Most Of What You Need To Know About Climate Change

Via David Roberts at Grist, comes this infographic which conveys a lot of, well, useful info. The key thing it achieves is a nice graphic representation of what will happen no matter what, the scale of action required to hit certain targets, and the scale of impact if we miss certain targets. (Click image for full size).

Carbon Math

You may think that all that driving you do, or air conditioning your house, is your biggest contribution you make to global warming. But how about all those air miles?

For many people reading this, air travel is their most serious environmental sin. One round-trip flight from New York to Europe or to San Francisco creates about 2 or 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person. The average American generates about 19 tons of carbon dioxide a year; the average European, 10.

So if you take five long flights a year, they may well account for three-quarters of the emissions you create. “For many people in New York City, who don’t drive much and live in apartments, this is probably going to be by far the largest part of their carbon footprint,” says Anja Kollmuss, a Zurich-based environmental consultant.

It is for me. And for people like Al Gore or Richard Branson who crisscross the world, often by private jet, proclaiming their devotion to the environment.

Though air travel emissions now account for only about 5 percent of warming, that fraction is projected to rise significantly, since the volume of air travel is increasing much faster than gains in flight fuel efficiency. (Also, emissions from most other sectors are falling.)

Tax carbon at $20 a ton, which is roughly the tax that many economists believe would be required to have an impact on human behavior adequate to slow warming, and suddenly you will understand how big a climate change driver air travel is. And you will also think more carefully about how often, and how far, you fly.

Another alternative is to sell carbon offsets along with air travel tickets.

More On Climate Change And Superstorm Sandy

Here’s another analysis, from Washington Post Capital Weather Gang blogger Jason Samenow, that is both balanced and detailed. Based on what we know about Sandy, and the scientific literature, here are his five big takeaways:

1) Sandy should not be “blamed” on climate change. Climate change does not cause storms and did not cause Superstorm Sandy. Storms form when certain weather ingredients come together. The historic record shows violent storms, some even more severe than Sandy, have struck the Northeast repeatedly..

2) While climate change did not cause Sandy, it may have been a performance enhancer like a steroid, injecting it with somewhat more energy and power.

3) Sea level rise from manmade climate change increased the water level along the Northeast coast 6 to 8 inches and, as a result, somewhat worsened the coastal flooding from Sandy.

4) There is speculation that decreased Arctic sea ice from manmade climate change altered atmospheric steering currents, strengthening the weather system in the North Atlantic that helped to push Sandy ashore in the Northeast. This idea is controversial.

5) Climate change is likely to slowly increase the intensity of hurricanes in the future, but trends in storm frequency are less certain and the number of storms may actually decrease. Sea levels will continue to rise adding to the coastal flood risk.

He goes on to examine each of these in detail, and includes lots of links to research and related articles. So if you want the full monty on Sandy and climate change I urge you to read the whole thing.

Superstorm Sandy And Global Warming II

Already getting some pushback from wannabe deniers, so I thought I would put this analysis from Scientific American out there as well. The key section:

The hedge expressed by journalists is that many variables go into creating a big storm, so the size of Hurricane Sandy, or any specific storm, cannot be attributed to climate change. That’s true, and it’s based on good science. However, that statement does not mean that we cannot say that climate change is making storms bigger. It is doing just that—a statement also based on good science, and one that the insurance industry is embracing, by the way. (Huh? More on that in a moment.)

Scientists have long taken a similarly cautious stance, but more are starting to drop the caveat and link climate change directly to intense storms and other extreme weather events, such as the warm 2012 winter in the eastern U.S. and the frigid one in Europe at the same time. They are emboldened because researchers have gotten very good in the past decade at determining what affects the variables that create big storms. Hurricane Sandy got large because it wandered north along the U.S. coast, where ocean water is still warm this time of year, pumping energy into the swirling system. But it got even larger when a cold Jet Stream made a sharp dip southward from Canada down into the eastern U.S. The cold air, positioned against warm Atlantic air, added energy to the atmosphere and therefore to Sandy, just as it moved into that region, expanding the storm even further.

Here’s where climate change comes in. The atmospheric pattern that sent the Jet Stream south is colloquially known as a “blocking high”—a big pressure center stuck over the very northern Atlantic Ocean and southern Arctic Ocean. And what led to that? A climate phenomenon called the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)—essentially, the state of atmospheric pressure in that region. This state can be positive or negative, and it had changed from positive to negative two weeks before Sandy arrived. The climate kicker? Recent research by Charles Greene at Cornell University and other climate scientists has shown that as more Arctic sea ice melts in the summer—because of global warming—the NAO is more likely  to be negative during the autumn and winter. A negative NAO makes the Jet Stream more likely to move in a big, wavy pattern across the U.S., Canada and the Atlantic, causing the kind of big southward dip that occurred during Sandy.

And I suppose I should also add this analysis by NASA’s James Hansen, who has studied (and worried about) climate change more than any scientist on the (warming) planet. Here’s the guts of what he has to say:

In a new analysis of the past six decades of global temperatures, which will be published Monday, my colleagues and I have revealed a stunning increase in the frequency of extremely hot summers, with deeply troubling ramifications for not only our future but also for our present.

