Advertisements

Video of Sandy’s Surge, A Vivid Counterpoint to New Evidence That Storms are Growing Stronger

The above video, taken about three hours before high tide, shows how Sandy’s storm surge was already having a strong impact on Union City, New Jersey. The video serves as a nice counterpoint to evidence uncovered by Grinsted et al in a new study entitled Homogeneous record of Atlantic hurricane surge threat since 1923 showing that hurricanes and other severe ocean storms are growing more intense.

(Hat tip to Jeff Masters at Weather Underground for his excellent analysis of this emerging issue.)

Traditionally, wind speed has been used to gauge the force of storms. But since wind evidence has been less accurate until recent years, it has been difficult to provide a record of storm intensity over time. To avoid this problem, Grinsted turns to another, more reliable, measure — tidal gauges.

In his study, Grinsted used six tidal gauges at different locations along the US Gulf and East Coast to track storm surges from major events occurring from 1923 to the present. And what Grinsted found was evidence for increasingly powerful storms.

The above graph illustrates the number of major storm surges in any given year. Averages in 1923 steadily climbed from about 4 per year then, to nearly 7 per year now. This new, higher rate of powerful storm surges is also occurring in areas where ocean levels are 1 foot higher than they were during the 1920s and were development has encroached the shoreline boundary like never before. This combination of rising seas, increasingly powerful and more frequent storms, and runaway development has put a vast coastal region on a precipice. In coming years, this region will face at least a 1 meter rise in sea level, and, if the rate of increase illustrated in Grinsted’s study bears out, as many as ten major storm surge events per year on the East and Gulf Coasts by 2100.

(My personal opinion is that the 1 meter sea level rise predictions under business as usual fossil fuel emissions is a highly optimistic notion. More likely, unless emissions are reigned in, we will probably see at least 3 meters in sea level rise as first Greenland, then West Antarctic enter periods of rapid melt. In my view, the 1 meter range may be achieved only through rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.)

Grinsted notes:

We find that warm years in general were more active in all cyclone size ranges than cold years. The largest cyclones are most affected by warmer conditions and we detect a statistically significant trend in the frequency of large surge events (roughly corresponding to tropical storm size) since 1923. In particular, we estimate that Katrina-magnitude events have been twice as frequent in warm years compared with cold years.

In this statement, Grinsted establishes a direct link between storm intensity and human caused global warming. This statement also corresponds with a meteorological theory called heat engine theory, which shows that storms grow stronger as more heat energy becomes available.

Links:

Aslak Grinsted, John C. Moore, and Svetlana Jevrejeva (2012), Homogeneous record of Atlantic hurricane surge threat since 1923, PNAS, http://www.pnas.org/content/109/48/19601.

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

Advertisements

Very Bad or Terrible? What a Reality-Based Climate Change Debate Would Look Like

We are already experiencing bad climate change impacts: sea ice melt, blocking patterns that bring one hundred year storms once or twice a year, expanding drought zones, acidifying oceans, tightening world food production, and devastating heat waves and fire seasons. Four hundred thousand people are dying each year as a result of climate change. More than 1.2 trillion dollars are lost.

That’s what’s happening now. Bad.

And things are bound to get worse. But if you were listening to climate change deniers, you’d still hear them whistling merrily past the graveyard. To them, climate change still isn’t real and certainly doesn’t require a response.

But if you take these people, who clearly are living in a world of someone else’s invention and not the real one, out of the equation, then what do you have?

Two sets of scientists. One set who’re saying things will likely continue to grow slowly worse until they become very bad or those pointing toward growing evidence that what human greenhouse gas emissions are causing is bound to be downright terrible. And both appear to be saying that carbon emissions should be reduced as rapidly and as soon as is reasonably possible.

These are the two rational sides of the climate debate. And, therefore, these are the definitions we should be arguing over:

1. Will climate change impacts be very bad or terrible?

2. How fast can we reduce worldwide carbon emissions?

3. How soon can we impose a carbon tax?

4. What actions should we take to begin adapting to the very bad or terrible changes in store?

That’s what a rational climate debate would look like. Not this, as weird as our carbon emissions make the weather, debate between rational scientists and quacks who can’t even stick their finger in the air to tell which way the wind is blowing. Between Congressmen like Inholfe, who’s turning oil company campaign contributions into a political war waged against the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon, and NASA Scientist James Hansen who, daily, works to create policies that will prevent a terrible global condition called “Venus Syndrome.”

Take a recent article in the New Scientist as an example. In the article, entitled Climate Change: It’s Even Worse Than We Thought New Scientist states:

Five years ago, the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change painted a gloomy picture of our planet’s future. As climate scientists gather evidence for the next report, due in 2014, Michael Le Page gives seven reasons why things are looking even grimmer.

These seven reasons include:

1. The Arctic is warming far faster than expected. Sea ice could be gone within the next decade, seventy years faster than IPCC 2007 predicted. Even worse, the Arctic is setting off a series of amplifying feedbacks that are bound to make the world hotter faster.

2. Scientists knew climate change would make the weather worse. But the weather is even worse than expected.

3. Some scientists had predicted that global warming would increase food production. Extreme droughts and severe weather are instead causing massive crop damages and an increasingly severe food crisis.

4. Greenland’s rapid loss of ice means we’re in for at least 1 meter of sea level rise by end of century. (For my part, I think this number is also still too conservative. I would put the number, more likely, at more than 3 meters by century’s end without rapid reductions in carbon emissions.)

5. Half of human CO2 emissions are absorbed by Earth’s carbon sinks. But this absorption is ending as the sinks are beginning to become sources. Most notably, the 2007 IPCC report did not include carbon contributions now emerging in larger and larger volumes from the Arctic permafrost and methane hydrates on sea beds throughout the world.

6. We could avoid climate disaster by very rapidly reducing carbon emissions to zero. Instead, we are increasing carbon emissions.

7. If the worst climate predictions are realized, vast sections of the globe will become too hot for human life.

(Hat tip to Joe Romm for his own excellent analysis of this article.)

These assertions come alongside a former UN climate chief’s statement that the most recent IPCC report (due by 2014) will scare the wits out of everyone and on the heels of a New York Times piece entitled “Is This The End?” which, in its first paragraph, quoted T.S. Eliot’s epic poem “The Wasteland” saying “Fear death by water.”

It seems there’s a growing awareness emerging among mainstream media sources that climate change is, indeed, a dire emergency we need to deal with now. Let’s hope the policy makers, who still have the ship pointed headlong toward disaster, are listening. Let’s hope the debate shifts to ‘how bad is the problem?’ ‘how swiftly can we respond?’ and away from this silly counterpoint between highly rational scientists and the professional deniers and opportunistic politicians puffed up on donations and funds proffered by fossil fuel special interests.

We really, really don’t have much time. And it will be absolutely necessary to make changes with all due urgency.

Links:

http://www.newscientist.com/special/worse-climate

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/25/opinion/sunday/is-this-the-end.html?hp

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/11/27/1241161/senator-inhofe-and-the-heartland-institute-roll-out-underwhelming-campaign-to-slash-the-epa/

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/11/26/1219981/new-scientist-7-reasons-climate-change-is-even-worse-than-we-thought/

Drought Grows on Eve of Winter, 200 Mile Stretch of Mississippi Close to Shut Down

According to reports from the US Drought Monitor, a historic drought plaguing large swaths of the country since spring has again grown larger and more intense. Total areas under drought conditions are, once more, above 60% of the contiguous United States. This is about a 1.5 percent increase over last week’s drought measure. Severe and exceptional drought, the worst conditions measured, expanded to cover fully 19 percent of the contiguous US, also an increase of about 1.5 percent over last week’s measurement.

