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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bombshell: Koch-Funded Study Finds ‘Global Warming Is Real’, ‘On The High End’ And ‘Essentially All’ Due To Carbon Pollution

THINKPROGRESS

CLIMATE PROGRESS


Bombshell: Koch-Funded Study Finds ‘Global Warming Is Real’, ‘On The High End’ And ‘Essentially All’ Due To Carbon Pollution

ten year data analysis comparison graph
The decadal land-surface average temperature using a 10-year moving average of surface temperatures over land. Anomalies are relative to the Jan 1950 – December 1979 mean. The grey band indicates 95% statistical and spatial uncertainty interval.A Koch-funded reanalysis of 1.6 billion temperature reports finds that “essentially all of this increase is due to the human emission of greenhouse gases.”
The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study (BEST) is poised to release its findings next week on the cause of recent global warming. A forthcoming NY Times op-ed by Richard Muller, BEST’s Founder and Scientific Director, has been excerpted on a conservative website with the headline, “New Global Temperature Data Reanalysis Confirms Warming, Blames CO2.”
I have spoken with scientists and journalists familiar with BEST’s findings, and the excerpt appears genuine. Here is the money graf:
CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified scientific issues that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Now, after organizing an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I’ve concluded that global warming is real, that the prior estimates of the rate were correct, and that cause is human.
Yes, yes, I know, the finding itself is “dog bites man.” What makes this “man bites dog” is that Muller has been a skeptic of climate science, and the single biggest funder of this study is the “Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation ($150,000).” The Kochs are the leading funder of climate disinformation in the world!
It gets better:
Our results show that the average temperature of the Earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, and one and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase is due to the human emission of greenhouse gases.
These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming.
In short, a Koch-funded study has found that the IPCC “consensus” underestimated both the rate of surface warming and how much could be attributed to human emissions!
Here is some background on BEST followed by a longer excerpt of the op-ed.

A group of scientists led by one well-known skeptic, Muller — and whose only climatologist listed is Judith Curry, a well-known confusionist [see Schmidt and Annan and Steig andVerheggen, and CP] — decided to reexamine all of the temperature data they could get their hands on. I broke the story of their initial findings in March 2011 (with the help of climatologist Ken Caldeira) – see Exclusive: Berkeley temperature study results “confirm the reality of global warming and support in all essential respects the historical temperature analyses of the NOAA, NASA, and HadCRU.”
The top figure is an updated chart of their findings from March of this year. They found a lot of warming.
Indeed, their key paper from 2011 found:
… our analysis suggests a degree of global land-surface warming during the anthropogenic era that is consistent with prior work (e.g. NOAA) but on the high end of the existing range of reconstructions.
So the only remaining question for BEST was: What is the cause of that warming? Of course, those who read ClimateProgress or the scientific literature already knew the answer to that question (see the 12/11 post, It’s “Extremely Likely That at Least 74% of Observed Warming Since 1950″ Was Manmade; It’s Highly Likely All of It Was).
BEST is set to release those findings this week. The excellent UK Guardian reporter, Leo Hickman, tweeted earlier today that “Significant climate-related news will be breaking on Guardian website in next 24-36 hours” and then he tweeted an hour ago the link to the excerpt of Muller’s op-ed. Here is the full excerpt:
CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified scientific issues that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Now, after organizing an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I’ve concluded that global warming is real, that the prior estimates of the rate were correct, and that cause is human.
My turnaround is the result of the careful and objective analysis by the “Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature” team, founded by me and my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the Earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, and one and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase is due to the human emission of greenhouse gases.
These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming. In its 2007 report, the IPCC concluded only that most of the warming of the prior 50 years could be attributed to humans. It was possible, according to the IPCC consensus statement, that the warming before to 1956 could be due to changes in solar activity, and that even a substantial part of the more recent warming could be natural.
Our Berkeley Earth approach used sophistical statistical methods developed largely by our lead scientist Robert Rohde, and which allowed us to determine earth land temperature much further back in time. We carefully studied issues raised by skeptics: biases from urban heating (we duplicated our results using rural data alone), data selection (prior groups selected less than 20% of the available temperature stations; we used virtually 100%), poor station quality (we separately analyzed good stations and poor ones), and from human intervention and data adjustment (our work is completely automated and hands-off).  In our papers we demonstrate that none of these potentially troublesome effects unduly biased our conclusions. …
How definite is the attribution to humans? The carbon dioxide curve gives a better match than anything else we’ve tried. Its magnitude is consistent with the calculated greenhouse effect – extra warming from trapped heat radiation. These facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism, but they raise the bar: to be considered seriously, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as does carbon dioxide. …
Well, in fact, to be seriously considered, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as does CO2 — and it must offer some mechanism that counteracts the well-known warming effect of CO2. Not bloody likely.
What about the future?  As carbon dioxide emissions increase, the temperature should continue to rise.  With a simple model (no tipping points, no sudden increase in cloud cover, a response to gases that is “logarithmic”) I expect the rate of warming to proceed at a steady pace, about 1.5 degree F over land in the next 50 years, less if the oceans are included.  But if China continues its rapid growth (it has averaged 10% per year over the last 20 years) and its vast use of coal (typically adding one new gigawatt per month), then that same warming could take place in less than 20 years.
Ouch.
I asked Caldeira for a comment on Muller’s op-ed. He writes:
I am glad that Muller et al have taken a look at the data and have come to essentially the same conclusion that nearly  everyone else had come to more than a decade ago.
The basic scientific results have been established for a long time now, so I do not see the results of Muller et al as being scientifically important.  However, their result may be politically important.  It shows that even people who suspect climate scientists of being charlatans, when they take a hard look at the data, see that the climate scientists have been right all along.
Who’d have thunk it? Not the Kochs….

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Study: At Least 70% of Arctic Sea Ice Loss 'Man-Made'

CommonDreams.org



Scientists fear the impact of feedback loops as dramatic ice loss begets further melting

- Common Dreams staff 
 
Last week an iceberg 'twice the size of Manhattan' broke off a glacier in Greenland. This week, revelations surfaced that scientists studying satellite maps of Arctic sea ice melt were so shocked by the rapid melting of ice sheets they concluded it was an error with their imaging equipment. It wasn't.


 

Since the 1970s, there has been a 40% decrease in the extent of summer sea ice. (Photograph: AlaskaStock/Corbis) These are just the latest in a long line of 'Artic ice melting' headlines that have dotted the newspapers over the last decade, but a new study suggests that the trend towards Arctic ice melt is here to stay and that at least 70% of what's creating these events is man-made interference with the arctic ocean climate.
The new study, conducted by climate scientists at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science at the University of Reading, found that the loss of sea ice around the Arctic is at least 70% due to human-induced climate change -- much higher than previously thought -- and that the number could possibly be as high as 95%.

"Since the 1970s, there's been a 40% decrease in the summer sea ice extent," said climatologist Jonny Day who led the latest study.

"We were trying to determine how much of this was due to
natural variability and therefore imply what aspect is due to man-made climate change as well."

Most concerning to the scientists is the possibility that 'feedback loops' have already begun in which loss of ice begets increased future loss.
"[There is] something called the ice-albedo feedback, which means that when you have less ice, it means there's more open water and therefore the ocean absorbs more radiation and will continue to warm," he said.

"It's unclear what will happen – it definitely seems like it's going in that direction."
The research is published online in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
#  #  #

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Food Ordeal and Climate Change


Dissident Voice: a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice


The Food Ordeal and Climate Change

The Age of Disruptive Climate Change, and its impact on the supply of food, is a major source of modern-day uprisings, toppling governments around the world.

The United States, “the breadbasket of the world,” and the largest exporter of corn, soybeans, and wheat, accounts for one in every three tonnes of staple grains that feed the world. Over the past month, futures prices for corn and wheat are up approximately 50%. The culprit behind this abnormal pricing behaviour is a major drought that is scorching one-half the breadbasket of America. The U.S. Department of Agriculture declared on July 11 that more than 1,000 counties in 26 states are natural-disaster areas, the biggest such declaration ever!

According to The Economist,1 by the end of 2007, when high grain prices sparked riots in 48 countries, the magazine’s food-price index reached its highest point since originating in 1845. Alarmingly, as of today, corn is back to those same 2007 peak prices, wheat is rapidly approaching the same high levels, and soybeans are at multi-year highs, but the U.S. drought has only begun… maybe. Thankfully, rice, which feeds one-half of the world, is still moderating at its midpoint of the past 5-years… so far, and here’s hoping commodity speculators, with their penchant for riding the contrails of rising grain prices, do not drive the price of rice up as well. Without a doubt, Goldman Sachs is eyeballing this wager.

Food shortages and high food prices pose a huge potential strain for worldwide governments and tottering capitalist socio-economic systems. According to Abdolreza Abbassian, senior economist with the UN Food & Agriculture Organization (Rome), “The world looks to the U.S. as the safest source of supply… Everyone watches the U.S. because they can rely on it. Without it, the world would starve.”

The phenomenon of people rioting in the streets to protest lack of food at affordable prices is as old as recorded history, e.g., Emperor Cicero’s (106-43 BC) house, on Palatine Hill overlooking the Forum, was attacked by angry mobs over food shortages. In France grain crops failed two years in a row, 1788-89, and the price of bread shot up to 88% of the average 18th century worker’s wages, preceding the start of the French Revolution. And, in 2007-08 a worldwide price surge of grains triggered riots in streets around the world, causing numerous deaths and leading to toppled governments.

The Arab Spring uprisings of last year brought to the surface political and economic issues, but, behind the scenes, climate stress played as big a role. The warning behind Syria’s disruptive climate change, i.e., drought, is chilling. Syrian farmlands north and east of the Euphrates River are the breadbasket of the Middle East, and up to 60% of Syria’s land experienced one of the worst droughts on record from 2006-11. In the northeast and the south, nearly 75% suffered total crop failure. Herders in the northeast lost 85% of their livestock. According to the UN, 800,000 Syrians had their livelihoods totally wiped out, moving to the cities to find work or into refugee camps. Furthermore, the drought pushed three million Syrians into extreme poverty. As of January 2012, Abeer Etefa of the World Food Programme, states, “Food inflation in Syria remains the main issue for citizens.” And, it is believed [by some] to be one of the major causes of domestic unrest.

With the current fragile state of worldwide economic conditions, the upshot of rapidly rising food prices and/or food shortages may turn the world upside down, and shake it, because much of the Western world is already on life support, addicted to low interest rates, with a “steady-as-she-goes” very tempered economic recovery, and a high-wire balancing act to support uncomfortable levels of debt. The tenuousness of the economic situation takes one’s breath away! Any major imbalances in this quiescent economic tinderbox could be a dagger to the heart of the status quo, causing unprecedented rioting in the streets, which is already an indeterminate trend in the great metropolises.

Capitalist nation-states are already under more financial duress than at any time since the Great Depression; however, today is different than the 1930s, it is the developed nations that are under water with debt ratios higher than in the 1930s. This is the reverse of the situation in the 1930s when undeveloped nations were most at risk. Thus, the countries that normally weather the storm the best are the weakest. Can Western Civilization handle rapidly increasing food prices, possibly accompanied by street riots, and with severely weakened socio-economic conditions?

The good news is a grain shortage, standing alone, will not develop into an uncontrollable inflationary spiral because the contribution of “agflation” on core PCE Indexes (Personal Consumption Expenditures) are more modest than one might expect, affecting a very limited range of final goods (Current Issues in Economics and Finance, Federal Reserve Bank of NY, Nov. 2008.) However, price increases of food components are brutally severe for individual householders the world over, and herein lays the big problem, like in Syria.

According to a landmark study, the World Development Report 2011,2 “Food insecurity is both cause and a consequence of political violence.”

There is direct evidence that disruptive climate change caused the political fires that burned across North Africa one year ago, i.e., the Arab Spring, and it was kindled in Russia. Extreme drought triggered wildfires and destroyed one-third of the Russia’s wheat harvest. Russia refused to export the rest of its harvest. Markets panicked and food prices shot up.

“Definitely, it is one of the causes of the Arab Spring,” says Shenggen Fan, director-general of the International Food Policy Research Institute. It is increasingly clear that the climate models that predicted the countries surrounding the Mediterranean would start to dry out are correct.3

Meanwhile, today in the United States, NOAA says, as of June 2012, “… the 12-month period from July 2011 to June 2012 was the warmest on record since recordkeeping began in 1895.” And, to make matters even worse, Central and Eastern Canada’s drought is “baking crops,” says David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada, who goes on to comment, “… it’s almost as if the atmosphere has forgotten how to rain,” Michael Oppenheimer, professor of Geosciences at Princeton University states, “What we are seeing is a window into what global warming really looks like.”

These concerns with global warming are poppycock according to one leading Republican, Rick Santorum, who tersely informed Rush Limbaugh in an interview in June 2011, “… global warming is ‘patently absurd’ and ‘junk science’.” Leading Right Wing mouthpieces like Ann Coulter claim climate researchers are “cult members,” who practice deception. As for Mitt Romney, while holding one finger up in the air, testing the direction of the latest polling breeze, he claims, on the one hand, he’s not sure “if humans are causing climate change,” but on the other hand, he is not a “denier of climate science.” Talk about a safe bet! Talking out of both sides of his mouth, which climate science does he refer to?

It is patently disturbing that anybody would deny climate change with 97% of scientists saying man-made climate change is real, according to the National Academy of Sciences, after posing the question to 1,372 scientists.4 Considering the fact that three percent are not onboard, it prompts one to wonder if these three percent are the scientists Rick consults and Mitt refers to when he says he is not a “denier of climate science,” which, come to think about it, could go either way. Thus, Romney has safely straddled the fence for himself while the Santorums and Coulters of the world do the heavy lifting for powerful Right-Wing proponents of global warming.

Contrary to American politicians’ positions on global warming, including several former Republican presidential candidates who recommend ‘gutting’ the EPA, Yale University’s list of the world’s greenest nations demonstrates sensible/sober/prudent politics at work, “… countries that are attentive to good environmental management have good business management as well.” For example, the Scandinavian countries have made investment in environmental businesses an important part of their economic base. The largest solar power company is in Norway, which is the No. 3 on the Yale University list. The United States is No. 39, behind Costa Rica and several Eastern European countries as well as Japan, Germany, and the UK — all of which rank much better than the U.S. And, even though the U.S. has a stellar reputation for invention, it does not have the political heart to overcome a deathly addiction to hydrocarbons, the likely source of today’s drought conditions.

