Global Warming Superstorm Sandy May Cost $50 Billion in Total Losses; New York City, New Jersey Sustain Brunt of Damages

(New York City during Sandy. Image credit: here.)

Damage estimates from the storm that global warming made far, far worse just keeps piling up. According to reports from IHS Global Insight and the Associated Press, Sandy will likely result in about $20 billion in property damages and another $10-$30 billion dollars in lost business.

At its peak Sandy caused over 8 million people to lose power across the Northeast and Mid-West. The massive storm ruined communities up and down the New Jersey coastline and wrecked whole neighborhoods on Long Island. If total losses reach or exceed $50 billion dollars, then Sandy will be ranked among the top four most costly hurricanes in US history.

Sandy’s climate impact adds to that of the recent droughts, heat waves, fires, the derecho and other extreme weather made far worse by global warming this year. Total damages from climate change related events for 2012 will likely exceed $150 billion dollars. This year was already ranked the most extreme weather year on record by the National Climate Data Center. Now, a top-five hurricane is adding to 2012’s already record extremity.

Here’s an excellent video putting the crisis, its costs, and its potentials for the future in context:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/31/chris-matthews-climate-change-challengers-pigs_n_2048861.html

“Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” Romney Attacks GM in Final Days of Election; GM Defends Record From Romney Lies, Calls Them ‘Fantasy’

Before we get into the new morass of mud and muck dredged up by the Romney campaign and slung at the US auto industry, it’s important to establish a few facts. This effort is useful as the Romney campaign, with its almost daily distortions and flip-flops, has been the most fact-free bid for the Presidency of any election cycle in modern memory. Romney’s most recent smear campaign, waged against the US auto industry and, by extension, American workers, is just the newest in a daily stream of distortions, gimmicks, smears, and attempts to terrorize the US electorate.

First, in an op-ed to the New York Times entitled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” Mitt Romney, in his opening sentence, stated:

IF General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.

Coming into office and facing the worst economic decline since the Great Depression left behind by the Bush Administration, President Obama decided to act to save over 2 million American jobs by directly supporting the auto industry bailout. Though far less expensive than the TARP program to bail out the US financial sector, the auto bailout provided much more direct support to the US middle class by ensuring that auto industry and supply chain jobs were not lost and that key US industries did not collapse. Conservatives of every stripe immediately howled that such government intervention would result in an US auto industry ‘doomsday.’ And Mitt Romney added his voice to those claiming US automakers would fail if they accepted government assistance during the worst of times.

As the years passed, Mitt Romney and conservatives have been proven drastically wrong. The US auto industry has recovered. GM is again the number 1 seller of automobiles in the world. And the industry is in the process of adding US jobs and repatriating jobs from overseas. This dramatic success belies republican and Romney drama to the contrary. It shows that the leadership role Obama took to save the US auto industry is now beginning to pay off. And, most glaringly, it shows the deep, systemic, failure of the current, rigid republican economic ideology.

Meanwhile, the corporation Romney built — Bain Capital — is now preparing to dismantle a factory that manufactures sensors for the auto industry in Freeport Illinois and ship their jobs overseas. Nearly 200 workers at the Sensata factory which Bain bought-out will find their jobs outsourced to China before the end of this year. This is a result of the outsourcing and off-shoring legacy that Romney pioneered while head of Bain Capital. (See more about Sensata here.)

This dual narrative of Obama’s leadership and success combined with Romney still profiting from liquidating US factories and sending the jobs overseas has had devastating effect for Romney in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan who know all too well how damaging outsourcing and off-shoring have been to their economies. Loss of critical factories like the one at Sensata has resulted in the gutting of entire communities. Whole neighborhoods in Detroit are now ghost towns as a result of the kind of outsourcing Mitt Romney pioneered at Bain Capital. Some of these lost jobs may never come back, captured by 99 cent an hour Chinese workers and a country that is unwilling to establish laws to protect its own people from the abuses of vulture capitalists like Romney. China may as well have foisted a sign emblazoned ‘Robber Barons R’ Us.’ And, Romney, among many others, came flocking to exploit the slave wage labor there by dismantling US factories and sending them overseas.

Perhaps too late, Romney has realized how damaging these methods of employing equities firms and off-shoring practices to accumulate personal profit have become. But the realization appears to have now stuck with a vengeance. And, in typical Romney fashion, Romney is now waging a media campaign against the very business Obama was so successful in saving and that, since late 2009, has directly added thousands of US jobs.

The Romney campaign is now running a malicious and false advertisement claiming that Jeep plans to ship US jobs overseas to China. The ad comes as Jeep revealed plans to build two manufacturing plants in China over the coming years. But, contrary to Romney’s false assertion, Jeep’s China expansion is not coming at the cost of any US manufacturing. Unlike Romney’s Sensata, no Jeep facilities are being shut down. No workers are being forced to train their Chinese replacements, as Romney’s Bain is forcing Sensata workers to do so. In fact, Jeep and GM have pledged to take profits from the Chinese operation and use it to create more jobs in the US. It’s almost the exact reverse of the Romney model. Call it in-sourcing, or re-sourcing, or repatriating, or even re-shoring. But it’s definitely not the Romney/Bain model for outsourcing and off-shoring.

Since late 2009, Jeep alone has added over 4600 US jobs, showing, in fact, that Romney’s claims are patently false.

GM was quick to defend its record from Romney’s false attacks:

“We’ve clearly entered some parallel universe during these last few days,” GM spokesman Greg Martin said. “No amount of campaign politics at its cynical worst will diminish our record of creating jobs in the U.S. and repatriating profits back to this country.”

Crysler CEO Sergio Marchionne in an email to employees refuted Romney’s claims by simply laying out the facts:

“Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China,” Marchionne stated in the e-mail. “The numbers tell the story,” followed by specific investments Chrysler has made in Detroit, Toledo and Belvidere, Ill. “Those include more than $1.7 billion to produce the successor of the Jeep Liberty and hire about 1,100 workers on a second shift by 2013.”

The additional 1100 jobs are on top of the 4600 jobs Jeep has already added. In contrast, Romney’s Bain will, in the next couple months, send another 200 jobs to China. So the contrast couldn’t be more stark.

And the media is starting to pick up on Romney’s egregious assault of lies against the US auto industry and US workers. The Atlanta Journal Constitution recently called the Romney advertisements attacking the auto industry ‘economic terrorism.’ The Detroit Free Press has published this in-depth piece exposing Romney’s false claims. The conservative-leaning US News and World Report posted an analysis showing how the US auto expansion in China was helping to support jobs expansion at home. And FactCheck.org labeled Romney’s recent advertising blitz “flat wrong” stating:

“It’s misleading to suggest that Chrysler’s decision to expand into China will cost U.S. jobs — especially after the company has said it would have no impact on its U.S. operations.”

The fact-checking website noted a report from Bloomberg that Chrysler was considering “adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China.” Meanwhile Chrysler, in a dramatic refutation of Romney’s doomsday prediction for the US auto industry, just reported a third quarter profit of $381 million, up 80 percent from a year ago.

It seems likely that the Romney misinformation machine may have just bitten off more than it can chew. Considering the wide-ranging backlash taking shape from both the US auto industry and the broader media, it appears that Romney’s false attacks against GM and Jeep are about to erupt in his face. The US auto industry is firmly on its path to recovery, with each new report showing positive results. Further, the US auto industry is in the process of adding thousands of jobs here in America. Both of these points prove Romney dramatically wrong. Wrong in his ‘Let Detroit go Bankrupt’ op-ed and wrong now. Finally, these attacks only serve to call attention to Romney’s own record of sending US jobs overseas, the most recent example of which is Sensata.

Links:

http://www.freep.com/article/20121031/NEWS15/310310091/GM-and-Chrysler-Romney-is-wrong

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/19/opinion/19romney.html?_r=0

http://blogs.ajc.com/jay-bookman-blog/2012/10/31/gm-on-romney-campaign-politics-at-its-cynical-worst/

http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/rick-newman/2012/10/31/memo-to-mitt-romney-gms-success-in-china-is-good-for-america

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-34222_162-57542993/gm-like-chrysler-refutes-romneys-auto-industry-ad/

http://www.politico.com/blogs/burns-haberman/2012/10/gm-aide-romney-ads-part-of-parallel-universe-147753.html

http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2012/10/30/GM-Gap-between-Romney-ad-and-reality/UPI-56761351637557/

Hurricane Sandy, The Storm that Climate Change Wrought; How Global Warming Made Sandy Far, Far Worse

(Earth. See that massive swirl of clouds with arms stretching up into the Arctic and back across the Atlantic Ocean? Yes, that’s Sandy.)

This year was already the worst extreme weather year ever recorded. Fires, heatwaves, a monster Derecho and a devastating drought together would have made 2012 one for the record books. The one saving grace, it seemed, was that hurricane season hadn’t significantly added to an already severe problem. That was before Hurricane Sandy slammed into the US Northeast causing what many think will be in the range of 10-20 billion dollars in damage. If total damage estimates exceed 20 billion, Sandy will be one of the five most costly hurricanes in US history.

Sandy was nothing if not unprecedented. Never has the Northeast seen this kind of storm so late in the season. Never has New York and New Jersey been subject to such a high level of ocean flooding over such a broad area. According to CNN’s chief meteorologist: “There’s no one that’s not 300 years old that has seen anything like this.” That’s just a finer way of saying that there is no record for a storm like Sandy ever occurring in this region of the country. And, in many cases, there’s no record for a storm like Sandy occurring period.

What made Sandy so unique? In two words: climate change. We’ve seen northeastern Atlantic Ocean storms where powerful troughs combine with hurricanes in ways that create a much stronger storm. The last time such a thing happened was during the 1991 ‘Perfect Storm.’ But that storm formed over the open waters of the Atlantic and only caused damage as it brushed New England with the powerful squall lines and heavy surf it cast off. In the case of Sandy, the Perfect Storm came ashore far further south and west than is usually possible.

Sandy’s Global Warming Ingredients

Since 1991, atmospheric changes and alterations to the Earth’s physical characteristics have been taking place that make storms like Sandy more and more possible. These ‘ingredients’ include increasing ocean temperatures, changes in the jet stream, and the receding boundary of Arctic Sea Ice.

To understand how these changes made it possible for a storm like Sandy to have such a devastating effect on the US Northeast and Mid-Atlantic so late in the season, it helps to follow the life of the storm that became Sandy…

Like so many other hurricanes, Sandy was born of the tropical Atlantic. She started as a pulse of thunderous rain storms swirling off the coast of Africa. This tropical wave slowly gathered energy from the hot tropical Atlantic as she moved west, gradually twisting into the classic coma shape as she entered the central Caribbean.

(GOES weather satellite Image of Sandy from October 22. Sandy is already large for a tropical system. But Sandy will soon grow even larger by combining with other storms to the north.)

Ocean heat content for the South Atlantic and Caribbean was abnormally high this year. Most of this added heat content came from human caused global warming. In many regions, temperatures were 2-3 degrees above average. This meant that, for a storm like Sandy, these waters were about as warm as they would have been two to three weeks earlier during a typical season of the 20th century. This added energy increased the likelihood that the storm would form in the first place. It also gave the storm more capacity to strengthen even in an environment of increased wind shear.

As Sandy tracked northward, she plowed through Jamaica and hopped over the eastern tip of Cuba. Maintaining significant strength as a category two storm, Sandy grew to a large size, boasting a tropical storm wind field in excess of five hundred miles in diameter. Hovering off the coast of Florida, Sandy was about to enter the second stage of her development.

Two systems to the north would play key roles in Sandy’s growth and path. Both were products of new ‘blocking patterns’ that have emerged as regular weather events during the past decade. ‘Blocking patterns’ occur when the jet stream makes deep swoops down from the Arctic and into the mid and lower latitudes. These swoops make giant wave-like patterns in the jet stream. They also create a huge amount of atmospheric inertia. The result is that weather patterns tend to be more persistent. In the under-belly of a blocking pattern, one can expect abnormally hot and dry conditions to persist over long periods of time. In the frontal down-slope of the blocking pattern, one can expect abnormally cool, wet, and stormy conditions. The peaks of these blocking patterns tap the tropics and the troughs tap the Arctic.

According to Dr. Jennifer Francis, these blocking patterns have emerged as a result of sea ice loss in the Arctic. The receding edge of the sea ice pulls air northward changing the shape of the jet stream from that of a rippling halo to that of a circle of sine waves.

The new blocking pattern that had established itself over the central US allowed a powerful cold front to sweep southward, both lending energy to Sandy via strong temperature and pressure gradients and steering Sandy first northward, then pulling her in toward the Mid-Atlantic coast. A second aspect of the blocking pattern emerged in the form of a new high pressure system that has tended to form recently over Greenland. This particular high pressure system blocked the path of Sandy northeastward, shoving Sandy back up against the frontal trough that ended up lending her so much strength.

(A visible satellite shot of Sandy beginning to combine with a powerful Arctic cold front. The massive trough of cold air is outlined in blue. Sandy is in the red circle. To the northeast is a blocking high backing in over Newfoundland. Note the extraordinary size of the combined trough and Sandy.)

As Sandy began to touch the trough’s strong, cooler winds, her tropical storm wind field spread out, eventually reaching 900 miles in diameter. In addition, Sandy found herself cloaked in the trough’s rain shield. This shield helped to prevent the worst effects of wind shear which, at times, was powerful enough to rip a normal storm apart.

Sandy’s encounter with the Arctic-born cold-air trough caused her to explode in size and as she moved north, she pummeled the Outer Banks of North Carolina and Coastal Virginia from 300 miles off shore. What strength she lost at her core was multiplied manifold in the expanding reach of her effect. North Carolina and Virginia coasts experienced impacts usually reserved for those in the direct path of a Hurricane — powerful winds, heavy rains, and storm surge flooding. Roads were washed out, dunes were breached, homes were flooded. Water rises exceeded seven feet in some places.

(Sandy taps hotter than normal Atlantic Ocean water in final rush to the coast. At this point, Sandy is the largest tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean.)

Yet Sandy was still hundreds of miles away, biding her time for the final rush to shore. And in this critical time period, global warming again played its hand. Sandy was now moving parallel to the Virginia coast. In normal years, water temperatures would begin to drop off here, sucking energy from the storm. This year, though, water temperatures had heated to 5 degrees Fahrenheit above normal through, the year after year, heat trapping effects of human emitted greenhouse gasses. Sandy drank deep from this added heat and, as the Arctic-born trough began to pull Sandy in to shore, she intensified.

Maximum sustained winds reached 90 mph, tropical storm force wind diameter reached 1000 miles, hurricane force wind diameter reached 200 miles, and the pressure fell to an unprecedented 940 millibars. Sandy was now a storm for the record books. A storm that was the largest tropical cyclone ever to form in the Atlantic. A storm never seen before in this region of the world. A storm powerful enough to push ocean water nearly a mile inland up and down the Jersey coast. A storm mighty enough to create a nearly 14 foot water rise in New York City.

Without climate change, the storm may not have formed in the first place, the storm probably wouldn’t have reached category 2 strength or grown to such a large size, the storm would have not combined with such a powerful trough sweeping so far south, the storm would have not been blocked from going out to sea by the new Greenland/Newfoundland high pressure, the storm would not have strengthened so far north over abnormally hot waters, and the storm would have not been pulled into the coastline by the powerful blocking pattern caused by melting sea ice.

Sandy was, in all ways, the storm that climate change wrought. And since the pattern is now established for this kind of storm to happen now, it is likely that this kind of ‘300 year storm’ will happen again. Almost certainly with growing force and almost certainly within the next decade or two.

I’ll leave you with the following quote from Time Magazine:

“Perhaps, if you are in your 60s or 70s or 80s, Sandy’s destructive forces are a once in your lifetime event. But younger generations—those of us in our fifties, and our children—will likely be looking at flooded coastal cities, devastated infrastructure, blownout power, and storm surges for the rest of our lives.”

(Graffiti scrawled on the side of a house flooded by Sandy. Image credit: here.)

Links:

http://science.time.com/2012/10/30/climate-change-and-sandy-why-we-need-to-prepare-for-a-warmer-world/

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/10/watching-hurricane-sandy-ignoring-climate-change.html

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2012/10/30/did-climate-change-cause-hurricane-sandy/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sunita-narain/sandy-climate-change_b_2044339.html

Hurricane Sandy’s Storm Surge Brings Ocean Into Atlantic City, Ocean City, Point Pleasant, Jersey Coast

(Sandy’s powerful swell surges into Atlantic City. Image credit: here.)