Hardest hit areas remain in or near the nation’s breadbasket. South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Wyoming are states currently suffering the most from ongoing drought. Minnesota, Iowa, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Georgia, and Nevada are also feeling strong direct impacts.

Forecasts for the next few months show a persisting drought that will likely pose a continuing threat to US crops throughout the winter and on into spring, possibly extending again into summer. The potential for conditions to worsen, again, in Texas should be cause for watchful concern as the season progresses. Texas is still recovering from the extreme drought of 2010-2011. A second blow during 2013 would prove very harmful to the state’s agriculture.

Over the past few weeks, the US wheat crop has taken a severe hit from the persistent and now re-emerging drought. Crop conditions, as of about a week ago, were the worst seen in 27 years. Risks are currently very high that the US wheat harvest for this year will be substantially lower, resulting in higher food prices at home and an intensifying food crisis abroad.

In Missouri, an area which felt strong impacts to its corn crops before drought somewhat abated for the state, Mississippi River levels are again low enough to warrant concern of a shut-down. Annually, the Army Corps of Engineers cuts off river flows to the Mississippi in order to ensure adequate reservoir storage for next year and to protect against flooding from melt run-off. This year’s shut down may bring river levels as low as 6 feet, which would effectively cut off traffic along a 200 mile stretch of waterway. If this happens, as much as 7 billion dollars worth of grain may be stranded up-river. Much of this grain goes to international markets. Such a closure would both result in damages to local economies as well as, potentially, food shortages and increasing prices abroad.

The culprit for this lingering and increasingly damaging drought is likely a blocking high that has continued to emerge over the nation’s heartland, fixing the weather pattern there to one that is both hotter and dryer than normal. These huge dips and swells in the Jet Stream are spurred by eroding sea ice boundaries in the Arctic which result in large shifts to the circumpolar winds. In turn, these wind changes alter the Jet Stream, making the emergence of blocking patterns like the one enhancing the current US drought far more likely.

Climate models have also predicted much drier conditions for the US West as global temperatures rise from an average range of .6 degrees Celsius higher than normal to as much as 2 degrees Celsius higher than normal by 2040-2050. It is likely that we began to see this climate-change induced drying during the early 2000s as average global temperatures reached .6 degrees Celsius above the 20th century average. Average global temps are now around .8 degrees Celsius higher and continuing to inch upward, so the US West is likely to experience periods of intensifying drought through the 2010s and worsening into the 2020s. By the 2030s and 2040s far worse conditions can only be avoided via large-scale curtailment of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Links:

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

http://www.freep.com/usatoday/article/1721817?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|s

http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/Drought/

Must Watch Music Video: A Harmony of Truth on Climate Change

Amazing auto-tune composite of speeches on climate change. Must watch!

Links:

http://climaterealityproject.org/

How Job-Killing Republican Economic Philosophy Took Down the Twinkie

Let’s get this straight. Hostess was in trouble long before vulture capitalist hedge funds and equity firms came to roost over the carcass of one of America’s signature brands. The shift, by much of the American public, away from junk foods to more healthy nutrition, combined with Hostesses’ failure to diversify and leverage its brand put Hostess in a tough situation. But that didn’t kill Hostess. And it wasn’t the workers, whom hedge funds controlling Hostess blamed for the company’s downturn. It was the hedge funds and equity firms who decided their own enrichment was more important than responsibly transforming this iconic American corporation.

By 2009, Hostess had declared bankruptcy and was seeking a way to re-establish itself through changing and challenging market conditions. It was then acquired by the private equity firm Ripple Holdings and hedge funds Silver Point Capital and Monarch Capital. These firms then took company capital and credit that could have been used to diversify the brand and expand into new territory to instead enrich management through stock shares buybacks and through cuts in workforce benefits. In total, Hostesses’ 18,500 workers suffered through layoffs and three phases of pay and benefits reductions while executive compensation doubled and company development and competitiveness stagnated.

The equity firms holding Hostess were trying to force workers to endure another 8% cut in pay and a crippling 17% cut in benefits when, on November 9th, workers held a strike in an attempt to compel management to behave responsibly. Instead, equity and hedge fund holders of the company decided to break the company up and sell off its parts for even more profit. In the end, the vulture capitalist holders of Hostess blamed those they victimized — Hostesses’ workers.

But it seems that the equity firms and hedge funds now controlling Hostess can’t even play fair with the bankruptcy. Today the US Department of Justice filed suit against Hostesses’ vulture capitalist owners for increasing executive pay by another 75% — in essence, rewarding executives for taking the company into bankruptcy.

These executives and hedge fund managers are the very people Republicans are fighting to keep taxes low for. The so-called ‘job creators.’ These ‘paragons of industry’ who got rich wrecking an American icon and socking it to American families all at the same time. Likely, many of them feel entitled to pay no taxes for their looted spoils to the federal government who might actually do something useful with the money — like hire a scientist or a teacher. Just let these people do what they please, let them keep all the money they took, and everything will be great, republicans say.

See how well that worked out for the company that was Hostess and the people who worked there?

Links:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-hostess-seeks-bonuses-for-key-manager-in-liquidation-filing-20121119,0,22735.story

http://themoderatevoice.com/168438/twinkynomics-a-case-study-in-romneynomics/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/hostess-moves-to-liquidate-as-us-seeks-trustee-control/2012/11/19/46e98922-326d-11e2-92f0-496af208bf23_story.html

Top Scientists Speak Out On Growing Risk of Methane Emergency

With the Arctic warming so rapidly, risk of a large methane release is a considerable and growing problem. Estimates are that more than 2,000 gigatons of the stuff lay trapped in northern hemisphere permafrost or locked in methane stores called clathrates on the bottom of the shallow Arctic Ocean. As human caused climate change drives rapid sea ice retreat, the ocean warms and mechanical action mixes the water, transporting more and more heat down to the seabed, destabilizing the frozen methane. As the snow line retreats in the warming climate, more permafrost is also laid bear, amplifying the release of land-based methane stores.

On the East Siberian Arctic shelf, a vulnerable region of the Arctic Ocean, perhaps 500 gigatons of methane and methane clathrate rest on or just beneath the sea bed. If just 1% of the  methane store in this single region were released, atmospheric methane would double.

Over the past few years, growing evidence has been accumulated that methane emissions from the Arctic permafrost and seabed are increasing. The East Siberian Arctic shelf produced vast methane emitting formations as large as 1 kilometer in diameter during 2011. Such releases are a potential sign of growing destabilization in the region. And since any major release of Arctic methane would provide a catastrophic amplifying feedback to human caused global warming, concern is growing that we are at increasing risk for just such an event.

In the above video, James Hansen, head of NASA’s GISS division, Natalia Shakhova, a scientist at the International Arctic Research Center, Peter Wadhams, a Professor at Cambridge and resident Arctic sea ice expert, and David Wasdell, a prominent environmentalist, discuss the dangers of Arctic methane release. Hansen and Wadhams are both very heavy hitters and bear listening to. Shakhova is doing cutting-edge research in the field and serves as a witness to the dangerous trend that is unfolding. And Wasdell rounds the discussion out by providing the ecological and climate context in which a large methane release may occur.