What a strange paradox, indeed, that the United States of America built interstate highways connecting every corner of the country, measuring 3000×1500 miles, but yet, it does not even consider construction of solar panels or wind turbines along the same right-of-ways, producing electricity for every community from Maine to California.

There is no doubt about disruptive climate change ravishing crops, which is especially obvious to Americans witnessing it firsthand in the heartland. According to Marco Lagi,5 he claims to have discovered the single factor that triggers riots around the world: The Price of Food! The evidence comes from two sources: The first is data gathered by the United Nations that plots the price of food against time, the so-called food price index of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. The second is the date of riots around the world, whatever the cause. Lagi’s work proves the old maxim: Society is three square meals away from anarchy.

December 13, 2010, four days before Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia, starting the Arab Spring riots, the NECSI contacted the U.S. government, warning that global food prices were about to cross the threshold they had identified as the tipping point when almost anything can trigger riots. The NECSI study was presented, by invitation, at the World Economic Forum in Davos and featured as one of the top 10 discoveries in science in 2011 by Wired magazine. Interestingly, Lagi and colleagues have isolated two serious predominate causes for out-of-control food prices, in addition to normal supply and demand: (1) deregulation of commodities, resulting in speculators who can control unlimited purchase contracts and (2) conversion of corn into ethanol. Here we go again — the deregulation quandary — the predominate theme of the Right Wing and a favorite of Mitt Romney, popping up every time trouble brews, similar to the 2007-08 financial meltdown and the direct connection between that travesty and the U.S. Congress’s deregulation (killing) the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which act kept commercial banks out of speculative securities for over 60 years.

Yes, disruptive climate change is the “fons et origo” or “source and origin” of uprisings. In this regard, it is fascinating, and horribly frightening, how the political Right Wing continues to support policies, by ignoring the ravages of global warming, that inevitably bite back at society, and the biggest bite, or carnage, will likely be global warming itself, caused by hydrocarbons in the atmosphere from oil & gas and coal. In this same vein, one of the most alarming results of manmade global warming, other than drought conditions devastating the breadbaskets of the world, is the fact that the world’s glaciers are melting like ice cream cones in July.6

With grain prices cranking up once again, and with commodity speculation wide open, blessed by deregulation, providing for unlimited purchase contracts that conforms to manipulated control of pricing, the Great Betting Game on Grains will most likely result in food riots, leading to blood in the streets, and as certain as the riots are expected in many underdeveloped countries of the world, a North American Spring is not entirely out of the question.
  1. “The End of Cheap Food” (December 2007). []
  2. Henk-Jan Brinkman and Cullen S. Hendrix, Food Insecurity and Conflict, August 2010. []
  3. Human-Caused Climate Change Already a Major Factor in more Frequent Mediterranean Droughts, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Oct. 27, 2011. []
  4. USA Today, June 2010. []
  5. New England Complex Systems Institute (“NECSI”) Cambridge, MA (Technology Review, MIT, August, 2011). []
  6. See “The Extreme Ice Nexus,” Z Magazine, 25(6), June 2012. []
Robert Hunziker, a former hedge fund manager, is a professional independent negotiator for worldwide commodity actual transactions and a freelance writer for progressive publications as well as business journals. Mr. Hunziker earned an MA degree in economic history at DePaul University/Chicago, and he resides in Los Angeles. He can be contacted at: rlhunziker@gmail.com. Read other articles by Robert.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Report: Extreme Weather Tied to Man-Made Climate Change


CommonDreams.org



In landmark claim, US and British scientists say that climate patterns increasing likelihood, frequency of extreme events

- Common Dreams staff 

For the first time ever, scientists behind one of the world's most comprehensive weather assessments say they can perceive the likely impact of human-influenced climate change on specific extreme weather events.

 

 Drought map from June 2011, showing the intensifying drought in Texas and northern Mexico. Credit: NOAA. What the study found was increasing evidence that specific events, and patterns of events, can now safely be attributed to man-made global warming and its growing impact on intense storms, extreme floods, unusual cold spells, prolonged heat waves and drought.

The 'State of the Climate' report, issued jointly each year by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the American Meteorological Society (AMS), looks at global weather events, climate patterns, and the implications of flunctuating air temperatures and ocean currents.
This year, the group also released a supplemental paper, titled Explaining Extreme Events of 2011 from a Climate Perspective (pdf), which looks specifically at extreme weather events through the lense of global climate change.

“Every weather event that happens now takes place in the context of a changing global environment."

- NOAA's Kathryn D. Sullivan


“2011 will be remembered as a year of extreme events, both in the United States and around the world,” said Deputy NOAA Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D. “Every weather event that happens now takes place in the context of a changing global environment. This annual report provides scientists and citizens alike with an analysis of what has happened so we can all prepare for what is to come.”

Peter Stott, from Britain's National Weather Service which also contributed to the report, said: "We are much more confident about attributing [weather effects] to climate change. This is all adding up to a stronger and stronger picture of human influence on the climate."

"While we didn't find evidence that climate change has affected the odds of all the extreme weather events we looked at, we did see that some events were significantly more likely. Overall we're seeing that human influence is having a marked impact on some types of extreme weather."

The Guardian's Fiona Harvey reports:
Attributing individual weather events, such as floods, droughts and heatwaves, to human-induced climate change – rather than natural variation in the planet's complex weather systems – has long been a goal of climate change scientists. But the difficulty of separating the causation of events from the background "noise" of the variability in the earth's climate systems has until now made such attribution an elusive goal.
To attribute recent extreme weather events – rather than events 10 years ago or more – to human-caused climate change is a big advance, and will help researchers to provide better warnings of the likely effects of climate change in the near future. This is likely to have major repercussions on climate change policy and the ongoing efforts to adapt to the probable effects of global warming.
Researchers found the 2011 crop-destroying drought and heat wave in Texas was "roughly 20 times more likely" the result of man-made climate change -- warming due to greenhouse gasses -- than of natural climate variation, CBS News reported.

Other key findings:

NOAA's State of the Climate in 2011 report was published today by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. (Credit: NOAA).
  • Warm temperature trends continue: Four independent data sets show 2011 among the 15 warmest since records began in the late 19th century, with annually-averaged temperatures above the 1981–2010 average, but coolest on record since 2008. The Arctic continued to warm at about twice the rate compared with lower latitudes. On the opposite pole, the South Pole station recorded its all-time highest temperature of 9.9°F on December 25, breaking the previous record by more than 2 degrees.
  • Greenhouse gases climb: Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, continued to rise. Carbon dioxide steadily increased in 2011 and the yearly global average exceeded 390 parts per million (ppm) for the first time since instrumental records began. This represents an increase of 2.10 ppm compared with the previous year. There is no evidence that natural emissions of methane in the Arctic have increased significantly during the last decade.
     
  • Arctic sea ice extent decreases: Arctic sea ice extent was below average for all of 2011 and has been since June 2001, a span of 127 consecutive months through December 2011. Both the maximum ice extent (5.65 million square miles, March 7) and minimum extent (1.67 million square miles, September 9) were the second smallest of the satellite era.
     
  • Ozone levels in Arctic drop: In the upper atmosphere, temperatures in the tropical stratosphere were higher than average while temperatures in the polar stratosphere were lower than average during the early 2011 winter months. This led to the lowest ozone concentrations in the lower Arctic stratosphere since records began in 1979 with more than 80 percent of the ozone between 11 and 12 miles altitude destroyed by late March, increasing UV radiation levels at the surface.
     
  • Sea surface temperature & ocean heat content rise: Even with La NiƱa conditions occurring during most of the year, the 2011 global sea surface temperature was among the 12 highest years on record. Ocean heat content, measured from the surface to 2,300 feet deep, continued to rise since records began in 1993 and was record high.

  • Ocean salinity trends continue: Continuing a trend that began in 2004 and similar to 2010, oceans were saltier than average in areas of high evaporation, including the western and central tropical Pacific, and fresher than average in areas of high precipitation, including the eastern tropical South Pacific, suggesting that precipitation is increasing in already rainy areas and evaporation is intensifying in drier locations.
#  #  #

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Silence on Global Warming



July 9, 2012 at 12:29:33

The Silence on Global Warming


By (about the author)






A "derecho," a pattern of thunderstorms racing in a straight line, is more common in the American Plains, but one struck the Washington area on June 29, 2012. (Photo credit: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Something called a "derecho" -- a fast-moving line of thunderstorms -- strikes the Washington area, knocking out power for days. Massive forest fires ravage Colorado. A record heat wave covers much of the country. The U.S. press treats these events as major stories, but two words are rarely mentioned: "global warming."

What has become most striking about the growing evidence that climate change is a clear and present danger -- indeed an emerging existential threat -- is the simultaneous failure of the U.S. news media to deal seriously with the issue, another sign of how the Right can intimidate the mainstream into going silent.
 
We have seen this pattern before, as the Right sets the media agenda by bullying those who threaten its ideological interests. Before the Iraq War, anyone who dared raise questions about the Bush administration's justifications could expect to be marginalized or worse. Just ask Phil Donahue, Scott Ritter and the Dixie Chicks.

During Ronald Reagan's presidency, his hard-nosed propagandists dubbed this tactic "controversializing," that is, anyone who got too much in the way could expect to be subjected to systematic smears and professional deconstruction. With so many right-wing voices willing to say almost anything, it wasn't hard to intimidate people.

The smart career play was always to retreat when these forces were arrayed against you. Why risk your six- or seven-figure salary on some issue when there are so many other stories that you can work on without all the grief?

Indeed, those journalists who wouldn't be scared off could easily be discredited as "causists," or people "with an agenda," i.e., they'd be painted as "unprofessional." So, under this view of "journalism," it's much more "professional" to treat the recent weather events arising from this over-heating planet as unfathomable "acts of God."

And that's exactly what we've seen. Though there are exceptions here and there, generally these heat-related weather anomalies have been handled like earthquakes, something that couldn't be expected or stopped. There have been loads of human-interest stories about people coping or suffering but almost no larger context.

Phenomenon of Silence

This phenomenon of silence -- both in the political and journalistic realms -- has not gone completely unnoticed. It's just that those who make the point are ignored, too.

For instance, Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, gave a major speech on the Senate floor on June 19 lamenting the failure of the U.S. political system to address the global-warming crisis but the speech got little play.
Kerry said...
"As a matter of conscience and common sense, we should be compelled to fight today's insidious conspiracy of silence on climate change -- a silence that empowers misinformation and mythology to grow where science and truth should prevail. It is a conspiracy that has not just stalled, but demonized any constructive effort to put America in a position to lead the world on this issue. ... "In the United States, a calculated campaign of disinformation has steadily beaten back the consensus momentum for action on climate change and replaced it with timidity by proponents in the face of millions of dollars of phony, contrived 'talking points,' illogical and wholly unscientific propositions and a general scorn for the truth wrapped in false threats about job loss and taxes.
"Yet today, the naysayers escape all accountability to the truth. The media hardly murmurs when a candidate for President of the United States in 2012 [a reference to Mitt Romney] can walk away from previously held positions to announce that the evidence is not yet there about the impact of greenhouse gases on climate.
"The truth is, scientists have known since the 1800s that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trap heat in our atmosphere. With the right amount of these gases, the Earth is a hospitable place for us to live. But if you add too much, which is what we're doing right now, at a record pace, temperatures inevitably rise to record-setting levels. It's not rocket science.
"Every major national science academy in the world has reported that global warming is real. ... Facts that beg for an unprecedented public response are met with unsubstantiated, even totally contradicted denial. And those who deny have never, ever met their de minimus responsibility to provide some scientific answer to what, if not human behavior, is causing the increase in greenhouse gas particulates and how, if not by curbing greenhouse gases, we will address this crisis."
Endless Dissembling
Kerry continued...
"The level of dissembling -- of outright falsifying of information, of greedy appeal to fear tactics that has stalled meaningful action now for 20 years -- is hard to wrap one's mind around. It is so far removed from legitimate analysis that it confounds for its devilishly simple appeal to the lowest common denominator of disinformation. "In the face of a massive and growing body of scientific evidence that says catastrophic climate change is knocking at our door, the naysayers just happily tell us climate change doesn't exist. In the face of melting glaciers and ice caps in the Arctic, Greenland and Antarctica, they say we need to 'warm up to the truth.' And in the face of animals disappearing at alarming rates, they would have us adopt an 'ostrich' policy and simply bury our heads in the sand. ...
"Al Gore spoke of the 'assault on reason.' Well, Exhibit A is staring us in the face: Coalitions of politicians and special interests that peddle science fiction over science fact. A paid-for, multi-million dollar effort that twists and turns the evidence until it's gnarled beyond recognition.
"And tidal waves of cash that back a status quo of recklessness and inaction over responsibility and change. In short, it's a story of disgraceful denial, back-pedaling and delay that has brought us perilously close to a climate change catastrophe. ...
"What's worse, we've stood by and let it all happen -- we've treated falsehood with complacence and allowed a conspiracy of silence on climate change to infiltrate our politics. ...
"The conspiracy of silence that now characterizes Washington's handling of the climate issue is dangerous. Climate change is one of two or three of the most serious threats our country now faces, if not the most serious, and the silence that has enveloped a once robust debate is staggering for its irresponsibility.
"The costs of inaction get more and more expensive the longer we wait -- and the longer we wait, the less likely we are to avoid the worst and leave future generations with a sustainable planet."
So what was the reaction to Kerry's address? It got some notice on blogs, especially those dedicated to climate-change issues, but received almost no attention from the mainstream news media.

Ten days after Kerry's speech, the Washington area was struck by a "derecho," a weather event virtually unknown to the people of the region. This straight line of fierce thunderstorms uprooted trees and knocked down power lines leaving much of the sweltering capital area in the dark and without air conditioning.
The devastation -- along with forest fires in Colorado and 100-degree heat over much of the country -- got lots of attention from the news media. But there was almost no discussion of the why.

Granted, no specific weather event can be traced directly to global warming, but climate scientists have been saying for years that the gradual increase in temperatures will be accompanied by more and more extreme weather patterns, exactly what the United States and much of the world are experiencing.
Yet, just as the U.S. news media failed the country in 2003 by caving to the Right's pressure on the Iraq invasion, American journalism is now failing future generations by cowering in front of the loud voices of powerful climate-change deniers.


http://www.consortiumnews.com

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at more...)
 
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author
and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Rate of Climate Change's 'Evil Twin' Has Scientists Worried

CommonDreams.org


Ocean acidification is moving at a rate faster than scientists had expected

- Common Dreams staff 
 
Climate change's "evil twin" -- ocean acidification -- has been increasing at a rate unexpected by scientists, says Dr. Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Lubchenco told he Associated Press that surface waters, where excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere has been concentrating, "are changing much more rapidly than initial calculations have suggested." She warns, "It's yet another reason to be very seriously concerned about the amount of carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere now and the additional amount we continue to put out."
Lubchenco made the comments while at the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium in the Australian city of Cairns, where thousands of scientists are meeting and calling for action to save the world's coral reefs.

"The carbon dioxide that we have put in the atmosphere will continue to be absorbed by oceans for decades," Lubchenco added. "It is going to be a long time before we can stabilize and turn around the direction of change simply because it's a big atmosphere and it's a big ocean."

A study published in March in the journal Science found that the Earth's oceans are becoming more acidic at a faster rate than at any time in the past 300 million years due to increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

At the conference, scientists warned of the urgency to act on climate change.
"There is a window of opportunity for the world to act on climate change, but it is closing rapidly," said Terry Hughes, convener of the symposium.

Jeremy Jackson, senior scientist at the Smithsonian Institution in the United States, says that while climate change is bringing ocean acidification, it is also causing droughts and sea rise, so "what's good for reefs is also critically important for people and we should wake up to that fact," he said. "The future of coral reefs isn't a marine version of tree-hugging but a central problem for humanity."

International Society for Reef Studies president Robert Richmond urges immediate action to save the earth.

"The scientific community has an enormous amount of research showing we have a problem. But right now, we are like doctors diagnosing a patient's disease, but not prescribing any effective cures," he said.

"We have to start more actively engaging the process and supporting public officials with real-world prescriptions for success."

Rainforests of the Sea 
(photo: NOAA's National Ocean Service)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

NBC Meteorologist On Record Heat Wave: ‘If We Did Not Have Global Warming, We Wouldn’t See This’

THINKPROGRESS

CLIMATE PROGRESS


NBC Meteorologist On Record Heat Wave: ‘If We Did Not Have Global Warming, We Wouldn’t See This’

Tweet of the heat wave, from the National Weather Service:

 http://thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Nashville.gif

It is friggin’ hot!

How hot is it? It’s so hot that all-time records are being set in June: “Nashville has reached its hottest temperature on record…109 degrees at 314 pm. The previous all time record was 107 from July 27th and 28th of 1952.”
UPDATE: Meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters has more all-time heat records:
109° Columbia, SC (old record 107° on two previous occasions)
109° Cairo, IL (old record 106° on 8/9/1930)
108° Paducah, KY (ties same on 7/17/1942
106° Chattanooga, TN (ties same on 7/28/1952)
105° Raleigh, NC (ties same on 8/21/2007 and 8/18/1988)
105° Greenville, SC (old record 104° 8/10/2007 although 106° was recorded by the Signal Service in July 1887)
104° Charlotte, NC (ties same on 8/9 and 10/2007 and 9/6/1954)
102° Bristol, TN (ties same on 7/28/1952-this site now known as `Tri-State Airport’)
109° Athens, GA. This is just 1° shy of the Georgia state record for June of 110° set at Warrenton in 1959.
Here is a great graphic via Capital Climate:

The U.S. surface temperature map from Unisys at 4 pm, June 29,2012, shows 100° temperatures stretching almost continuously from California eastward to the Carolinas.
NBC Meteorologist Bill Karins said on Friday , “We’ve never really seen a heat wave like this in the month of June.” Sadly, in a few decades this will just be considered a normal June (see below).

How hot is it? It is so hot that NBC Washington’s Chief Meteorologist, Doug Kammerer, explained on air “If we did not have global warming, we wouldn’t see this.”



Like a baseball player on steroids, our climate system is breaking records at an unnatural pace (see “March Came In Like A Lamb, Went Out Like A Globally Warmed Lion On Steroids Who Smashed 15,000 Heat Records“).
As Climate Central explains in its post, “Scorching June Heat Wave Puts 50 Million in U.S. on Alert”:

During the June 22-to-28 period, there were 2,132 warm temperature records set or tied in the U.S., compared to 486 cold temperature records. This includes 267 monthly warm temperature records, and 54 all-time warm temperature records.
For the year-to-date, warm temperature records have been outpacing cold temperature records by about 7-to-1.
In a long-term trend that demonstrates the effects of a warming climate, daily record-high temperatures have recently been outpacing daily record-lows by an average of 2-to-1, and this imbalance is expected to grow as the climate continues to warm. According to a 2009 study, if the climate were not warming, this ratio would be expected to be even. Other studies have shown that climate change increases the odds of extreme heat events and may make them warmer and longer lasting.
All-time records set Thursday included several in Kansas, where Norton Dam recorded a high of 118°F, beating the old record of 113°F set just a few days earlier. Dodge City, Kan., set a daily high temperature record with a mark of 108°F. That came one day after that town recorded its all-time highest temperature of 112°F, breaking the old record of 110°F, which had been recorded just two days earlier, on June 26.
Since the science of attributing extreme events to global warming is still emerging, scientists still disagree to what extent a specific event like this heat wave is driven by global warming. But two of the leading experts explain at RealClimate why even small shifts in average temperature mean “the probability for ‘outlandish’ heat records increases greatly due to global warming.” Furthermore, “the more outlandish a record is, the more would we suspect that non-linear feedbacks are at play – which could increase their likelihood even more.”

Here’s a Stanford release for Climatic Change study (PDF here) I wrote about last year:

Stanford climate scientists forecast permanently hotter summers

The tropics and much of the Northern Hemisphere are likely to experience an irreversible rise in summer temperatures within the next 20 to 60 years if atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continue to increase….
“According to our projections, large areas of the globe are likely to warm up so quickly that, by the middle of this century, even the coolest summers will be hotter than the hottest summers of the past 50 years,” said the study’s lead author, Noah Diffenbaugh, The study, based on observations and models, finds that most major countries, including the United States, are “likely to face unprecedented climate stresses even with the relatively moderate warming expected over the next half-century.”
I interviewed Diffenbaugh for my book, Hell and High Water, and in 2008 wrote about his earlier work in a post titled, “When can we expect very high surface temperatures?

Bottom line: By century’s end, extreme temperatures of up to 122°F would threaten most of the central, southern, and western U.S. Even worse, Houston and Washington, DC could experience temperatures exceeding 98°F for some 60 days a year. And that’s not even the worst case, since it’s “only” based on the A2 scenario, 850 ppm.

The peak temperature analysis comes from a Geophysical Research Letters paper that focused on the annual-maximum “once-in-a-century” temperature. The key scientific point is that “the extremes rise faster than the means in a warming climate.”

The definitive NOAA-led U.S. climate impact report from 2010 warns of scorching 9 to 11°F warming over most of inland U.S. by 2090 with Kansas above 90°F some 120 days a year with 850 ppm.  By 2090, it’ll be above 90°F some 120 days a year in Kansas — more than the entire summer. Much of Florida and Texas will exceed 90°F half the days of the year.  These won’t be called heat waves anymore.  It’ll just be the “normal” climate.

And remember, high heat means dry areas become drier and humid areas become intolerable.

On our current emissions path, we may well exceed the A2 scenario and hit A1FI, 1000 ppm (see here).  In a 2010 presentation, Climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe has a figure of what the A1FI would mean:

Mother Nature is just warming up.
The time to act is yesterday.
Related Post:

New Dust Bowl? Extreme heat, drought leave parched fields, desperate farmers in Midwest


CommonDreams.org



Extreme heat, drought leave parched fields, desperate farmers in Midwest

- Common Dreams staff 
As record temperatures and drought leave corn fields parched in the Midwest, some farmers fear a new Dust Bowl is lurking, the New York Times reports.

DSC_1460 
Withering corn in Boone County, Mo., Monday, June 25, 2012. (photo: Malory Ensor/KOMU)

The Times notes that that acreage of corn planted this year was the highest in 75 years, and warm spring temperatures had allowed earlier planting and had risen farmers' hopes of high returns.

But Illinois farmer Don Duvall told the Times, “It all quickly went from ideal to tragic.”

The ongoing heat and lack of rainfall have left corn crops in some midwestern states far smaller than usual for this time of year, if not clinging to life.  And with the pollination time for the crop soon approaching, the viability of much of the corn to survive is chancy, as stressed crops may not pollinate.

The Times ends with an eerie image of a farmer picking up his soil which turns to "a dusty powder."

The Dust Bowl that struck the Plains in the 1930s as a result of heat, drought and ecologically devastating agricultural practices left highly eroded lands and hundreds of thousands of people displaced. With the ongoing extreme temperatures as well as a lack of widespread agroecological approaches, a new dust bowl may indeed be upon us.

 
Dust storm approaching Stratford, Texas on April 18, 1935. (photo: NOAA George E. Marsh Album)
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Stinging Dust & Forgotten Lives: The Dust Bowl
Copyright 2008 by Cameron Douglas Craig and Kevin Harker Jeanes