This is not a climate model or a prediction but actual observations of weather events and temperatures that have happened. Our analysis shows that it is no longer enough to say that global warming will increase the likelihood of extreme weather and to repeat the caveat that no individual weather event can be directly linked to climate change. To the contrary, our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change.

The deadly European heat wave of 2003, the fiery Russian heat wave of 2010 and catastrophic droughts in Texas and Oklahoma last year can each be attributed to climate change. And once the data are gathered in a few weeks’ time, it’s likely that the same will be true for the extremely hot summer the United States is suffering through right now.

The resistance to both the logic and the science of global warming and weather is stupefying to me. But not surprising, sadly. We are a species that is sleepwalking through history.

Climate Lies (And What’s Behind Them)

I’m not sure I can watch this, because it will only remind me of how corrupted our politics and media are. And I already know that there has been a consistent and cynically self-interested campaign to create doubt about climate change in a sadly gullible public.

Given that success, I can see why Gov. Romney and President Obama were too pusillanimous to raise climate change during their debates (though I can’t applaud them for political cowardice). But what excuse do moderators Jim Lehrer, Candy Crowley, and Bob Schieffer have for never raising the single most important threat on the planet?

Anyhow, maybe a President Romney shouldn’t try to kill Big Bird. Because PBS’s Frontline has done what always has to be done: laid out the detailed narrative of how climate change deniers have succeeded (probably beyond their most hopeful dreams) in confusing and delaying action on global warming. Here’s the teaser:

And here’s the whole thing. You can also watch the it on PBS’ website, which has lots of other related videos and articles.

See it and weep. And then get mad. And then take action.

Nightly Reader

Chart-palooza: Well, since we were infographic heavy today, we might as well keep the chart train going. So here are ten charts which prove the planet is warming.

Seeing Is Important: It’s become one of my most deeply held beliefs, and this National Geographic photo gallery on dolphins and whales are they as being hunted today shows why. You see, you believe and care. So looking at images like this is brutal but necessary.

Lance Undone: I love cycling, so I’ve been following the doping crisis, and Lance Armstrong’s role in it, for quite some time. But even if you are not a cyclist, Lance’s story, in the form of this documentary, is worth listening to, because it is about more than cycling. It is about self-interest and money. It is about deceit. And it is about a win at all costs modern culture that does not take others, or community, into consideration.

Lance Armstrong

Warmer And Warmer

To complete today’s infographic trifecta, below is a graphic representation of land and ocean temperatures for Sept. 2012. All that red is enough to make tie it for the warmest September ever, according to NOAA.

Here’s the backstory, courtesy of Weather Underground’s Dr. Jeff Masters:

September 2012 was tied with 2005 as the globe’s warmest September on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). Global temperature records begin in 1880. NASA rated September 2012 the 4th warmest September on record. September 2012 global land temperatures were the 3rd warmest on record, and global ocean temperatures were the 2nd warmest on record. September 2012 was the 331st consecutive month with global temperatures warmer than the 20th century average. The last time Earth had a below-average September global temperature was in 1976, and the last below-average month of any kind was February 1985. Global satellite-measured temperatures in September 2012 for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were 5th or 3rd warmest in the 34-year record, according to Remote Sensing Systems and the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH). Wunderground’s weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, has a comprehensive post on the notable weather events of September 2012 in his September 2012 Global Weather Extremes Summary.

It seems that government agencies can’t agree on everything. But I think it is safe to conclude they are all saying September was pretty darn warm. And what really jumps out at me are the two sentences I boldfaced.

It’s insane that we are having a debate about whether warming is really occurring instead of what we should be doing about it (ahem–carbon tax). That is an epic failure of leadership, and the triumph of self-interested denialism. History will not be kind to this willful ignorance.

(Click image for full size).

Could Climate Change Lead to World War?


Global mean surface temperature difference fro...
Climate bomb? (Image via Wikipedia)

Well, even something short of that would not be good. But over at Grist, climate economist Nicholas Stern explains why the answer is “yes.”


Lord Nicholas Stern, one of the world’s most prominent climate economists, believes that failure to address global warming could eventually lead to World War III. In 2006, he produced the “Stern Review” on behalf of the British government, clearly laying out the potentially catastrophic economic consequences of failing to address climate pollution. Since then, the scientific understanding of the damages from global warming has grown, and Stern has warned that his report “underestimated the risks.” In an exclusive interview with ThinkProgress, Stern described his current understanding of the stark consequences of inaction, which defy the scope of standard economic language. If no global policy to cut carbon pollution is enacted, there is about a 50 percent risk that global temperatures would rise above levels not seen for 30 million years by 2100, an extraordinary rate of change. The “potentially immense” consequences of this radical transformation of our planet, Stern explained, include the “serious risk of global war.”


Enhanced by Zemanta
%d bloggers like this: