Thursday, September 05, 2013

124.7 - Recent news on global warming

Recent news on global warming

Updated with a question: The hit count on this post is unusually high for me, which makes we think someone linked to it - but I don't know who. Anyone willing to leave a comment to let me know?

I haven't talked about global warming in a while, so I thought I'd run down a few recent bits and pieces.

Let's start with the latest news. The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, the world's preeminent climate science organization, is due out sometime this month. The latest draft of the report of the says that human-made global warming is "extremely likely," meaning the chances that humanity is the main reason for the warming are 95%. It also says that continuing greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates will produce changes in climate unprecedented in hundreds to thousands of years, with many of those changes persisting for "many centuries."

Worldwide, 2012 was the 8th or 9th warmest year on record, despite the cooling effect of it being a La Nina year. The United States and Argentina had their warmest year on record. It was the 27th year in a row the global average temperature surpassed the average of the 30-year period 1961-1990.

The World Meteorological Organization said in its annual climate report that the years from 2001 to 2012 were all among the top 13 warmest on record.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, says all 10 of the warmest years ever have been in the past 15 years.

We are already seeing human impacts: A study by climate scientists at Great Britain's national weather service, released a couple of months ago, concluded that human-induced climate change contributed to low rain levels in East Africa in 2011, making global warming one of the causes of Somalia's famine and the tens of thousands of deaths that followed.

Then there's this: Ever heard of valley fever? I hadn't until recently. It's a relatively unknown and often misdiagnosed disease prevalent in arid regions of the United States, Mexico, and Central and South America. It can be contracted by breathing in fungus-laced spores from dust disturbed by wind or human or animal activity. Initial symptoms are often flu-like but the infection can spread from the lungs, leading to blindness, skin abscesses, lung failure, even death.

Between 1998 and 2011, cases in the US jumped 850 percent, with California and Arizona being the hardest hit.

Why is this relevant? Because the fungus is sensitive to environmental changes and a hotter, drier climate of the sort now being felt in the US southwest has increased the dust carrying the spores. In other words, global warming is causing this disease to spread.

And what about those wildfires out West? Are they related to global warming?

According to Thomas Tidwell, the head of the US Forest Service, the answer is yes. In Congressional testimony in June, Tidwell noted that large fires in excess of 10,000 acres are seven times more common today than four decades ago, and the fire season is two months longer. He said that agency scientists believe the problems they face are due to climate change.

And it's going to get worse. 2012 saw record snow melts, a dramatic spike in ocean heat content, a record melt of Arctic sea ice in the summer, and whopping temporary melts of ice in most of Greenland.

It also saw record-high sea levels, a harbinger of things to come, because a study published a month ago in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that climate change could literally sink more than 1,700 US coastal cities and towns before the century is out. Without a sharp and immediate curb in greenhouse gas emissions, at least 80 of those cities could be submerged within the next decade.

And for some places, it's already too late. For some places - the author of the study mentioned Fort Lauderdale, Miami Gardens, and Hoboken, New Jersey - even if we dropped to zero greenhouse gas emissions today, right now, the heat already stored in the oceans will drive sea level rise enough to put those places under water and in many more places, a quarter of the population will be living below the high-water mark by 2100.

Those are the facts. That's the reality. That's what we're facing. Despite all this, despite the clear evidence of a desperate need for immediate, dramatic, even drastic, action, in at least four US states - Louisiana, Texas, South Dakota, and Tennessee - state law mandates teaching climate change denial in K-12 "science" education, based on a model bill produced by ALEC. It's hard to imagine they could be so blind and they are not stupid people, so it must be that they just don't give a damn about the future.

Footnote: At a House Science Committee hearing on climate change in June, climate change non-believer Rep. Dana Rohrabacher griped about a campaign against “climate deniers” in Congress, claiming that “climate denier” is akin to "Holocaust denier.” Yeah, well, he said it, I didn't. But if he's really that upset, maybe he'd prefer my term for people like him: nanny-nanny naysayer.


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