Friday, January 31, 2014

144.5 - Global warming: It's going to get worse

Global warming: It's going to get worse

Probably the best single line in the entire State of the Union speech was "Climate change is a fact." What made it special was the direct, matter-of-fact way it was said, something rarely done by politicians. Obama pledged to, in the words of Washington Post columnist Ryan Cooper, finish what he has started. And, indeed, there are things he can do by executive order, things entirely within his authority as president, to reduce our national output of greenhouse gases.

The problem is, as is all too often true with President Hopey-Changey, we've heard it before. Just a year ago, at his second-term inaugural, he said “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” Which was followed by - what? Yes, there were a couple of good moves, such as calling on the EPA to set new standards for carbon emissions from power plants - but months later, the rule still isn't finalized. Once again, the words soar, the deeds crawl. And we don't have time to crawl. We don't have time for "eventually."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, has found that 2013 tied for the fourth hottest year on record around the world. Those records date back to 1880.

NASA, which calculates records in a different manner, said 2013 was the seventh hottest on record - but both agencies said nine of the 10th warmest years on record have happened in the 21st century. What's more, the 13 years of this century, 2001-2013, are all among the 15 hottest years recorded, with the hottest year worldwide being 2010.

And it's going to get worse.

According to a new study by researchers in Australia, at the rate the Earth is currently warming, temps will rise a full 4 degrees Celsius by 2100, twice the amount of warming that climatologists say can be tolerated without severe, damaging effects to the environment on which humans depend - and a number of those scientists say even that 2 degree limit is too high.

To make it even more depressing, the researchers note that while climate models certainly are not perfect, the mistakes they are often making is in predicting less warming than actually occurs rather than more.

The effects of climate change are already being seen. Until recently, climatologists have been very careful to avoiding connecting particular extreme weather events to global warming, but increasingly, that is no longer true. For one example, a study recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change concludes that the current rate of carbon emissions would mean twice as many extreme El Niños over the next 100 years as there would have been otherwise, with profound socioeconomic consequences. The last extreme El Niño, in 1997-98, resulted in the hottest year on record, and the accompanying floods, cyclones, droughts, and wildfires killed an estimated 23,000 people and caused scores of billions of dollars in damage, particularly to food production.

If the paper's conclusions are borne out by further study, it would be devastating because the change would be, in the words of the chief researcher, "essentially an 'irreversible' climate change phenomenon, and it would take a dramatic reduction in greenhouse emissions over a number of generations to reduce the impact."

We, the adult generations of today, have to suck it up and realize that we have to change our ways dramatically and we have to do it now; we have to accept some inconvenience in our lives or our children and even more our grandchildren will pay a severe, even a catastrophic, price. We have no time for eventually. We have no time for "later." We have no time to crawl.


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