The problem is certainly very, very serious and we urgently need to reduce carbon emissions to reduce the risk of a large and catastrophic release.

To follow atmospheric methane, take a look at NOAA’s carbon gasses tracker at Barrow Alaska (CO2, methane, CFCs, etc):

http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/dv/iadv/graph.php?code=BRW&program=ccgg&type=ts

Links:

https://robertscribbler.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/human-co2-emissions-continue-to-play-russian-roulette-with-clathrate-gun-new-study-shows-east-coast-hydrates-destabilizing/

http://neven1.typepad.com/blog/

http://neven1.typepad.com/files/overshooting-limits-gwj.doc

Obama Team Not Open to Carbon Tax? So How Best to Move Forward on Climate Change?

Today, White House spokesman Jay Carney at a press briefing told reporters that the Obama Administration would not consider a carbon tax to help reduce US carbon emissions. Carney stated:

“We would never propose a carbon tax and have no intention of proposing one. The point the president was making is that our focus right now is the same as the American people’s focus, which is on the need to extend economic growth, expand job creation.”

Carney then went on to talk about how the Administration was primarily focused on US jobs creation efforts and that any climate change measures would have to fit into the larger jobs growth and economy puzzle.

Unfortunately, Carney seems to think that the notion of a carbon tax and economic growth are incompatible. A notion the 75 billion dollar and growing disaster that was Superstorm Sandy, an idea the 75+ billion dollar drought in the heartland, both well belie. A notion that the, ever-increasing, cost of fossil fuel extraction also drastically undermines. But Carney is, likely, just denying republicans and others who support low tax rates for the wealthy a way to transfer more of the tax burden onto middle and lower income Americans.

In recent weeks, it appears republicans were tinkering with the carbon tax as a means to increase the tax burden for working Americans while lowering it for the wealthy. And this is an effort to certainly be avoided. The problem lies in just how a carbon tax would be implemented. Would it be, primarily, a punitive tax on energy consumption? In such a case, it would almost certainly harm the prospects of working Americans, unless, of course, the taxes were re-invested in the economy in a way that benefited workers and middle class families.

With world climate agencies noting that civilization-wrecking climate impacts emerge if we burn just 20-30 percent of the world’s current fossil fuel reserves, it does, indeed, appear that a major disincentive for burning fossil fuels should be in the offing. And that such a disincentive would preserve the possibility of growth and prosperity, rather than undermine it.

If the Administration were to re-consider the notion of a carbon tax, they could very well employ such a tax in a growth neutral or even pro-growth fashion. In a way that didn’t harm working families, but helped. In such a case, the tax would not just be punitive, it would be an incentive. James Hansen’s tax and transfer plan would result in a carbon tax at the well-head or point of sale being directly transferred to individuals as a subsidy. The result would be, on the one hand, increasing carbon costs, and, on the other hand, money in the pockets of Americans incentivized to purchase low or no carbon fuels and technologies. The result would be a gradual phasing out of carbon based energy without an overall punitive impact to US growth. If transfer is an unsavory notion for politicians, then the money generated from taxes could be directly invested in renewable, zero-carbon, energy systems and in re-training programs for persons who may lose their jobs in high-carbon industries. Such programs would both create new jobs and reduce or eliminate losses from old industries.

The fact that such basic notions aren’t obvious is somewhat disconcerting. Loss of coal mining jobs, for instance, may be a forgone conclusion. But if these workers can be re-trained to work on wind and solar facilities, then the result is a net gain. Especially when you consider the fact that each renewable energy dollar spent results in three times the amount of jobs stimulus as each fossil fuel dollar spent. Such increases in labor may not result in the kind of concentrations of profits as the old oil and coal industries. But the effects of such wealth hoarding have already proven very damaging to the US economy as a whole.

That said, and to the Obama Administration’s credit, they may well be attempting to avoid maintaining lower tax rates on the wealthiest Americans through the vehicle of a carbon tax. And, in such a case, it is obvious why that kind of trade-off should be avoided.

However, if a carbon tax is off the table, there are a number of other measures that can still be pursued. Below are just a few examples:

Renew the Production Tax Credit

The first would be the immediate renewal of the production tax credit for wind and solar energy. Preferably, this renewal would be for a full decade. Such a long-term renewal would provide stability for the growing US wind and solar industries and spur investment in these key technologies, keeping the rate of adoption high. Growth in these critical industries would result in a powerful engine for generating new jobs.

Cut Tax Incentives for the Fossil Fuel Industry

Over 40 billion dollars in tax incentives have gone to the oil and gas industry. Yet the industry continues to produce record profits. Given this clear math, such incentives are entirely unnecessary and wasteful.

Provide Subsidy and Incentive For Smart Grid and Energy Storage

Thousands of jobs could be created through wise investments in both a smart grid and in powerful new energy storage technologies. Both will be necessary if we are to smoothly handle a growing portion of our energy coming from renewables. This powerful new infrastructure will serve as a mechanism to enhance economic growth for decades to come.

Establish a Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Fund

Set aside a portion of savings from winding down the war in Afghanistan, from levelized military spending, and from removing tax incentives for the fossil fuel industry for two purposes. The first would be for direct investment in critical new clean energy technologies (wind, solar, evs, low-carbon farming, new energy systems, economic and non-damaging carbon capture). The second would be for hardening the nation’s infrastructure to the potential new harms caused by climate change. Research into new farming techniques more adapted to a drier climate and deployment of more resilient coastal infrastructure are examples. Care must be noted that mitigation should receive equal or greater funding as it is impossible to adapt to the worst instances of human caused climate change.

Retraining Initiatives for New Industries

Provide funding for individuals who have lost their jobs to train in critical new industries related to mitigating climate change, responding to climate emergencies, and to adapting to a changing climate. Funds should be targeted to jobless college graduates and to workers who lose their jobs in fossil fuel based industries. A portion of this funding would go to establishing relationships with new industry players and facilitating employment.

Establishing Wind and Solar Energy Corridors in Farm and Fossil Fuel Country

Provide incentive for the development of alternative energy in areas where economies were previously dominated by fossil fuels. This diversification would result in economic resilience in these regions, providing a source of new jobs and added stability. Particularly critical is developing these new energy sources for the Appalachian region where workers have been victimized by exploitative coal barons such as Massey. Also useful would be the development of clean energy technologies in farming regions. The result would be the preservation of lands used for food production as well as providing a safety net for these regions in the event of extended harm to farming due to drought.

Use the EPA to Regulate and Reduce Carbon

Provide base-lines for carbon reductions from key industries via the EPA. Increase these base-lines over time. Use the EPA to provide efficiency standards for appliances, vehicles and other equipment. Push efficiency standards higher over time.

Provide a Fund For Renewable Energy Laboratories at the Nation’s Public Schools

Invest public money in incentivizing purchases of solar panels for public schools. Establish science curriculum at these schools that involve students directly in the management of the school’s solar energy resources. Teach the science of clean energy and environmental stewardship at these schools.

Provide and Maintain Tax Incentives for Home Owners and Businesses to Install Solar Panels, Purchase Electric Vehicles

Set aside monies that incentivize the installation of solar panels for US homes and businesses. Set aside and maintain similar incentives for electric vehicles.

Shut Down Dirty Coal Plants, Sell Public Land Coal, Fossil Fuels at Higher Prices

About 6% of US electricity production comes from old, dirty plants. Use the EPA to rapidly phase these plants out. Furthermore, many fossil fuel companies purchase mining rights for US coal, oil, and natural gas on public lands at a pittance. Increase the royalty payments required to access those resources.

Remove Regulatory Hurdles for the Installation of Wind and Solar on US Homes and Businesses

In many regions, the regulatory hurdles for installing wind and solar for US homes and businesses is punitive and prohibitive. Remove these hurdles to increase the rate of home owner and business new technology adoption.

Require that all New Homes and Buildings include Solar

Requiring that every new home and building in the US include solar energy systems would greatly enhance solar energy adoption in the US.

Require EV Recharge Station Installation for all New Streets and Parking Lots

Requiring that all new parking facilities and refurbished streets require EV charging stations would rapidly increase the adoption potential for US electric vehicles.

Set a Carbon Tariff on Goods Produced by High-Carbon Economies Coming Into the US

Set a tariff on goods produced by countries with high-carbon economies. Provide exceptions if those goods come from facilities that switch to low-carbon or zero carbon energy sources. Such a carbon tariff would help to leverage the US’s strength as importer to reduce global carbon emissions.

These are just a few initiatives that could be pursued that will incentivize US jobs growth while also resulting in the rapid deployment of high-efficiency and zero-carbon technologies.

UPDATE:

It appears that the climate blogosphere is somewhat abuzz with outrage over Obama’s not supporting a carbon tax. There’s some good discussion on the issue here:

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/11/16/1206321/new-york-times-slams-obama-for-lame-flip-flop-on-economic-benefit-of-climate-action/

PIOMAS November Update Shows Sea Ice Thinner Than Ever: Volume More Than 1000 Cubic Kilometers Below 2011

The November update of the Polar Science Center’s PIOMAS sea ice volume tracker shows Arctic sea ice volume remaining in record low territory for the month of October. By month’s end, sea ice volume was still about 1096 cubic kilometers below the previous record low set in 2011.

Volume recovery during the seasonal re-freeze was lower than in 2011. During that year, sea ice volume in fall and winter rebounded to levels near those of the previous year. This year, however, the gap between 2011 and 2012 is much greater.

A number of factors kept Arctic re-freeze lower than in previous years. Sea ice has been pushed so far back that it simply takes longer and longer to recover. Warm water ocean currents are traveling further north, transporting more warm water into the Arctic environment later and later in the year. Atmospheric circulation has also changed. Large blocking patterns dredge warm air up from the south and deposit it in the Arctic. These same blocking patterns dump cold air, which once tended to concentrate in the Arctic, into temperate regions. The result of all this ocean and atmospheric mixing is that the Arctic is much warmer than usual and sea ice recovery mostly lags.

In his Arctic Sea Ice Blog, sea ice blogger Neven has also pointed out that it is likely sea ice is also thinner now than ever before. His rough graph combines PIOMAS volume and NSIDC sea ice area data to provide an estimate for average thickness. This month’s graph shows average ice thickness of less than 1 meter over the entire Arctic lasting through November 5th.

Neven’s previous rough estimates had shown average sea ice thickness did not pass below the one meter threshold at any time since records have been established. This year, average sea ice thickness dropped below 1 meter on October 21rst and has remained at that record low level through to November 5th.

Increasing scientific evidence and consensus points toward massively reduced sea ice area and volume resulting in chaotic and damaging weather patterns. Meteorologists and researchers from climate and weather disciplines have attributed Superstorm Sandy’s size, intensity, and path, to influences that have been made worse and worse by human caused climate change. Furthermore, powerful blocking patterns that result from the deterioration of sea ice have been implicated in wide ranging weather extremes including the current historic drought, powerful heat waves in Europe, Russia, and the US, and extreme rain and storm events across the globe.

In addition, receding sea ice kicks off a number of powerful global warming feedbacks that are likely to amplify human-caused climate change, heating the Earth at a faster rate. Loss of insulating sea ice also puts Greenland and West Antarctica at increasingly severe risk of increased melt. The result, in these cases, is much more rapid sea level rise on top of increasingly powerful storms. We are experiencing only the first outliers of these impacts now. So rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions can help to prevent the worst of a large pack of climate troubles now forming.

Links:

http://psc.apl.washington.edu/wordpress/research/projects/arctic-sea-ice-volume-anomaly/

http://neven1.typepad.com/

 

October 2012 5th Hottest On Record; New Record for 2013 Likely to Depend on El Nino

Global surface temperatures were the fifth hottest on record for the month of October 2012 marking the 332nd consecutive above average month on record. The last below average month was recorded during February of 1985. The abnormally hot October, about .63 degrees Celsius above average, followed the hottest September on record for the globe (.67 degrees Celsius hotter than average).

Average temperatures from January through October 2012 are the 8th hottest on record at .58 degrees Celsius above the global average.

ENSO conditions remain neutral and the forecast is for neutral conditions to likely persist.

Overall, conditions would seem to support 2012 ranging from 9th to 4th hottest on record for the year 2012 with the potential for 2013 breaking new global climate records if ENSO tips back into El Nino starting next spring.

Loss of sea ice is also having a greater impact on global temperatures. This year, warmer than normal Arctic Ocean conditions for the month of September contributed to a record-setting month. With sea ice still in record low territory, another hotter than average Arctic September may well be in the offing for 2013.

Links:

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/2012/9

http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/map/clim/sst.shtml

Drought to Continue Through February; Winter Crops Hit Hard

An eight and a half month long drought, which scientists have linked to human caused climate change, continues to ravage the US heartland. This week, total area affected by drought remains steady at 59% of the contiguous US, with some minor improvements in the Eastern Midwest even as areas in the Southeast and West grew drier.

Losses to US farmers also continue to worsen. This year’s corn crop was cut by 13 percent and conditions for the US wheat crop are now the worst in 27 years. Conditions for the current winter wheat crop continued to deteriorate this week, with only 36% of the crop now rated in excellent to good condition. Meanwhile, US livestock levels have dropped to their lowest number in 39 years.

Keith Kisling, 65, noted in a Bloomberg report:

“It’s drier than I can ever remember and I’ve been farming for 40 years. A lot of wheat hasn’t emerged yet, and some are up but they’re spotty because they didn’t get any rain. It’s gotten progressively worse.”

Another farmer from the same report said:

“The dust storm we had in Oklahoma a couple weeks ago, some of that seed got blown out and we had to replant. And we’ve had such high temperatures. We have no moisture or limited moisture. What little soil moisture we had in the subsoil, those high temperatures will pull that out.”

Unfortunately, the forecast is for persisting US drought through February with some areas worsening and other areas showing slight abatement. The areas under the gun remain the US West and a smaller section of the US Southeast, centering on Georgia.

Such a long-running drought produces a growing risk that dry conditions will extend into summer to threaten US corn, soy, and sorghum crops again this year. Worldwide, drought conditions are also impacting crops in Europe and Russia.

Links:

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-11-16/drought-expected-to-persist-through-february-in-great-plains

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-14/cattle-grazing-wheat-fields-to-decline-as-drought-cuts-prospects.html

 

 

 

National Center for Atmospheric Research Uncovers Growing Risk of a Fire Age: Doubling CO2 Equals More Than 7 Degrees of Warming

A study released last week from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) showed that for each doubling of atmospheric CO2 content, the Earth’s climate warms by about 7-8 degrees Fahrenheit or around 4.5 degrees Celsius. The authors, John Fasullo and Kevin Trenberth found that the models predicting the greatest degree of warming were the most accurate. These models took into account the complex interplay of cloud formation and increasing levels of atmospheric water vapor due to heating.

This study’s findings more closely parallel indications seen in the geological record where CO2 doublings pushed temperature warming in the range of 5-6 degrees Celsius or more. It is also another indicator that persistent CO2 at current levels of near 400 ppm are enough to push global warming above the, very dangerous, 2 degree threshold. In fact, geological evidence has pointed to recent periods in Earth’s past when 400 ppm CO2 resulted in temperatures 3-4 degrees Celsius hotter than they are now.

The study’s findings are important due to the fact that scientists believe very damaging climate impacts begin to occur at 2 degrees Celsius above the 20th century average. However, massive Arctic sea ice melt, expanding desertification, extreme fire seasons, extreme heat waves, and increasingly intense storms show that very damaging effects are beginning now, at just less than a 1 degree Celsius global temperature increase.

Fast forward to the end of the 21rst century and we, under business as usual fossil fuel emissions, find ourselves at 1,400 ppm CO2 or more. The NCAR study would indicate that average world temperatures under such a situation will increase by 12-15 degrees Celsius. This massive temperature increase would be three times that of the difference between the current age and an ice age — but on the side of hot. An extreme fire age, if you will. This potential is also three times the current maximum temperature increase predicted in the most recent IPCC model scenarios.

Given this prospect and the growing clarity coming from climate model analysis, it is becoming ever more obvious that our fossil fuel consumption has already burned us out of the safe zone and is increasingly pushing us into a dangerous era of devastating climate impacts. A recent Discovery Magazine article analyzing the NCAR report somewhat joking called for climate change alarmism in an article entitled: Wanted: Global Warming Alarmists.

And it is true that global warming alarmism is indeed called for because, well, the world need a proper warning for what’s in store. Especially if we continue to subsidize fossil fuel production to the tune of half a trillion dollars each year and growing.

Links:

https://www2.ucar.edu/atmosnews/news/8264/future-warming-likely-be-high-side-climate-projections-analysis-finds

http://news.discovery.com/earth/wanted-global-warming-alarmists-121113.html

https://robertscribbler.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/moving-toward-a-fire-age-significant-global-temperature-impacts-and-predictions-for-21rst-century/

Worldwide Fossil Fuel Subsidy of $523 Billion, Six Times That of Renewables, a Massive and Unconscionable Malinvestment

At a breakneck pace, worldwide public funds are being employed to make the global warming situation far, far worse. In total, 2011’s global fossil fuel subsidy was $523 billion dollars, greatly outweighing a renewable energy subsidy of $88 billion dollars during the same year.

This fact belies the notion, often peddled by the oil, gas, and coal industries, that renewable energy sources require government assistance to remain competitive. The larger truth is that all major energy development projects lean on public support. And, as shown above, dirty, dangerous, and depleting fossil fuels suck up the lion’s share of that benefit.

The extra money was spent, in large part, to tap unconventional and expensive energy reserves such as fracked tight oil, heavy oil, tar sands, high sulfur oil, deep water oil, Arctic oil, fracked gas, and methane hydrates. All these energy sources require massive resource and capital expenditures to extract which is why public funding has been necessary to tap the new reserves. In Russia, it costs more than $100 dollars per barrel to extract the new, marginal oil. In Saudi Arabia, a $100 dollar per barrel level is also needed. In the US, a range of 80-90 dollars per barrel is required.

These new oil reserves are being tapped at a time when it is becoming plainly obvious that much of these new fuels must stay in the ground to prevent climate catastrophe. Price Waterhouse Coopers LLC claims that only 1/3 of the world’s current fossil fuel reserves can be burned without devastating climate impacts. The International Energy Agency uses  the same figure. Carbon Tracker, a UK-based Think Tank, notes that only 20% of the world’s current fossil fuel reserves may be burned if we are to avoid extraordinarily damaging impacts.

According to the geological record, sustained levels of CO2 at 400 ppm is enough to raise temperatures as much as 3-4 degrees Celsius, much higher than any of the above reports currently estimate.

So this begs the obvious question: why are we continuing to subsidize fossil fuels at such a breakneck pace? The cost of extracting these sources keeps growing and growing. This, alone, is enough to question their economic viability. But the fact that at least 2/3s and perhaps nearly all of the current reserves can’t be burned dramatically belies how much money and effort is being wasted.

To me, such policies are not very remote parallels to suicide. Economic and social suicide on the part of oil, gas, and coal companies and climate suicide on the part of the world’s civilizations.

Perhaps, a more productive response would be to subsidize renewables at half a trillion a year? My bet is that these energy sources would rapidly overtake and become far more productive than the dirty, dangerous, and depleting fossil fuels that are, even now, causing violent changes to the world’s climate. And these are energy sources with a future. Ones that don’t wreck, in wholesale fashion, the systems that support the diverse life and livelihood of Earth-bound creatures that form the basis for viable economic systems in the first place.

Links:

http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/English.pdf

http://www.carbontracker.org/

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/11/13/1179251/iea-report-fossil-fuel-boom-is-a-climate-disaster-in-the-making/

http://www.pwc.com/en_GX/gx/low-carbon-economy-index/assets/pwc-low-carbon-economy-index-2012.pdf

 

 

$40 Billion in Oil Company Tax Breaks May Be Axed As Part of Fiscal Cliff Agreement

According to news reports from The Hill, oil company tax breaks, a revenue source the oil industry has long defended in Congress, may be cut as part of a budget deal between House republicans, the president, and democrats in the Senate.

House Speaker John Boehner noted today that he wouldn’t rule out cutting the long-standing oil industry tax breaks which amount to more than a $40 billion dollar per decade subsidy for oil extraction and burning in the US.

The oil industry, which is now producing oil from fracked wells at a cost of 80 dollars per barrel, more than twice the cost to produce ethanol, is continuing its years-long campaign to shore up public support. Such actions come at a time of increasing impacts from global warming. A 75 billion dollar drought and a 50+ billion dollar superstorm Sandy have resulted in severe damage to the nation’s homes, waterfront, infrastructure, and food production capacity. Both events have been linked by scientists to climate change.

In addition, reports via both the IEA and PwC are showing that only 1/3 of the current world fossil fuel reserves can be burned without wrecking human civilization and kicking off severe climate feedbacks. Yet the oil industry appears to have ignored these reports and continues to push their dirty and damaging products.

So far, this year, oil companies have generated more than 100 billion dollars in profit selling a product they continue to campaign to enforce dependency on. A product that, even now, is causing serious damage to the nation’s ability to function and grow economically. These profits have been fattened by the very tax breaks that may be cut. Emphatically, these tax breaks need to be removed. They incentivize the extraction and burning of products that are now very harmful to the nation’s future. Indeed, the scale must be tilted against the use of these products and, from this point forward, we should no longer provide public financial incentive for their increasingly dangerous use.

Links:

http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/e2-wire/267455-oil-industry-tax-breaks-face-new-peril-in-fiscal-cliff-talks

Papa John’s Owner Too Much of a Grinch to Provide Health Insurance for Workers

Papa John’s owner John Schnatter lives in this 45,000 square foot castle (image above). He has a 40+ car garage and his corporation, Papa John’s Pizza, made nearly 45 million dollars in profits during the first nine months of this year. Yet John Schnatter, in what seems to be an ugly political statement, recently said that he would ‘be forced to cut worker’s hours to pay for Obamacare.’

Earlier this year, Schnatter said that the costs associated with Obamacare would result in Pizza prices increasing by 11 to 14 cents.

So which is it? Cutting hours, denying healthcare to workers, or raising Pizza prices by a little more than a dime?

What makes Schnatter’s statements even more outrageous and out of touch is the fact that he is promising to give away 2 million pizzas for free. One would think a man who can afford such an excessive marketing ploy, such a massive house, or who makes so much in profits, could afford providing health care for workers. His statements reveal what can be best described as a total lack of humanity for the people who work so hard to make him rich. Who are probably paid at or near minimum wage. And who probably can only make a living by doing work for Papa John’s Pizza in addition to other jobs.

Schnatter made his fortune not via an innovation that raises people’s standards of living. But by cunningly exploiting low-paid workers to mass produce a low cost product — pizza. His kind of fast food is mostly unhealthy and likely contributes to the obesity problem in this country. In the ‘maker and taker’ mythology of the right wing, this man is a ‘maker.’ That ‘hard working guy’ who exploits workers to produce a, rather crappy, product and who would never, ever dream of making the life of his fellow man one iota better.

For my part, I can share no measure of guilt for supporting this man. Back in 1996, a Papa John’s pizza gave me salmonella food poisoning. Since that time, I have not eaten one slice of Papa John’s pizza.

Petition to Boycott Papa John’s:

http://www.change.org/petitions/boycott-papa-johns-boycott-companies-laying-off-cutting-hrs-or-hindering-employees

Links:

http://www.opposingviews.com/i/money/jobs-and-careers/boycott-papa-johns-over-corporate-greed

Burning One Third of Current Fossil Fuel Reserves is Enough to Wreck Civilization. So Why, Oh Why, are We Tapping Methane Hydrates?

We basically have three choices: mitigation, adaptation and suffering. We’re going to do some of each. The question is what the mix is going to be. The more mitigation we do, the less adaptation will be required and the less suffering there will be. –John Holdren, President of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences.

According to a recent report by Price Waterhouse Cooper, burning 1/3 of the remaining fossil fuel reserves is enough to push world CO2 concentrations to 450 ppm. This concentration would almost certainly bring world temperatures more than 2 degrees above the 20th century average — a level that scientists agree would result in powerful climate feedbacks and terrible impacts to human civilization, likely wrecking many of the world’s most powerful and diverse societies. This is the terrible outcome we see from burning just 1/3 of the world’s current fossil fuel reserves. Burning them all puts the world on the path to a devastating and unlivable 1000 ppm or more.

Yet world fossil fuel reserves is a moving number. Each year, new sources that were considered inaccessible are tapped. So, next year, new discoveries will add to the total. And the year following. And so on. Even worse, worldwide efforts by advanced societies to tap a massive fossil reserve of methane called hydrates is now underway. Methane hydrate is a frozen reserve of methane and water that lies locked hundreds or thousands of feet below permafrost or on or beneath ocean sea beds. Altogether, they represent a carbon store as much as two or three times the size of the world’s current accessible fossil fuel reserves.

Japan, Russia, and now the United States are experimenting with new technologies aimed at extracting these massive methane reserves. Recently, in Alaska, Conoco Philips, funded by Department of Energy grant money, partnered with Japanese hydrate extraction experts in an attempt to tap frozen methane beneath Alaska’s North Slope. In a process that involves injecting CO2 into underground formations to displace frozen methane, this partnership is attempting to prove viable a new extraction technology that may result in the additional burning of more than a trillion tons of fossil fuel.

The cost of this extraction is still prohibitively high. But, if tar sands, fracking and other unconventional extraction techniques are any guide, the oil industry will spare no expense to extract and burn as much of this fuel as possible. And, if current marketing and lobbying campaigns by the oil and gas companies are successful, then alternative energies will be squelched, necessitating the burning of this expensive and environmentally explosive fuel.

Though some CO2 may be sequestered in the extraction process, an additional volume of methane will be released as well. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas in its own right. But the real issue is the fact that burning this methane in addition to all the other conventional fossil fuels would create enough global warming to wreck human civilization many times over. This is an unconscionable result. Which begs the question: why are we trying to tap this methane? Why are we continuing to make our situation worse and worse when we should be deploying alternative energy technologies as fast as is humanly possible? We need to avoid 450 ppm CO2 like the plague and we need to rush back to 350 ppm CO2 as fast as possible.

We had a climate-change driven storm earlier this month. It was powerful and freakish. It flooded New York City’s subway system for the first time ever and left more than 40,000 Americans homeless. But Sandy will seem but a weak trifle compared to the impacts coming our way. So, why, oh why would we continue to make them worse?

Links:

http://www.pwc.com/en_GX/gx/low-carbon-economy-index/assets/pwc-low-carbon-economy-index-2012.pdf

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/11/11/1176411/adaptation-mitigation-misery/#comment-560691

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/11/methane-hydrate-alaska-north-slope-climate-change_n_2113828.html

Arctic Sea Ice Melt in November Brings New Record Lows for Date; Stormy Weather Patterns Emerge; Low Degree of Re-Freeze Means 2013 Melt May Surpass 2012

Arctic sea ice area and extent remained at record lows today as very warm Arctic conditions suppressed re-freeze for this time of year. According to JAXA (the Japanese Space Agency), sea ice extent for today was 8.47 million square kilometers — or about 1.7 million square kilometers below the 1980s average for this date. According to Cryopshere Today, Arctic sea ice area was 7.11 million square kilometers — or about 1.8 million square kilometers below the 1979-2008 average. This value for sea ice area was also about 70,000 square kilometers below yesterday’s value, showing that sea ice area fell at a time that usually includes rapid re-freeze. Minor ‘melts’ of this kind can happen in November. However, given the fact that we are already in record low territory, any ice recession results in compounding a serious Arctic melt problem.

Arctic sea ice melt is still the driving factor in global sea ice totals. Today, global sea ice averages also remained in record low territory.

The likely causes of continued record low Arctic sea ice values are manifold. First, temperatures are abnormally high for this time of year. Looking at the image below, we can see that Arctic temperatures range from a, very warm, 7 degrees Celsius above average to a stunning 20 degrees Celsius (or more) above average. When combined with a large zone of hotter than average temperatures in Europe and Asia, these extreme temperatures are likely pushing global averages into record ranges for the month.

Another graph, showing temperatures above the 80th parallel, reveals very high Arctic temperatures in that region as well.

Likely aiding in these high Arctic temperatures are very large peaks and troughs in the jet stream. The troughs, likely caused by receding sea ice influencing the jet stream, are pushing powerful storm systems into temperate zones throughout the northern hemisphere. A couple of weeks ago, Hurricane Sandy combined with one of these Arctic-born weather systems to severely impact the US East Coast. Just yesterday, another powerful storm, fueled by these Arctic troughs, ripped through Europe dumping enough rain to create the 6th worst flood in Venice’s, very long, history.

It is possible that the new weather pattern caused by Arctic sea ice melt will result in more strong storms for the US East Coast and Europe this winter. In addition, that weather pattern is also transporting heat from the south up into the Arctic, further enhancing warming and reducing re-freeze. This air, dredged up from the tropics, is likely to result in sea ice being thinner and more fragile than usual at the end of this year’s freeze season. The result is that next summer (2013) may see even worse melt than that experienced during 2012’s record season.

Links:

https://sites.google.com/site/arcticseaicegraphs/

http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm

http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/seaice.recent.arctic.png

Fiscal Cliff? What about the Climate Cliff? New Study Shows Window For Avoiding Severe Warming Impacts is Closing

Often, when looking at global warming, I am shocked by how much we have failed to understand the context of the problem we’re dealing with. That context can be best described by a planet that, for the most part, makes dramatic responses to small degrees of forcing over relatively short periods of time. In the periodic switching of ice age to warmer inter-glacial, the small, gradual changes in Earth’s orbit and in the distribution of sunlight over the Earth’s surface have been enough to push large climate shifts of 5 degrees Celsius or more over the span of 300-1000 years.

In the case of human greenhouse gas emissions, we have something much more extreme. A rather large forcing, in the form of a 120 ppm CO2 increase over the course of 150 years (and continuing to increase at a growing rate), is now putting the world climate system in motion. Current world CO2 concentrations are now near 400 ppm. This enormous forcing and increase in CO2 has happened at a rate ten times faster than during any time in geologic history. And the consequences of this very large and growing forcing will be devastating unless that forcing is rapidly reduced.

Unfortunately, there are many who publicly consider this forcing as a static influence, a steady-state change. The studies only see human CO2 emissions in a vacuum. They seem to indicate that changes to Earth’s climate will be the result of this forcing alone and not result in powerful responses from Earth’s larger climate. A recent study entitled “Too Late for Two Degrees,” published by Price Waterhouse Coopers LLC, follows this view by predicting world-wide CO2 concentrations based on human additions only. But if you look at the fine print, they provide this chilling caveat:

This high-level analysis has rounded figures and made several simplifying assumptions, for example on carbon sinks, and ignored complex interactions in the carbon cycle (such as any feedback effects), consistent with the LCEI model described in Appendix 1. In table 10.8, the IPCC also provides the likely range of temperature outcomes at different CO2 equivalent concentrations. The likely range of temperature increase is greater at higher concentrations.

When one considers that there is at least enough carbon stored in Earth’s sinks to contribute more than three times the amount of CO2 as fossil fuels, is it really a good idea to ignore these sources? But even if these sleeping giants remain dormant, a highly unrealistic assumption, world temperatures are likely to increase quite a bit more than the PwC study and many others estimate.

IF human CO2 emissions resulted in no additional global warming feedbacks coming from Earth’s environment, we would still be in for some serious changes. According to geological history, a level of 400 ppm CO2 results in 3-4 degrees Celsius of warming and the melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic Ice sheets — adding about 75 feet to sea level. This geological evidence contrasts with the PwC study, which estimates a 2 degree Celsius increase at 450 ppm CO2. More likely, past history will be a better guide for future results than a broad-based study that makes sweeping assumptions.

Sadly, this underestimation of the effects of even static changes only begins to address how much the PwC study has underestimated broader human greenhouse gas impacts. The human influx of CO2 resulting in an initial level of 400 ppm and growing will likely result in far worse changes. In particular, these changes involve the feedbacks which the PwC study has, admittedly ignored. There is a substantial amount of water vapor that will end up in the atmosphere. This added water content will heat the climate further. There is a substantial amount of permafrost, containing methane and carbon dioxide, which will thaw and add to the CO2 and methane already in the atmosphere. There is a substantial amount of methane on the sea bed in the form of frozen hydrates. A portion of these reserves will thaw and add carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere. There are broad areas of ice that will melt, turning white, reflective surfaces into dark, absorptive surfaces, making the planet even warmer and speeding the release of carbon from frozen stores.

The result is, likely, that if CO2 levels remain at 400 ppm for an extended period — decades to centuries — that these Earth-based feedbacks will be enough to push worldwide CO2 levels as high as 500 or 600 ppm. The last time CO2 levels were this high, all the ice caps melted and sea levels were 250 feet higher than they are today. Temperatures were 5-6 degrees Celsius higher.

We are in danger of this consequence and all the radical, violent, and powerful weather and Earth changes that will occur as a result now. But, even worse, we continue to add human-based CO2 at the rate of 2.2 parts per million each year to the atmosphere and that rate is increasing. If we continue on this path, it is likely that worldwide CO2 levels will substantially exceed 1000 ppm by the end of this century. And the level of heating that would result from this degree of concentration would be beyond anything seen during any period in which Earth supported complex life.

So it is for these reasons that I tend to look with skepticism at studies alleging that it is possible for the world to avoid a 2 degrees Celsius rise in temperature. Many scientists agree that staying below this level would be enough to avoid the very worst impacts of climate change and keep world civilizations and their supportive base of food production viable. Such studies are based on the notion that cutting carbon emissions, if enacted fast enough, can result in reduced CO2 levels and prevent the feedbacks that result in the worst temperature increases. This is possible. It is possible if the Earth climate system is not as sensitive as geology would seem to indicate. It is possible if carbon sinks can rapidly begin to draw world CO2 levels down and that other sinks do not become sources too rapidly.

In my view, as noted above, these studies have tended to be a bit optimistic. Broad based action is required, certainly and urgently. But some degree of human carbon capture may also be required if we are to hope to retain a livable planet. To return CO2 levels to the safe zone of 350 ppm which is likely to result in the least amount of damage.

So you can understand why the PwC study brought a shiver up my spine. The study is based on, what seems to me, a flawed notion that if global CO2 levels are stabilized at 450 ppm, then a rise in temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius can be prevented. This notion, itself, is flawed, for the very reasons I described above. Stabilizing atmospheric concentrations at 450 ppm is a recipe for at least 3 degrees of additional warming and a likely environmental contribution of CO2 to result in world concentrations stabilizing around 600 ppm even under somewhat optimistic scenarios.

This PwC study’s assertion is that for human caused CO2 concentrations to stay below 450 ppm, global carbon intensity will need to fall by 5.1% each year from 2013 to 2050. The current global annual rate of carbon intensity reduction is .8%. So in order for human emissions to result in a stabilized level of 450 ppm CO2 (and likely environmental feedbacks bringing levels as high as 600 ppm CO2), worldwide rates of carbon intensity reduction would have to increase nearly sevenfold.

Even more alarming, current rates of carbon intensity reduction would result in over 1,400 ppm CO2 from human sources alone by the end of this century! But at this level it is almost certain that enough carbon to increase CO2 concentrations above 2,500 ppm CO2 will then be supplied from the world’s environment. At this level, Earth will almost certainly become unable to support complex life, much less human civilization. It will certainly be on a path toward a hellish environment reminiscent of Venus and not the blue planet we have known.

This range from a terrible increase to 450 ppm to a hellish increase to 1,400 ppm or more is not acceptable. Carbon intensity needs to fall by a range of 6-8 percent each year. Very rapid adoption and deployment of wind, solar, and electric vehicles will be necessary to achieve these reductions. Changes in agriculture will also likely be necessary. These changes would prevent terrible impacts. But some very difficult to deal with changes would still, likely, be in store. And, therefore, it may be necessary to also deploy atmospheric carbon capture and to explore ways to enhance the Earth’s albedo as well.

At all levels, a sense of urgency is necessary to deal with this growing crisis.