Yesterday, a hurricane that had combined with a nor’easter and then tapped into both the powerful energies of an over-heated Atlantic Ocean and cold Arctic air seeping out through regions once encased in sea ice vented its fury on the New Jersey coastline. All up and down the Jersey Shore, community after community faced a historic storm surge born of a storm made far worse by climate change. A storm whose effects were the worst seen in this region of the US East Coast in 300 years.

Atlantic City seemed to bear the brunt of Sandy’s wrath. As early as Monday morning, the city’s coastal defenses were breached, its sea wall overwhelmed, its boardwalk washed away and its streets and homes subject to the pounding force and rush of storm waves. Residents of the barrier island community found themselves stranded as the rising tide cut off access to their community. Many fled to community storm shelters only to find the rising tide flooding these structures as well. Homes were ripped off their foundations and floated down the street or were swept into the raging Atlantic. At one point, a National Guard unit made a valiant effort to save some of those stranded by the storm. The effort was partly successful, but resulted in the loss and flooding of a number of pieces of military equipment. Overnight, the storm worsened, preventing any access to the storm-ravaged town and forcing its terrified residents to spend a water logged and fearful night alone and without public aid.

Just to the south of Atlantic City, Ocean City also faced Sandy’s terrible wrath. A seven foot water rise inundated the town and flooded its streets. As the water rose, 231 residents made emergency calls for help after refusing to heed evacuation orders. Though 50 persons were moved to escape the raging seas, miraculously no lives were lost. Almost as an after-thought Sandy parted with a 100 foot section of the Ocean City Pier.

Further north along the coast, Point Pleasant waged a valiant battle against rising seas all throughout the day. High waves and pressing tides battered the city’s beleaguered dune line. Finally, as the storm rushed in with the astronomical high tide, the dunes gave way and torrents of water rushed into the town’s streets. The city’s boardwalk was torn to shreds as boats were ripped from their moorings to float into the city where they were finally laid to rest on streets, lawns, or railroad tracks. In some places, water rushed nearly a mile inland. One home, three quarters of a mile from the shore, flooded with more than a foot of ocean water in the first floor driven in by Sandy and the 8 PM high tide.

“I kept asking him [my husband], ‘Should we go on the roof?’ I was really scared,” said Rosemary, as their house flooded. “The force and the speed that the water was pouring down and pouring over, it was scary. It rose so fast. It just kept coming and coming.”

In another part of town, firemen bravely faced the rising waters, slogging through the chest-deep flood to reach stranded residents.

The word New Jersey governor Chris Christie used to describe the wide-spread and far-ranging devastation all up and down the Jersey coast was “unthinkable.”

“The idea … that you see homes in the middle of Route 35 southbound and northbound is just unfathomable,” Christie told reporters at a morning briefing.

 

Links:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/weather/weather-blog/bs-md-oc-update-20121030,0,1291228.story

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/10/point_pleasant_beach_residents_1.html

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2012/10/30/new-jersey-chris-christie-jersey-shore/1668825/

Historic Hurricane Sandy Brings Fury, Flood and Fire to New York City, Breezy Point, Long Island

(Breezy Point, NY. Image credit here.)

A deadly and devastating storm, one that set records not seen in 300 years, dealt a terrible blow to New York’s coastal regions Monday.

The 940 millibar storm, the most intense for this region on record, pulled a 14 foot storm surge up Long Island Sound and into Naragansett Bay Monday evening. This intense pulse of water overwhelmed New York’s flood defenses, filling the great city’s subways, overwhelming the Battery area, and soaking New York City neighborhoods. Construction at the new World Trade Center site was inundated, underground subways; parking lots and shopping centers were flooded out.

Massive surges of water assaulted the US’s largest city from all sides. Naragansett, to the north spilled water into the city’s back side. Long Island Sound, to the south, funneled an amplifying pulse of water directly into the city’s heart. The massive storm surge rushed in through storm drains, sending water gushing up through sewers, fountaining out of man hole covers, until neighborhood after neighborhood looked out over flooded streets.

Above the city, the storm left the twisted wreckage of a crane dangling from a high rise apartment complex built for the affluent. Billionaires, who occupied the top four floors of the complex, were treated to a front row view of the wreckage — twisting and swaying in Sandy’s 90 mph winds. Transformer fires and electrical equipment explosions whelmed the night before leaving much of the city dark late Monday. Large sections of the city remained without power as first responders began to pick over the damage this morning.

(East Village, NY. Image credit here.)

Though New York City was assaulted by a host of troubles, much of Long Island and coastal New York also fell under the heavy blow of this monster storm. Storm surges left section after section of the coast assaulted by battering waves. In places, the dune lines or sea walls were breached, leaving communities vulnerable to the ravages of an angry sea.

Sandy’s fury inundated Breezy Point. The force of the storm was enough to flood first floors and foundations, ripping off debris and sloshing it together in a twisted, shambling mound of wreckage at the mercy of an angry tide. But the worst came in the form of an unexpected fire that leapt from house to house even as the flood waters swirled about. Fire fighters dragged hoses through the heaving water or piled into inflatable boats in a desperate attempt to combat the spreading inferno. NYPD personnel took to the water in scuba equipment to reach victims trapped in flooded, burning homes. As the water began to trickle out, homes burned to their foundations. In all, the fire claimed about a hundred structures. By sunrise, all that remained of a large swath of town was a pile of wet and smoldering debris. A scene that might remind one of last year’s Japan Tsunami or of Dante’s Inferno, depending on predilection.

Hurricane Sandy Intensifies as She Approaches Coast; Record Storm Surge Likely; Ocean City, Atlantic City NJ Under Water

At 943 mb lowest central pressure, Sandy will be the most powerful storm ever to make landfall in the Northeastern US. Described as a hurricane wrapped in a Nor’easter, the beating heart of this monster storm is now growing more powerful.

Sandy’s maximum winds have intensified to 90 mph, a rapid intensification from 75 mph just 12 hours ago. It is rapidly approaching the New Jersey shore and will likely make landfall there between 8 and 11 PM this evening. Water temperatures in the region are 5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal and a powerful dip in the jet stream is lending energy to this immensely powerful storm.

It is difficult to underestimate the potential coastal effects of this storm, particularly to the right of the center as it comes ashore. First, the storm is coming in at or near the time of high tide, an abnormally high tide amplified by the moon. So storm surges of 4-11 feet or more will pile up on top of an abnormally high tide of 2-4 feet above mean low water. In addition, water rises of around 4 feet or more are already being recorded along the coast. This water rise is being pushed against the coast by the wind and by the force of the approaching storm. The result is that many places may see water rises of 10 feet or more above normal. Given the intensity of this storm and the fact that it is continuing to intensify as it approaches the coast, these values may be underestimated.

Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York City, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts may all experience the highest water rise values ever seen. Already, significant flooding has occurred along the Outer Banks and into the Hampton Roads area. Below is a picture of Chicks, a popular VA Beach restaurant being flooded out by Sandy.

After two days of battering, scenes like these have become commonplace in North Carolina and Virginia Beach. But what has happened there is just a prelude to what will likely unfold over the next few hours as Sandy comes ashore.

UPDATE

Reports are coming in that Atlantic City New Jersey is now under water (11:35 Oct 29).

UPDATE:

Some locations in New Jersey are reporting 9 feet water rises. Record rise for the region are 10 feet. The below image shows Ocean City flooding.

UPDATE:

Reports are coming in that the Point Pleasant, NJ dunes have been breached and sea water is rushing through city streets like a river (7:53 PM).

UPDATE:

Some locations in New York City are reporting storm surge flooding above 9 feet (7:53 PM).

Links:

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/

Human CO2 Emissions Continue to Play Russian Roulette with Clathrate Gun: New Study Shows East Coast Methane Hydrates Destabilizing

According to a new study published in the journal Nature, increasing ocean temperatures combined with changes in the structure of the Gulf Stream are causing the rapid destabilization of large amounts of methane off the US East Coast. What the study shows is that the Gulf Stream is getting warmer due to human-caused global warming and that the warmth is pushing deeper and deeper into the ocean. As the warmer waters encounter the Continental Shelf they begin to affect massive frozen reserves of methane called methane hydrates or clathrates on the sea bed.

Clathrates are a frozen combination of methane and water. The substance is very unstable and, once disturbed, can rapidly transition from its frozen state to methane gas. Hundreds of gigatons of methane lie trapped in clathrate in the region affected by the Gulf Stream. If even a fraction of these clathrates were to destabilize, it could result in a powerful amplifying feedback to global warming, ocean and atmospheric anoxia (oxygen loss) and worse.

The study postulates that ocean warming of 5 degrees Celsius may have caused a massive release of methane about 50 million years ago resulting in a large release of methane that caused both wide-spread ocean acidification and a major increase of about 5-7 degrees Celsius in world temperatures. The sea bed in the region in question is  shown to have warmed by about 8 degrees Celsius since the last ice age with rapid warming occurring since the advent of human greenhouse gas emissions.

The study found than an area of 10,000 square kilometers off the East Coast showed rapidly destabilizing clathrates. The total volume at immediate risk of destabilization was 2.5 gigatons. Because methane is many times as potent as carbon dioxide, a single release of methane of the size estimated would triple or quadruple the amount of heat forcing produced by human greenhouse gas emissions in one year. Futhermore, this study focused only on the US East Coast as a potential methane source. Other studies have found large methane releases coming from the Alaskan Continental Shelf, the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, and other regions of the Arctic. This was the first major mid-latitude study and it is also likely that vulnerable methane deposits exist in other continental shelf zones around the world.

In total, the East Coast methane store of about 300-500 gigatons of methane clathrate adds to another 1000-1400 gigatons of Arctic clathrate, 1000+ gigatons of methane stored in permafrost and at least 100 gigatons of methane stored beneath Antarctica. This total contains more carbon than all the world’s remaining conventional fossil fuels and has a very large potential to greatly enhance human-caused warming. Furthermore, unknown amounts of methane hydrate lie in wait in other world ocean regions.

Continued human CO2 emission creates an added forcing that is likely to increase the risk of a large methane release from frozen permafrost and from clathrates. It has been hypothesized that large releases of this kind caused a major temperature spike and mass extinction in the ocean about 50 million years ago. A larger release of methane about 250 million years ago called the Permian extinction event is thought to have caused a major die off of 96 percent of ocean species.

Russian Arctic researcher Shakhova has estimated that it is possible for as much as 50 gigatons of Arctic methane to be released in single large events called pulses. Such large events, if they were to occur, would have terrible regional, local, global and oceanic impacts. Large regions of the ocean would be stripped of oxygen. The local atmosphere, as well, would be at risk of becoming anoxic. Areas where atmospheric concentration of methane exceeded 5% (5000 ppm) would be at risk of severe firestorms.

But even a more gradual release of the methane would be devastating, causing an amplifying feedback to human CO2 emission that could raise world temperatures by as much as 18 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century. The difference between Shakhova’s large pulse and the more gradual release expected by other scientists is the difference between a flash fire or a slow bake. But the end result is the same — a world that really isn’t livable for human beings or for many other creatures either.

The Recent changes to the Gulf Stream causing widespread gas hydrate destabilization study shows that the Arctic Ocean is no longer the only region of concern for rapid methane release due to human climate forcings. Now, the Eastern Continental Shelf of the United States is shown to contain a substantial methane reserve and that 2.5 gigatons of this methane is undergoing rapid destabilization. And all of these studies, when taken into context show that continued human greenhouse gas emission is a severe and unconscionable risk. Each year, as more of these gasses enter the atmosphere, there is more and more risk of a catastrophic methane release event. Each year, as the heat builds up, we are at greater risk of entering an age when the heat content of the atmosphere is so great that large methane releases continue to occur for centuries and may result in a world that is devastated and unlivable for humans.

So for each year that we continue to emit CO2 we continue to play a game of Russian Roulette with the largest weapon on the planet — the Clathrate Gun. We know the bullet is in the chamber. We have found evidence for it in the Arctic, the Antarctic and now just off the US East Coast. But we don’t quite know whether this year’s trigger pull of another 30+ gigatons of human CO2 emission will spark a series of unstoppable and terrible events. Or if it will be next year. Or the year after.

Only one thing is certain. If we pull the trigger enough, that terrible gun is bound to go off. The best course of action is to stop pulling the CO2 trigger. To put the gun down and step away from the burning of fossil fuels which have become so very dangerous.

Links:

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v490/n7421/full/nature11528.html?WT.ec_id=NATURE-20121025

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clathrate_gun_hypothesis

https://robertscribbler.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/arctic-sea-ice-melt-methane-release-shows-amplifying-feedbacks-from-human-caused-climate-change/

http://www.skepticalscience.com/Wakening_the_Kraken.html

New US Wind and Solar Installations Beat Out Natural Gas, Coal

If you listened to the right wing media, you’d think that wind and solar energy had died a loud and ignominious death. Not true according to the latest reports from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. New installation reports show that rumor of the death of wind and solar energy is simply misinformation likely spread by journals and news sources aligned with oil, coal, and gas special interest groups which seek to retain energy market dominance.

Total US wind and solar installations through September of 2012 were 5 gigawatts. In contrast, total installed new natural gas capacity was 4.5 gigawatts and total new installed coal capacity was 2.2 gigawatts. This is very good news and shows enormous progress on both the climate and energy front for the US. However, for the US to begin to make an appreciable dent in carbon emissions, new wind and solar installations will have to continue to pick up. In total more than 8 times the current installed capacity for wind and solar are needed within the next 10-20 years. So the pace of new installation will also have to increase.

Below is a table from the FERC report:

Links:

http://www.ferc.gov/legal/staff-reports/sep-2012-energy-infrastructure.pdf

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/10/24/1078751/wind-and-solar-make-up-100-percent-of-us-electricity-capacity-in-september/

Global Warming Brings Hell in the Heartland, High Water on the East Coast

Joe Romm in his seminal book on climate change ‘Hell and High Water‘ described how human caused global warming was likely to ravage both the US and the world, if left unchecked. It is an alarming revelation of the immediate problem posed by climate change that shows many of the effects and impacts resulting from greenhouse gas emissions are far more current than initially thought. These impacts occur within the span of our generation, not just as a nasty form of generational sabotage foisted on our children and grandchildren.

This year, as climate scientists around the world acknowledged the fact that global warming was having a direct impact on weather, causing it to worsen, the first strong effects of human caused climate change began to take shape. These first outliers of ‘Hell and High Water’ climate change are now being visited upon the United States. Off the East Coast, as described in a previous blog, it appears that a storm to rival the Perfect Storm of 1991 may well be forming. Meanwhile a severe drought that began this Spring continues to ravage the heartland.

Currently, over 62 percent of the United States’ landmass continues to struggle under the assaults of a historic drought. By mid-October of any normal year you would have expected dryness and drought to have slackened its grip on our country. But this year the drought that peaked at 65% of the total continental landmass has barely even paused. Enormous swaths of the country remain under drought with the most extreme drought burning a hole directly in the country’s center.

Overall, extreme conditions have mainly shifted north and west. But the coverage and impact of drought areas remains substantial. According to this week’s Drought Monitor:

Significant precipitation was limited to the eastern Dakotas, while the High Plains’ hard red winter wheat belt received little or no rain.  As a result, soil moisture shortages continued to limit wheat emergence and development across the northwestern half of the Plains.  In addition, mid-week wind gusts locally in excess of 70 mph raised dust and temporarily closed major roadways across parts of the Plains.

Overall, the risk to the nation’s wheat harvest remains high with more than 60% of the nation’s wheat under threat. That said, wheat is a much hardier crop than corn and may well show less impact from the ongoing drought. However, stakes remain high as the US is a major wheat exporter and UN food analysts are saying the world may enter a food crisis if any more climate-driven shortages crop up.

Russian and Ukraine wheat output is at a nine year low. EU stockpiles are at a 14 year low. Argentina, the world’s sixth largest wheat exporter, has experienced a 16 percent fall in production. Though US wheat prices are running $20 per ton higher than the world average, the world may turn to the US as EU and South American wheat stocks set aside for export begin to run low. In such an event, any damage to the US wheat harvest would cause serious difficulties for importing countries like Egypt and other Middle Eastern and African nations reliant on world trade to supplement their people’s nutritional requirements.

Persistent US drought could pose a problem for next year’s crops as well. Back to back years like 2012 would result in severe consequences for both the US and the community of nations reliant on international trade to prevent hunger.

Links:

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-10-24/france-tops-u-dot-s-dot-wheat-with-premium-seen-at-record-commodities

Hurricane Sandy + Winter Storm + Climate Change = Perfect Storm For Election Day?

“We don’t have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting,” ~NOAA

*      *      *       *       *        *       *       *

There’s a monster forming off the East Coast. It comes in the form of a late season hurricane, Sandy, the 19th of 20 storms so far this season. It comes in the form of an Atlantic Ocean abnormally hot for this time of year, hot enough to fuel this unseasonably powerful storm. And it comes in the form of a second strong storm, this one born of the Arctic, sweeping down from the north.

The concern? That these three weather phenomena — an Atlantic Ocean heated 5 degrees above average by human caused global warming, a powerful hurricane fueled by that same warming, and a winter storm intensified by growing extremes in temperature differences could all combine into a storm worse than the so-called ‘Perfect Storm’ that harried the Northeast and ravaged shipping lanes back in 1991.

The timing of the possible conjunction of these storm occurs this weekend and extends into the middle of next week. Uncomfortably close to election day. Which begs the question — was it so wise for Mitt Romney and Republicans to deny climate change? And was it a good choice for Obama to decide not to publicly press the issue during the debates? Yes, the oil companies are rich and powerful and spend lots of money in an all-too-human attempt to morph public opinion to their ‘special,’ and increasingly damaging, interests. But what about Mother Nature? What about her say in all this heat-causing carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere? Never a good bet to ignore her.

As Brad Johnson over at ClimateSilence.org noted: “Sandy is yet another reminder that the candidates should stop competing over who can poison the weather faster with increased oil, gas and coal production.” Of course, Brad did fail to mention that under President Obama, alternative energy production has doubled, Obama set CAFE standards to increase to 55 mpg, and that he has been the strongest Presidential advocate yet for policies that reduce the impact of climate change. All that said, publicly competing over who would increase fossil fuel production the most certainly did not send the right message.

And the forecast is for something very close to Brad’s version of ‘poisoned weather.’

Here is the current satellite view of Sandy. It shows a massive storm currently located over the southern Bahamas. Its maximum sustained winds are now 105 miles per hour and it is strengthening over the hot waters of the Gulf Stream. Sandy is powerful enough to lash central Florida with rain bands and gusty winds from more than 400 miles away. If you look at the massive and extensive structure of Sandy, you will see that its feeder bands stretch as far south as South America and about 800 miles northeast into the Atlantic.

This is a massive, massive storm. And it is poised to combine with a powerful winter storm sweeping down from Canada and grow even larger. The merging of these storms is expected to inject energy into Sandy, spreading out its tropical storm wind field over a radius of 300 miles. This is expected to push a powerful storm surge over the mid Atlantic and Northeast coastlines starting this weekend and extending into mid-week. This event coincides with full moon high tides and, according to Jeff Masters over at Weather Underground, could be a 1 billion dollar storm.

Somewhat troubling is the fact that the most reliable models are predicting Sandy could make landfall in Delaware with a 940 mb central pressure. This is an extraordinarily low pressure for a storm so far north. Jeff Masters, however, doesn’t believe that particular prediction will bear out. He still expects an immensely powerful storm, just not quite that powerful. Comparisons have been made between this storm and the ‘Perfect Storm’ of 1991. That said, this particular storm combination may be even stronger than the one that formed in 1991. Furthermore, it is moving along a path that makes it much more likely to directly impact the US East Coast.

So the Perfect Storm appears to have been just a prelude to increasingly dangerous weather, growing worse and worse as more and more greenhouse gasses are pumped out.

Links:

http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/show.html

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/refresh/graphics_at3+shtml/235313.shtml?tswind120#contents

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/25/hurricane-sandy-new-york-delaware_n_2013788.html

http://climatesilence.org/

Think Your Vote Doesn’t Count? Remember, Just 537 People Decided the 2000 Election. GOTV!

Just 537 people decided the 2000 Presidential election. 537. Imagine what a huge difference those votes made. Image how different the world would now be if 537 more people had voted.

Climate change may have been addressed. The Great Recession may have never happened. Laissez faire, Enron may have all been avoided.

Your vote counts. Don’t let anyone or anything — not a TV station or a newspaper or a person you may know — let you believe otherwise.

Democracy is important. Precious. Perhaps, it is the thing that is most vital about America — the fact that we all have a voice. The greatest and least among us are all equal come election day.

So if you are one of the meek, the oppressed, the down-trodden. Lift your voices and be heard! If you are one of the hopeful, those who believe that a better future can be achieved when we work together. Lift your voices and be heard! If you are one of the concerned, one of those who can see what is happening to our climate, who is dismayed at one political party’s complete and utter denial of the problem. Lift your voices and be heard! And if you are one of those under threat of losing your rights — immigrant, woman, worker. Lift your voices and be heard!

This is your chance to shine. This is your chance to make history and decide the course of our still great nation.

VOTE!

Romney Economic Policy Risks Simultaneous Deficit Explosion, Double Dip Recession

Though it has been difficult to pin down Romney’s economic policies in the public arena, they remain readily available via his campaign website. And what Romney proposes creates severe risk of economic decline as bad or worse than that resulting from Bush’s failed economic policies.

His signature economic policy is what he terms as a ‘20% across the board’ tax cut. Digging into the numbers we find that families making over a million dollars per year gain an additional 175,000 dollars or more in income. In addition, according to Bloomberg, Romney’s policies result in far less benefit for the upper middle class (about 1500 dollars), almost no benefit for the middle class, and an actual increase in taxes for the lower middle class and poor.

As an economic stimulus measure, this policy is extraordinarily weak. It gives additional money to the wealthy who have a noted tendency to hoard wealth or to send it overseas. The result is that very little of this tax cut is likely to be spent increasing economic activity in the US economy and is much more likely to be sitting somewhere in a globalized blind trust. Since the benefits to the middle class are relatively small, any additional spending by reduced taxes will likely be off set by the destabilizing effect of expanding deficits.

And the total deficit expansion under such a cut is huge. About 5 trillion dollars over the course of ten years.

So Romney’s signature tax cut provides little overall benefit to the US economy while it creates an inevitable deficit expansion.

Romney’s second signature policy is to increase military spending by indexing it to 4% of GDP. This would elevate defense spending to 900 Billion dollars per year and result in a 2 trillion dollar increase to the federal deficit, further hampering the US’s long term economic outlook. And while such an increase in defense spending may be somewhat stimulative, it is no-where near as stimulative as direct spending by government on economic programs that have direct benefit to the economy. Programs such as research and development or seed funding like that which helped to double US alternative energy production under Obama proved far more effective at creating sustained American jobs and industries independent of government spending. The military, on the other hand, will always be dependent on government spending as it is a non self-supportive enterprise.

But the real risk comes from both Romney’s and the Republican party’s tendency to cut spending and incentive programs that benefit the middle class. As governor, Romney cut taxes while radically increasing fees and penalties. The net effect of this policy was to reduce taxes on the wealthy while increasing expenses for the middle and lower classes. Romney has hinted through his numerous ‘closing loopholes’ statement that such a shifting of the tax burden to middle class homeowners may well be in the works. Such a policy would have a negative overall effect on economic growth. In addition, both Romney and Ryan have show a tendency to push for reducing government programs that help the middle class. Ending funding to Planned Parenthood would have a severe negative economic consequence for many women. Cutting social services funding would harm many working Americans. Cutting, voucherizing, or block granting Medicare would harm middle class families. Cutting food stamps would harm the already poor, especially the working poor, many of who live in red states. Cutting government overall would remove access to a pool of good-paying jobs. Lowering or abolishing the minimum wage would harm household income. Continuing to enable tax incentives for shipping jobs overseas would harm the middle class. Abolishing Obamacare would do severe harm to many American families by drastically increasing both their medical expenses and their risk of medical bankruptcy.

Enacting any or all of these ideologically driven programs would have a net negative stimulus effect on the US economy and the risk is that even as irresponsible Romney fiscal policy explodes the deficit, ideologically driven ‘anti-government’ policies targeting programs that help the middle class would result in both poor and middle class families spending less and deflating the US economy. The result would be a combined deficit explosion and double dip recession that could lead to Depression. A potential Romney depression to follow the Bush great recession.

That’s the risk of returning to trickle down, voodoo economics. Something we can avoid by re-electing the President who got us out of Bush’s mess in the first place.

Links:

http://www.economist.com/economist-asks/are-mitt-romneys-economic-policies-right-america

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/simon-jackman/house-effects-by-back-by-_b_2007907.html?utm_hp_ref=@pollster

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/24/paul-krugman-mitt-romney-recession_n_2008847.html?ref=topbar

Will W. Romney, P. Ryan Remove Women’s Reproductive Rights if Elected?

Major news media seems to have been utterly hypnotized by W. Romney’s endless vacillations and changed policy positions. But taking a step back from the enormous cloud of smoke currently being produced by the Romney campaign, we can look at clear signals via both his chosen staff and his past preferences to see which way key policy choices are likely to go.

The first, and most critical, issue is women’s reproductive rights. As a haven for leaders who are willing to let their religious beliefs transfer to laws governing women’s bodies, the US has had a very rocky history of women’s rights. Key reproductive freedoms like access to birth control and family planning services were only won during a brief period of renaissance during the 1960s and 1970s. The establishment of an abortion freedom via the Roe v. Wade decision put the capstone on women’s reproductive freedom in America and ushered in a world-wide age of expanded rights for women around the globe.

Even as these new freedoms were put in place, though, enemies of women’s rights gathered in a generations-long attempt to return America to the dark days of back alley abortions and to a time when certain forms of contraception were illegal. This backlash gained steam during the 1980s and continues to this day in the form of, likely, four conservative Supreme Court justices who are ideologically disposed to overturning Roe v. Wade. It also includes a massive influx of legislators who have fought vehemently in Congress to curtail women’s access to birth control, family planning, key health services, and to overturn abortion rights in even the most damaging and harmful cases.

In total, Republicans in the 112th Congress have voted 55 times to curtail women’s rights. This includes 17 votes to allow health insurance providers to discriminate against women, 11 votes to cut women’s access to preventive care (breast screenings etc), 10 votes to restrict access to abortion or roll back abortion rights, 7 votes to cut funding for women’s nutrition, 3 votes to block access to reproductive and maternal care services, 3 votes to undermine Medicare and Medicaid services to women, and 14 votes that undermine environmental laws protecting pregnant women from toxic substances (Source).

It is also worth noting that President Obama has indicated he will never acquiesce to the extreme anti-woman tendencies of the right wing and has threatened vetoes on any such legislation that crosses his desk.

These Republican anti-woman votes accounted for about 5% of all time spent by the 112th Congress. Among the leaders of this legislative war on women was none other than Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan. Ryan voted yes on almost every anti-woman bill submitted and has pushed for legislation making it illegal to perform an abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Ryan also pushed for a personhood bill that would make abortion even in the event of saving the mother’s life illegal. Ryan’s anti-woman votes parallel those of extremists Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock who have both said that even in cases of rape abortion should be illegal. Mourdock was recently quoted as saying that ‘God intended rape pregnancies’ (Source).

Riding in on this wave of Republican anti-women sentiment is Mitt Romney. Romney claimed as recently as a month ago that he would support legislation overturning Roe v. Wade. And his choice of running mate, Paul Ryan, is among the most anti-woman of a very anti-woman Republican House. Romney earlier noted that he would also overturn the Fair Pay Act. His campaign seems to sense a growing outrage among women and, so, over the past few weeks the Romney campaign has obfuscated past extreme anti-woman positions, attempting to appear kinder and gentler to women. But this is merely the desperate smoke screen of a candidate in jeopardy of losing and seeking to pander to all voters in hopes of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat (Source).

As we saw with Bush, promises of compassion made on the campaign trail have been about as valuable as a bucket of spit. And Romney, who has shown us only the endlessly changing face of a doppelganger, is certainly far from worthy of engendering trust.

In the case of a Romney election, there would be a very high risk that many women’s freedoms would be overturned. Romney-appointed justices would almost certainly be anti-abortion. Further, Romney would likely work with Republicans in Congress to continue to draft and expand anti-women legislation. A long march back to the days where women were treated as objects and property would have begun and much of the hard work of the brave American women of generations past is in dire danger of being removed should Romney be elected. Romney’s assurances to the contrary are merely empty words — a half-hearted and unclear pledge which holds no honor. To stake women’s future on such false promises and to ignore the Republican legacy of an endless war on women would be the very epitome of folly.

Links:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/11/paul-ryan-personhood_n_1767760.html

Take Action:

http://www.barackobama.com/splash/choice-signup?

Huffington Post Serves as Proxy for Former Romney Adviser and CEO Steve Lombardo

In the world of today’s media you have liberal sources, conservative sources, somewhat unbiased sources that are still mostly owned by large media corporations (and therefore beholden to corporate special interests), and then you have just outright strange sources.

One such location is the Huffington Post where you can find a plethora of primarily ‘liberal’ views, a smattering of corporate slant pieces, a few features that seem to make fun of liberals lighting their hair on fire or even encouraging them to do so, and, now and again, something like this.

If you follow the link, what you will find is a typical spin piece of the kind you would find on Fox News or any other major conservative media outlet. The article attempts to deflate any enthusiasm for Obama that may have appeared from last night’s debate win and create a sense that a Romney victory is inevitable.

Given the message, the article would be immediately suspect. However, once you consider the source, it becomes clear that the article is laughably biased. First, Steve Lombardo is a the CEO of a major Washington PR firm. As a CEO, he’s already part of a group that traditionally leans conservative and would usually draw suspicion of bias. However, Lombardo was also a major campaign adviser for Romney during his Presidential run back in 2008. And now, we find Lombardo out spinning for Romney on a supposedly liberal media site.

This behavior by Huffington Post makes it highly suspect that it is, actually, what it claims or appears to be. Liberal media would never host former or current Romney spin doctors to post. And the conservative drift, especially during the election, seen on the Huffington Post and other major news sites (Yahoo, etc) has become extraordinarily concerning. This sort of drift happened at Fox News launch about 20 years ago when it attempted to bill itself as ‘moderate’ and ‘balanced.’  Rush Limbaugh also attempted to appear moderate at first couching conservatism in a load of ‘warm and fuzzy’ language reassuring ‘liberals’ that major social programs weren’t the target of conservatives who only wanted ‘sound fiscal policy’ and ‘a strong national defense.’

Now both Rush and Fox are so rabidly conservative that they regularly assault all tenets of social equality, women’s rights, safety nets for seniors and the disenfranchised even as they pursue economic policies that will lead to fiscal disintegration and a war footing which looks for enemies to create rather than aims to defend this country as a whole. What seems to have happened is that increasing corporate control of the media has resulted in the purveying and dissemination of an increasingly extreme and destructive conservative agenda. Rupert Murdoch is a prime example. But even Mitt Romney reaches his investment tentacles into huge media outlets to exert influence.

Returning to the Huffington Post, we find conservative spin on what is supposed to be a liberal media site. The purveyor of that spin is a right-wing CEO with ties to Mitt Romney. So Huffington Post rises onto the radar screen as insincerely liberal and instead serves simply to gather liberals into a kind of shooting gallery of liberals where the likes of Lumbardo can pick them off at leisure. Sad fact. But that’s what we get for giving corporations too much power to manipulate and control media.

Over 90,000 Americans Sign Petition For Climate Change Question At Debate

Since 1988, every Presidential debate has included the issue of climate change. Yet this year, in a year when Arctic sea ice fell to levels nearly 50% below 1988, in a year when the entire Greenland ice sheet experienced melt, in a year when scientists are saying a historic drought was made worse by climate change, in a year of record fires around the globe and during a year when Atlantic tropical storms are more than twice as numerous as during a regular season, the issue of climate change has not come up once.

This is nothing short of travesty. It should have been an issue critical to each debate, something as important to our economy and future as jobs creation and the budget deficit. Yet one candidate, Mitt Romney, is on record saying he doesn’t even believe in the mountain of scientific evidence behind human-caused climate change. And in all the debates, thus far, no question on the issue has been posed.

Perhaps the moderators do not feel that 75 billion in climate change damages via the current US drought is a subject worthy of discussion. Or perhaps these same moderators are happy to ignore the fact that the UN has declared the world on the brink of a food crisis, should any other ‘unforeseen events’ take place?

Looking at the above compilation of debates on the issue of climate change, it would seem that we have ignored the issue for far too long and that the increasingly severe weather and damage is now upon us. And, at such a time, we have now decided the issue isn’t worthy of discussion? To draw such a conclusion would truly reveal us to be a stupid, short-sighted and callous race. For the failure to deal with this problem does not just affect each of us now living. It impacts the lives of all people, all creatures yet unborn. It affects the life, all life, of our world. And we are brutish, terrible, and, yes, wholly maniacal if we ignore it.

Please join those who have signed the petition for a climate change question at tonight’s debate:

http://www.change.org/petitions/ask-about-climate-change-at-the-presidential-debates

More than anything, this issue is one that affects us all.

Links:

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/10/22/1057251/will-this-be-the-first-time-the-debates-are-silent-on-climate-since-1984/

Salt Lake Tribune Labels Mitt Romney a ‘Shape-Shifter,’ Calls Mitt’s Character into Question

In its damning criticism of Mitt Romney, the Salt Lake Tribune article entitled Too Many Mitts based its endorsement of President Obama on the numerous instances where Mitt Romney has demonstrated himself to be an inconsistent, unreliable, untrustworthy, self-contradictory politician willing to say or do anything to be elected.

“As the party’s shape-shifting nominee,” the Tribune says, “Romney has raised the most frequently asked question of the campaign: ‘Who is this guy, really, and what in the world does he truly believe?’ ”

Conversely the Tribune praised Obama as a “a competent leader who, against tough odds, has guided the country through catastrophe and set a course that, while rocky, is pointing toward a brighter day.”

The Tribune’s criticisms of Mitt for being a ‘shape shifter’ couples well with Mitt’s own record, a video sample of which is produced here. It also adds to the GOP’s own criticism of Mitt in which every major GOP primary contender accused Mitt of being a liar. Newt Gingrich when openly asked if he believed Romney was a liar on CBS’s morning show plainly stated ‘yes.’

What is, perhaps, more telling is that the major newspaper for a State primarily made up of Mormons would heap such damning criticism on one of their own. Perhaps the notion of Romney’s consistent and obvious instances of ‘bearing false witness’ was too much to bear. Or, perhaps, the far more moderate Mormon — Harry Reid — provides a better example of constancy and leadership than Mitt who often comes off as equal parts grasping, pandering, and elitist. It’s certainly an inelegant combination of traits and one not well disposed to effectively engaging the office of US President.

Open Climate Question For Next Presidential Debate: How Will You Deal With What NASA Scientists Are Calling a Global Climate Emergency?

This year, James Hansen, head of NASA’s GISS division warned that the world is experiencing a global climate emergency. Around the world, scientists are making increasingly dire warnings about what is happening to our climate. Links between extreme weather and our production of greenhouse gasses have been firmly established. The human driven heating is causing the Arctic sea ice to disappear, perhaps in as soon as a few years. The US has just experienced 12 years of extraordinarily dry conditions and a year of record drought. And the world is teetering on the edge of a climate-change driven food crisis.

Yet this year’s Presidential debates have been stunningly silent on the issue of climate change. In our politics, denial of the events occurring just outside are becoming increasingly loud and shrill. And millions and millions of dollars in oil, gas, and coal campaign contributions are enforcing an unprecedented silence on an issue of growing emergency and immediacy even as they encourage an increased exploitation of the very fuels that are causing our climate nightmare.

Within 10-20 years it is possible that the American grain belt will be well on its way to becoming a desert. Within 10 years, it is likely that the Arctic sea ice will be gone and a very intense period of ice melt will begin for Greenland, greatly accelerating the rate of sea level rise. Within 30 years, it is likely that the world’s oceans will be highly acidic, less likely to produce food for humans, and almost entirely devoid of corals. By the end of this century, it is likely that much of the world will be rendered a wasteland by 1000 ppm CO2. All this if we continue down the path of unmitigated extraction and burning of fossil fuels.

So it is for this reason that I’m submitting a simple, direct question for the prospective leader of the United States for the next four years in the upcoming Presidential Debate:

Please address the issue of what climate scientists have identified as an ongoing, climate change induced US drought and growing prospects for world hunger. Please address the issue of shrinking Arctic sea ice, more than 50% smaller than in the 1980s, record Greenland ice melt, and what appears to be increasing risk of rapid ocean rise. Please explain how you will avoid a devastating rise to 1000 ppm CO2 by the end of this century. Please address how you will deal with what NASA scientists are calling a global climate emergency.

If you agree with this question, please feel free to either copy, paste, and re-post it or to link, share, or re-tweet this blog. If you would like to ask an open climate question of your own, please do so on any social network of your choosing. The idea is to spread the word in the best way possible. So please participate in some way! Please let your voice be heard!

This is a question we are all currently involved in answering. And if we stay silent, then the answer is we will do nothing and the worst events are almost certain to occur. But if we speak up. If we make our voices heard, they still have a chance to make a difference. To stop the worst impacts of a climate change nightmare caused by our ever-increasing burning of fossil fuels.

Please also take part by signing this Change.org Petition for a Presidential debate question on climate change:

http://www.change.org/petitions/ask-about-climate-change-at-the-presidential-debates

Best to you all! And please don’t forget to lift your voices and BE HEARD!

Is Tagg Romney Trying to Manipulate the Ohio Vote?

Just days after a former adviser to George Romney accused Mitt of treating voters as ‘targets to be manipulated,’ reports are coming out that Tagg Romney, Mitt’s son, may be directly attempting to manipulate the vote in Ohio.

At age 42, Taggert Romney is one of Mitt’s more visible sons. Also a wealthy investor, Tagg was recently criticized for his dealings with Ponzi scheme investment manager Allen Stanford who has been accused of bilking investors of 8 billion dollars. Tagg has invested in Solarmere Capital, an equity firm previously managed by Stanford who is now serving a 110 year jail sentence. Tagg has also drawn criticism for his recent statement that he would like to punch President Obama.

It is, perhaps, interesting to note that Taggert is also Dagney Taggert’s last name. Dagney is the central character of Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged. Often seen as a manifesto for the super-rich, Atlas Shrugged divides the world into noble makers and ignoble takers. This simplistic world-view has been used, for generations, by the wealthy to justify their entitlement and has become a cornerstone to an emerging royalist attitude among the well-off.

In any case, The Cleveland Leader and PoliticolNews.com recently reported that Tagg Romney purchased voting machines to be used in the Presidential election for Hamilton County, Ohio. According to PoliticolNews, the purchase was made via Tagg’s Solarmere Capital links and constitutes a major conflict of interest in the current Presidential election. PoliticolNews and others are now calling for a Department of Justice investigation of this activity to ensure no foul play is involved.

In general, the fact that it is even legal for this kind of thing to occur calls into question the integrity of the voting process. A Presidential candidate, the campaign staff, business associates, and family members should be completely outside the voting process lest a conflict of interest and/or severe moral hazard result. Two elections have already called into question the integrity of the United States democratic system. 2000 and 2004 both involved alleged foul play that reduced people’s participation or, potentially, removed votes. Persons alleged to be directly involved in the 2004 voting machine manipulation incident died before they could be questioned in court. Now, in a key battleground where the Republican secretary of State is doing everything he can to suppress the vote, allegations of direct links between voting machines and the Romney family arise. Given the history of past elections, an investigation in order now and not after the election.

Links:

http://www.clevelandleader.com/node/19137

http://www.politicolnews.com/tagg-romney-invested-in-ohio-electronic-voting-machines/

Please also sign this petition to have Tagg investigated:

http://www.change.org/petitions/attorney-general-eric-holder-investigate-tagg-romney-owning-voting-machines-in-ohio#

Oily Spectre of Climate Silence Casts Long Shadow Over American Politics

For more than a century, the fossil fuels industry has exerted extraordinary influence over American politics. This has been true since the boom days of Standard Oil and continues today. At first, this influence was only destructive in that it created a privileged, monopolistic status for a single, albeit important, industry. Yet, today, the destructive nature of oil, gas and coal special interest influence over American politics is coming home to roost.

This year saw three major events that made seriously addressing the problem of human-caused of global warming mandatory to America’s future prosperity. The first was the revelation by a growing number of climate scientists that extreme weather, increasing in frequency and severity since  the 1980s, was directly linked to human-caused global warming. This revelation came during a year when the US experienced its most extreme weather ever recorded, its hottest year ever recorded and its most damaging fire season ever recorded. The second event, linked to the first, was a massive and ongoing drought, the worst in 55 years, that halted Mississippi river traffic, devastated the US corn crop, and now threatens US winter wheat. The current drought came at a time when the US West is experiencing its fifth driest period in 500 years and on the heels of a devastating drought just last year in Texas and Oklahoma. Scientists also linked the current drought to global warming — showing in climate models how drought grows worse and worse as human caused global warming intensifies.

But the third and probably most important event was, likely, one that most Americans ignored. This year, Arctic sea ice area fell to its lowest level ever recorded and is, according to many scientists, within a decade of melting out entirely.

These three events sent a climate shock-wave around the world causing NASA scientist James Hansen to state that we are experiencing a ‘global climate emergency.’ It is an emergency that risks violent and freakish events. It is a crisis that will almost certainly lead to the devastation of US agriculture, long term. And it is a crisis in which rising sea levels are more and more certain as the years advance.

Yet both the cause of this crisis — our incessant burning of fossil fuels — and its solutions — reducing and eliminating fossil fuel consumption — as well as the crisis itself remain largely off the political radar. Even worse, in a horrific display of ignorance and pandering to fossil fuel special interests, Mitt Romney proudly proclaimed he doesn’t believe in human caused global warming. Given the insurmountable pile of scientific evidence, he may as well have proclaimed he doesn’t believe in gravity.

But the actions of President Obama have also been far from comforting. Just this week at the Presidential debate Obama got into a rhetorical pissing contest with Romney over whether or not he had increased drilling. And though Obama was correct to assert that drilling had increased under his watch, contesting with Romney over who promotes drilling the most sends a very bad signal at a time when US fossil fuel use needs to start scaling back if we are to prevent a decades-long agricultural catastrophe that would make the Dust Bowl years seem but a prelude.

It is important to note that Obama does vigorously support solutions to the climate crisis. That he has developed wind, solar, electric vehicles and biofuels more than any other president in modern memory. He pushed CAFE standards to 55 mpg, a level Romney has vowed to repeal. Renewable energy production has doubled under Obama’s watch and US carbon emissions are beginning to decline.In addition, largely thanks to Obama’s policies, US energy independence is within reach for the first time in two generations.

In policy, he is decidedly not in the oil, gas and coal companies’ pockets. And for this reason alone, it appears that most of these companies are fighting tooth and nail to make certain Obama is not re-elected. A dirty ‘energy vote’ website and campaign has been started and oil companies are both implicitly and explicitly campaigning for a Romney Administration entirely willing to deny global warming reality in support of more oil, gas, and coal exploitation even as he cuts wind, solar, EVs and efficiencies. Millions and millions of dollars in campaign donations and in SuperPAC advertisements just keep flooding in. Furthermore, a constant stream of misinforming advertisements appears on public TV stations and the internet in a bid by oil, gas, and coal companies to keep the public misinformed.

Perhaps the only corollary to this type of public misinformation campaign is what occurred with cigarettes back in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. As scientific evidence mounted showing tobacco products resulted in a drastically elevated risk of lung cancer, cigarette corporations funded advertisements to re-brand themselves, to misinform the public of health risks, and to prevent any government action to inform the public of risks or to curtail smoking in public places where second-hand smoke could harm non-smokers. Eventually the public interest won out. But it took massive and ongoing efforts to surmount the resistance put up by cigarette manufacturers.

But the damage caused by an unrelenting use of fossil fuels will be far, far more harmful than that caused by cigarettes, should oil, gas, and coal special interests continue to dominate both the political debate, the public media sphere and, most importantly, the energy policy creation process. And it is important to note that the power of these fossil fuel corporations is much, much greater than that of the cigarette companies who preceded them. The companies operate on a global scale and many have revenue streams larger than entire nations. We would have to go back to the slave trade, which was a primary contributor to the first US civil war, to find an industry with such wide-ranging political power and influence.

So it should not be a surprise that the American political system, which has been removed of all protection to special interest influence by the extremist conservatives of the Supreme Court in The Citizen’s United decision, is wracked and distorted by fossil fuel special interest money. So we should be more deeply concerned that so heavy a pall of silence over the ongoing harm caused by human global warming has settled upon Washington and casts such a long shadow on the current US election. It is the reason we find Obama forced to contest a political opponent junked up on fossil fuel campaign money in the darkness and in the quiet over an issue so important to both US and world prospects.

Many have blamed the Obama campaign for not speaking out. But this blame is misplaced. The people we should blame are the oil, gas, and coal companies who have poisoned the discourse, who have funded climate change denial at every level, and who are, at every level, trying to gag politicians and prevent them from speaking out on the most important issue of the 21rst century. They are the cause of the current crisis. They are the ones deliberately altering our politics in a blatant attempt to prevent responsible action. And they are the ones forcing this terrible code of silence upon US media and politics even as they attempt to turn the candidates into puppets for their interests.

Historic US Drought Shows Slight Improvement Overall, Worsens in Some Areas, 69 Percent of Winter Wheat Crop Threatened

According to this week’s Drought Monitor, the ongoing historic drought, made worse by global warming, still grips a large swath of the United States despite cooler temperatures and two rain systems sweeping through the central US.

Overall, US drought coverage fell to 62% of the contiguous US, a 2% fall from last week and a three percent fall from the maximum drought area reached this year. However, large swaths of the US and, in particular, US farmland are still struggling under drought. Though some areas on the eastern fringes of the larger drought zone saw improvement, other areas such as South Dakota and Nebraska saw intensifying dryness.

Reports from farmers this week also showed that the winter wheat crop had been put at risk due to ongoing drought conditions. Usually, cooler temperatures and rains bring a respite to drought conditions during this time of year. However, a fall dryness is allowing drought to maintain its grip over much of the country. Currently, over 69 percent of the areas normally planted for winter wheat are suffering from some level of drought. Nebraska, South Dakota and Montana have been particularly hard hit. Seed germination is well behind schedule in most regions and many farmers are not willing to take the risk of planting in such dry conditions. The result is a major risk to US wheat crops after a difficult corn planting season across the US.

Under current drought conditions, the US is now consuming more food than it produces. This rare event is having widespread impact on world food markets. Overall world food security has been dealt a sever blow since the early 2000s when forward food supplies were higher than 104 days. But six of the past eleven years have seen extreme weather conditions that resulted in the world consuming more food than it produced. As a result, forward food supply has fallen, on average, to 74 days. Recently, the UN noted that the world’s food markets were currently strained to the limit and couldn’t bear any more ‘unexpected events.’ But a major unexpected event continues apace over most of the US.

Climate scientists are showing that such dry conditions will likely grow worse over the coming years if both the US and the world fail to begin to reduce carbon emissions. Sadly, some drought will likely happen in the coming decades even if carbon emissions are rolled back. But the devastation that is likely to occur if carbon emissions continue on their current track is unconscionable. Climate models show that both large swaths of the US and much of Europe become as dry as north Africa. This devastation to major productive regions would be very damaging to the world’s food security and likely result in major regional and global upheavals. Yet this condition, which is starting now and which will grow worse over time, is being largely ignored by the world’s leaders. In particular, the US has one political party that wholesale denies the impacts of global warming. This denial is as destructive to our farmers as it is poisonous to our political climate. If we are to deal rationally with these problems and, likely, if we are to survive as a nation, this self-destructive, brutish and and small-minded denial must end.

We have entered the gates of a crisis and we need all hands to be alert and ready to defend the ship, not knocking holes in the hull.

Links

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

http://www.agprofessional.com/news/Drought-threatens-winter-wheat-planting-174108971.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/iv-drip/climate-change-denial-is-a-rightwing-conspiracy-8215887.html

 

 

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