval warm periode.

    And if the earth can, all on its own, produce OR absorb such massive quantities of CO” so as to result in such WILD AND IMMEDIATE climate swings ( it got VERY cold VERY fast at the end of the Roman Empire), then can human intervention really do that much?

    I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading about climate change at the end of the Roman Empire and again at the beginning of the Middle Ages and have never encountered any concensus on the part of climate/enviroment experts as to the cause.

    There’s a whole multitude of arguments and ‘explanations’.

    For most of the past 2,000 years we don’t have adequate information.

    Actually we do. We have the writings of late Roman and late Medieval chroniclers that mention the sudden onset of unsusually cold temperatures, as well as lots of rain.

    Even Augustine mentioned the extreme cold conditions that settled in in the early 5th century. And when the Rhine river froze over completely in 406/407, an event that precipitated the barbarian invasions, and something that had never opccured during the classical Roman period, even the legions stationed there were dumbfounded

    We also have tree rings and ice cores, neither of which lie.

    So, I don’t know

  9. PatrickG says

    Decker, I’m leaning towards appraising you as either dishonest or willfully ignorant, but c’mon. This is just intellectual laziness.

    And if the earth can, all on its own, produce OR absorb such massive quantities of CO” so as to result in such WILD AND IMMEDIATE climate swings ( it got VERY cold VERY fast at the end of the Roman Empire), then can human intervention really do that much?

    A) Natural systems can cause perturbations in climate. This is not in dispute.
    B) Anthropogenic contributions can cause perturbations in climate. This is not in dispute (no, you having a hard time grasping it is not a counterargument).

    A and B are not mutually exclusive. You see your fallacy?

    As noted by aziraphale, our understanding of past climate is necessarily more limited than that of our current/recent climate. Your argument boils down to complaining that because the Romans didn’t have the common decency* to leave us detailed records from satellite observations, let alone a worldwide network of ground- and sea-based weather stations, we can’t trust the state of current science and models. No comment really necessary here, is there?

    Also, if you’ve read as thoroughly as you claim, you would immediately have found many, many sources postulating a cooling due to a period of high volcanic activity, i.e. high concentrations of suspended particulate matter, the cooling mechanics of which are thoroughly understood at this point. Also worth noting that vulcanology is a notoriously difficult science which has made some great strides in the past few years. Vulcanologists have much more powerful tools to assess eruption intensity and blast constituents. I’d link to recent papers if they weren’t so easy to find using Teh Googlez.

  10. cubist says

    Decker, the whole “global warming” deal is founded on the absorption spectrum of carbon dioxide (also certain other molecules, but CO2 is the biggie). Specifically: CO2 doesn’t much interact with visible-wavelength photons, and does a good job of absorbing infrared-wavelength photons. This means that visible-wavelength photons from the Sun—and the energy they carry—will pass through carbon dioxide pretty much unmolested; that energy then gets transferred to whatever physical objects are struck by those visible-wavelength photons; those physical objects get warmer, on account of the energy they get from those visible-wavelength photons; those physical objects then radiate heat energy, typically in the form of IR-wavelength photons; and the energy carried by those IR-wavelength photons gets absorbed by CO2.
    All of that is bog-standard science, bog-standard physics and thermodynamics. And given the facts I referred to in the last paragraph, how do you inject megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere without trapping a lot more heat energy that would otherwise have been trapped? Answer: You can’t inject megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere without trapping a lot more heat energy that would otherwise have been trapped. And, well, human activities are injecting megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere, on a continuing basis.
    Yes, there are some interesting questions about past instances of climate change which we don’t have answers to. But there are other questions we do have answers to, like, just for grins, “what is the absorption spectrum of carbon dioxide?” and ” how is the atmosphere’s heat content affected when the level of COs in the atmosphere increases?”

  11. Dunc says

    Why did Europe’s climate become so much colder right at the end of the Roman Empire?

    Increased vulcanism, resulting in high levels of aerosols in the upper atmosphere.

    And why did this period last for nearly 5 centuries?

    It didn’t.

    so please, fill me in about where the CO2 came from at the beginning of the middle ages? Assuming, of course, that CO2 did lead to the medieval warm periode.

    The WMP was not driven by CO2, it was driven by a combination of higher solar insolination and lower volcanic aerosols, and its effects were primarily felt in Europe because of oceanic circulation patterns.

    I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading about climate change at the end of the Roman Empire and again at the beginning of the Middle Ages

    You clearly didn’t do a very god job of it if you’re still asking these basic questions like they’re some sort of “gotcha”. If you’re genuinely interested, this is a pretty good place to start: Climate Change during and after the Roman Empire: Reconstructing the Past from Scientific and Historical Evidence [Michael McCormick et al; Journal of Interdisciplinary History. 01/2012; 43(2):169-220.] , but it’s not trivial.

    There’s a whole multitude of arguments and ‘explanations’.

    That’s because climate is complicated. There are many different factors in play, all interacting in very complex ways, and at different temporal and spatial scales. There are no simple answers.

    These dramatic climate changes…bothways…occured long before the industrial era and its CO2 emissions.

    But none of them were nearly as dramatic as the changes we have already seen from anthropogenic CO2 emissions, and we’re only just getting started.

  12. Decker says

    The MWP occured outside of Europe as well.

    It was pretty much a global event.

    That’s because climate is complicated.

    Complicated to the point where trends, at least using currrent technologies, are simply impossible to predict?

    I don’t believe all of the hype.

    And I find the tenors of global warming to be almost religious in both their zeal and the promotion of their ‘version’ of the-end-of-times.

    Repent! The end is near!

    The tone can be just bible-thumping at times.

    There is also a crypto christian obsession/guilt with overconsumption…the fear we’ll be punished for our excesses that I think is at play.

    And the angst seems to be largely a western phenomenon.

    Do the Chinese or the Indians fret about this?

    China’s GDP has overtaken that of the U.S. Were the latter to spend billions combating global warming while the former builds one coal-fired generating station after another in its headlong rush to industrialisation, then the U.S. will be at an enormous economic disadvantage, and the climate will continue to warm nonetheless.

    America’s tends to its carbon footprint while China joyously creates an entire buttprint.

  13. Dunc says

    Complicated to the point where trends, at least using currrent technologies, are simply impossible to predict?

    No. The magnitude of the forcing resulting from anthropogenic CO2 emissions is such that it completely overwhelms all other forcings. We’re talking different orders of magnitude here. Palaeoclimatology is much more complicated because the factors involved are much less clear cut.

    Do the Chinese or the Indians fret about this?

    Yes, they do actually. For example: China leads world in green energy investment.

    America’s tends to its carbon footprint while China joyously creates an entire buttprint.

    Population of USA: 313.9 million (2012)
    Carbon emissions of USA: 5,190,000 (thousands of tonnes, 2012)
    Population of China: 1.351 billion (2012)
    Carbon emissions of China: 9,860,000 (thousands of tonnes, 2012)

    You do the math. And then consider that a significant proportion of China’s emissions are related to the production of goods consumed in the USA.

    So, where are you going to move the goalposts to now? I’m really remembering why I gave up arguing this stuff with people like you. You’ve gone from “we don’t really understand the climate of the first millennium CE” to “well, China’s worse than us anyway” in the space of two comments, both of which are obviously false to anybody who has the first clue what they’re talking about. Perhaps you’d like to bring up the warming of Mars next? Or maybe you’d like to go for the “we can’t really know that warming at a rate significantly more rapid that anything in recorded history is really a bad thing” option? Or any of the other hundred or so other really obviously stupid talking points you’ve undoubtedly got at your disposal to try and sow doubt and confusion amongst the uninformed, or to provoke people who actually know what they’re talking about into the sort of intemperate language that will let you climb up on some imagined moral high ground, wailing “why can’t we just have a civil discussion?” You’ve been terribly boring and predictable so far, I don’t imagine it’s going to change…

    And spare me the tone trolling. On the one hand, we get your nonsense about how “the tone can be just bible-thumping”, while on the other hand, similarly motivated people will argue that the fact that we’re not immediately giving up all involvement in modern life obviously shows that we don’t even believe it ourselves. No matter what tone we take, there’s always somebody to tell us we’re doing it wrong. None of which has any bearing whatsoever on the actual facts of the matter, of course… It’s all just pointless rhetorical chaff, and the fact that you’re reduced to such tactics is a tacit admission that you don’t have anything even vaguely resembling an actual argument on the facts. Surely even you must be aware of that?

    But no, knock yourself out, carry on with your Gish Gallop… I probably won’t bother responding again, as you’ve plainly demonstrated that there’s absolutely no point.

  14. cubist says

    Waiting for Decker to explain how it’s possible to inject megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere without trapping mass quantities of heat that would otherwise not have been trapped. Demonstrating that CO2 isn’t transparent to visible light, and opaque to IR light, would do it…
    Of course, the persona Decker displays here gives every indication of being a classic denialist. This being the case, I predict that Decker flatly will not address the actual science behind CO2-driven climate change. We shall see if Decker’s future behavior continues to lend support to the notion that Decker is a bog-standard, garden-variety denialist.

  15. Decker says

    We shall see if Decker’s future behavior continues to lend support to the notion that Decker is a bog-standard, garden-variety denialist.

    Well, I’m not in denial about one thing; last winter we ( Canada) broke tons of records for cold, the winter went on forever, spring is delayed, and the Great Lakes were almost completely ice-covered for the first time in years. It’s may and large areas of Lake Superior are STILL covered with ice

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