Links:

http://www.pwc.com/en_GX/gx/low-carbon-economy-index/assets/pwc-low-carbon-economy-index-2012.pdf

Tax Increases on Rich to Result in 700,000 Jobs Lost? John Boehner Cites Study From Firm Suspected of Fraud

In his press conference this morning, John Boehner, to his credit, left open the door for increased revenues. In doing so, he mentioned closing ‘special interest’ tax loop holes. And though some monies are likely to be retrieved through closing such loop-holes, it is impossible to materially deal with the deficit without also increasing taxes as well. To Boehner’s great discredit, in this particular regard, he continues to misinform, repeating the debunked claim that raising taxes on the rich results in lost jobs.

Throughout the Presidential election, President Obama has campaigned on the necessity for letting the Bush tax cuts expire for top earners. Letting the taxes return to Clinton-era tax rates for millionaires would increase government revenues by 650 billion over ten years. Letting tax rates return to Clinton-era levels for those making more than 250,000 per year would increase revenues by 1 trillion over ten years. Much of the American public seems to realize the merits of this position. Thirteen percent of Americans think the Bush Tax Cuts should be allowed to expire in their entirety. Forty seven percent of Americans believe that cuts for top rates should be allowed to expire. This total of 60 percent of the American public compares favorably to the 35% who believes taxes should not be raised at all.

It is likely that even this 35% would have doubts if they realized the flimsy source for Boehner’s false assertion that raising taxes would result in jobs losses. At today’s press conference, Boehner cited a report published by Ernst and Young. The report claimed that letting the Bush Tax Cuts expire for top earners would result in 700,000 jobs losses.

However, this report is in direct contradiction to a report recently published by the Congressional Budget Office. A recent report, which the Republicans forced to be shelved, showed that increasing taxes on the rich had no negative effect on jobs. Even now, the CBO’s position is that raising taxes on the rich would result in, at most, 200,000 jobs lost. However, the added economic stability put in place by moving toward balanced budgets and increasing government revenues reinvested in the US economy would result in more jobs long-term.

Even though the CBO is a non-partisan authority well recognized for its accuracy, the Ernst and Young paper becomes more questionable when one considers the company that produced the report. For one, Ernst and Young is hardly unbiased. It is a large, global corporation operating under an ideology very similar to that of republicans. Unlike the CBO, the company is not non-partisan. Instead it represents its own special interests which are likely in conflict with the interests of the American people.

For these reasons alone, the validity of the Ernst and Young report would be suspect. But Ernst and Young was also involved in the financial crisis in ways that further degrade their degree of trustworthiness. Just before Lehman Brothers collapsed, Ernst and Young submitted an accounting report that professed that Lehman was in a sound financial state. This particular report was so far removed from reality that it has drawn charges of fraud on the part of Ernst and Young who was accused of helping Lehman ‘cook the books.’

Stepping away from the origins of flimsy republican assertions about tax increases harming jobs growth, we have only to look at history to see how invalid repeated republican claims are. Clinton raised taxes and produced the greatest level of jobs growth in decades. Bush cut taxes and jobs growth collapsed. So long as the Bush tax rates have been in effect, US jobs growth has been stagnant or slow. These historical consequences show that a moderate level of increased taxation and re-investment by US government in the American economy is stimulative and results in more jobs overall. This historical proof is in direct contradiction to republican assertions or reports by special interest corporations under suspicion of fraud.

Links:

http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3806

http://www.nbcnews.com/business/tax-hike-wealthy-wont-kill-growth-cbo-says-1C6972578

http://news.firedoglake.com/2012/08/27/cbo-nearly-1-trillion-saved-by-letting-bush-tax-cuts-over-250000-expire/

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503983_162-20000341-503983.html

 

Democrats Win Popular Vote in Races for President, Senate and, yes, House

After repeating lies and misinformation throughout the 2012 election, Republicans didn’t miss a beat following their substantial loss on Tuesday. Again and again we are hearing Republican politicians chattering about how Democrats, especially President Obama, have no mandate.

Before we deconstruct this most recent Republican mangling of reality, let’s first take a look at the meaning of the word mandate. Mandate, according to dictionary definitions, means ‘to give someone authority to act in a certain manner.’ In general, winning an election is, by definition, a mandate. The elected person is the one given authority or mandate.

But, in a broader sense, political mandate is a definition of what a majority of Americans want. And in every case, Democrats won more popular vote totals than Republicans. Obama won the popular Presidential vote by nearly 3 million. The Democrats in the Senate won the popular vote too, expanding their majority by 2 seats. And, though they were unable to re-gain control of the House, Democrats in that branch of government received 500,000 more votes than Republicans, also winning the popular vote.

In short, Democrats, in all branches of government have the American people’s mandate to pursue the policies they’ve run on. And no Republican mangling of language is going to change that fact. Sadly, the Republicans have simply reverted to attempts to diminish their political opposition in every way and at every time. They have, instead of reverting to the role of governing after waging a punishing, untruthful, and vicious campaign, and losing, decided to just continue campaigning. This decision is a decision to put their own political goals, ones rejected repeatedly by the American people, ahead of the good of country.

Should it be any surprise that the republican party of obstructionism, hostage taking, and voter suppression would make this choice?

Republicans had a chance to lose graciously and retain their role as legitimate members of US government. But, as the viciousness continues, the clock is ticking. In another day or so, it will become obvious that Republicans have continued to wage their selfish little war on US interests. The interests of a majority of Americans. And, if this happens, the campaign to unseat every obstructionist in 2014 will have already begun. And it will begin from the same group the drubbing Republicans’ received on Tuesday originated. It will begin with the real American people. The ones Republicans continue to ignore.

Historic US Drought Intensifies At Heart, Erodes at Fringes, Wheat Crop In Danger

A historic drought that began 8 months ago continues. Though this massive drought is slowly receding at the edges, covering 59% of the contiguous US, 1% less than last week, the drought is expanding and intensifying at its heart. More than 6% of the United States is suffering under exceptional drought, the most severe drought level. And more than 19% of the country is suffering under extreme drought conditions or worse.

Unfortunately, the area of extreme drought conditions is parked squarely over the United States breadbasket. Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota are the hardest hit states. As a result the US wheat crop is under increasingly severe risk. Soil moisture levels are plummeting and many areas are experiencing top ten hottest and driest months for this time of year. Surface water reserves were also growing more and more scarce. As as a result, grazing regions for livestock are drying out.

For Texas and Oklahoma, this is the second major drought in as many years. For the US west, the time period from 2000 to now has been the fifth driest period in 500 years, experiencing a succession of droughts and dry spells. Climate models have indicated that droughts would become more frequent over time as human caused climate change worsened. Unfortunately, conditions over the next few decades will only continue to grow worse — far moreso if human fossil fuel emissions are not dramatically cut back. By the time 2050 rolls around, without serious cuts in CO2, the US heartland is all mostly desert. A transition to these extreme conditions would be devastating to US food and national security.

Globally, the world has experienced severe droughts in growing regions of the US, Europe, and Russia. The result is very low worldwide grain stocks. The UN has warned that if any more ‘unforeseen events’ occur, the world will almost certainly slip into a food crisis. Global governments and leaders continue to ignore warnings from climate scientists and food monitors. This situation is unconscionable and, if it worsens, will likely result in crisis, sporadic and growing hunger, and political instability.

Links:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/classified/automotive/sns-rt-us-usa-droughtbre8a716v-20121108,0,2326994.story

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: