Amidst Supreme Court Nightmare, We Should Recognize that the Road Toward Climate Justice Will Be Long and Arduous

“There is a nation, which in all its strength and virtue is in the grips of a group of ruthless men, preaching a gospel of intolerance and racial pride –unrestrained by law, by parliament, or by public opinion…” — Winston Churchill, 1934

Let us pray that we do not become such a nation. That we retain the resolve to resist authoritarianism, bigotry, and oppression of the weak, the helpless, minorities, women, and those in dire need of our aid. That we hold fast the will to keep fighting for a world capable of supporting the rich array of life that gives us life in turn.

(Climate justice at stake.)

Late Yesterday, Justice Anthony Kennedy, in failing to stand up to an increasingly authoritarian and abusive Trump Administration, decided to resign early. In doing so, he opened his lynch-pin moderate Supreme Court seat to a far more conservative replacement.

This is not to say that Justice Kennedy was a great champion of social virtue, freedom and justice. He has sided in the past with harmful corporate interests — as in the case of Citizen’s United and in the recent JANUS decision. His role in Bush v Gore sent a chill through our democracy.

But many freedoms and human rights for women, the incarcerated, those of varying sexual preference now hang in an increasingly tilted political balance. Meanwhile, burgeoning environmental issues such as the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon, and the potential liability of fossil fuel companies who have misinformed the public thereby risking vast damage from climate change, are now also at risk. For Kennedy has long stood as a back-stop preventing the erosion of key human rights and in at least moderately enabling government to respond to climate change related threats.

We should, perhaps, not be surprised. The republicans after all — through their vicious media campaigns, through their warping of the web, through Gerrymandering and voter suppression, and, yes, through collusion with hostile foreign powers — have taken both Houses of Congress and the Presidency combined. They have, through Trump, through Senate leadership, and through House leadership, eroded and removed practically all norms that would check a party in power. They are, in other words, clearing a way for the unjust application of a brutal authority. A brutality that most recently manifest in the cruel separation of children from parents seeking asylum at the border.

Many had hoped that Justice Anthony Kennedy would hang on — at least as a moderate check to the increasing totality of right wing power. He has not. So here we are — faced with the possibility that a majority of Supreme Court Justices will side with burgeoning authoritarianism. That the great progress that we have gained in the last Century might be snuffed out in this one. That the hope of responses to a darkening climate future might be smothered under a choking smog of denial.

We can say *might* because not all is yet lost. You and I still have a voice and a vote. We still have the ability to resist and to fight — if we retain the will. For we may yet rattle and over-top the halls of this newly minted unjust power. We may yet defeat the enablers of harm in the coming difficult electoral battle of November of 2018. But we only hold that chance if we retain the will. If we allow that noble fire in the belly to continue to burn.

To this we must say that our generations have grown soft after an age of good fortune. We have not been tested. We have not been honed. Many of us are soft and weak. And seeing a future difficulty it is our tendency to say — ‘no-way, it is too much!’

No more. We must recognize that the future is hard. The present problems we face at home — even moreso. That the dragons and monsters we must defeat are legion.

But with our backs against the wall we are left with these two choices — fight, or give up and be devoured. And we will fight. Because that is who we are as Americans. A people who believe that a better tomorrow can be made for all, and who for centuries have been willing to do the good work of progress. A nation forged in the fight against unjust authoritarian rule.

It is time to heed the call again. To become our better, more virtuous angels. In this we are now left with no choice.


Western Heat Predicted to Move East

The extreme heat that is helping to fan severe western wildfires from California to Alaska is predicted to move eastward over the coming days. This shift is expected to set off high temperatures in the 90s and 100s from the Gulf Coast all the way to the Great Lakes and into the Northeast. Heat Index values, meanwhile, are predicted to spike into the 100s and 110s from the Mississippi Valley north and eastward.

(Much warmer than normal temperatures spread from west to east across the U.S.)

These much warmer than normal temperatures and potentially dangerous heat index values occur in a context of larger national and global warming. May of 2018 was the hottest on record according to NOAA. The U.S. presently sits between two warmer to much warmer than normal ocean zones. And overall global temperatures have been rising since the 1900s, with a more rapid up-ramp occurring since the late 1990s.

For the Central and Eastern U.S., warmer than normal oceans are also spiking atmospheric moisture levels through increased rates of evaporation. These higher moisture levels will be contributing to predicted heat indexes where large regions are expected to experience temperatures that feel like the 100s or 110s (see image below).

(Heat index values are predicted to rise to between 40 and 45 C for large parts of the Central and Eastern U.S. The 44 C predicted heat index for parts of Western New York on July 1 corresponds to a 111 F ‘feels like’ condition for this Northeastern region. Such high heat index values present a heightened risk of heat injury due to long term exposure. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Combined high heat and humidity increase the risk of heat injury due to exposure. And rising heat indexes and wet bulb temperatures are just one of the many potentially harmful aspects of human caused climate change.

From Inverse:

In the future, parts of the world will become so hot and humid that healthy adults sitting in the shade will die within a matter of hours. It’s hard to imagine, and yet that’s where Earth’s climate is headed, perhaps sooner than expected.

But while many recent studies have rightly focused on physical human limits under high wet bulb temperature risks for parts of South Asia and the Middle East, the Central to Eastern U.S. is also a region of concern. Climate risks to this region of the U.S. are due to both high predicted temperatures and high moisture levels from increasingly warm Gulf and Atlantic Ocean surfaces. The result is that heat capable of resulting in rapid heat injury or even loss of life, with wet bulb temperatures above 35 C, is possible by mid-to-late Century under high fossil fuel burning scenarios.

(At 10 C global warming, large regions of the world are regularly predicted to experience temperatures above 35 C Wet Bulb readings — or a level at which the human body is not naturally capable of cooling itself. Of course, such dangerous Wet Bulb readings are possible under still lower levels of global warming. Note that the Central to Eastern U.S. is one of the indicated hot spots from this recent paper.)

Though the Eastern U.S. is not yet facing extreme wet bulb readings of this kind, temperatures and humidity levels are presently on the rise. So the predicted heat wave is still expected to pack a punch. And perhaps a bit more than we’re used to.

We’re looking at a predicted extended period of significant above normal temperatures and high humidity over the coming days. So the public should stay tuned to local media for heat advisories issued by the National Weather Service (see heat safety tips here) and do what they can to keep cool by drinking water frequently and by spending less time exposed to blazing temperatures and sweltering humidity.

Pawnee Fire Forces Another State of Emergency for Northern California

Human-forced climate change is driving severe events that local communities are having difficulty recovering from. The primary reason is that the tempo of these events is so high that it allows little time for recovery.

(Another series of intense wildfires, another state of emergency for California.)

This weekend, a large complex of fires erupted in the Lake County region of Northern California. By today, the fires had expanded to cover over 10,500 acres. The rapidly expanding fire has already destroyed more than 22 buildings while forcing 3,000 to flee. Meanwhile, Governor Jerry Brown had declared a state of emergency.

Hot and dry conditions fanned the blazes on Tuesday, increasing concerns that the fires would continue to rapidly spread. Temperatures in Fresno are expected to hit 100 degrees (F) today with readings in Redding likely to hit near the century mark. Meanwhile, a large zone from Death Valley to Vegas to Phoenix is predicted to see temperatures hit 108 to 114 (F) or above.

(Very hot conditions across California are presently elevating fire risk. Already, large blazes have burned numerous buildings and forced hundreds to flee. Image source: National Weather Service.)

These hot, windy conditions will continue to elevate fire hazards across the west — which is bad news for communities beleaguered by the ongoing spate.

During recent years, big swings between heavy precipitation events and hot, dry conditions have fueled larger, more intense wildfires across the U.S. West and particularly in Northern California. Human caused climate change drives these events by adding moisture to the atmosphere which favors heavier storms and by forcing temperatures higher. The result is that vegetation grows and blooms more rapidly during the wetter than normal periods and dries out faster during the hotter than normal periods — generating more dry fuel for wildfires.




Tesla’s Mass Clean Energy Production as Response to Climate Change Surges in June

Surging wind, solar, electrical vehicle and battery storage production provide the world with the opportunity to start reducing annual carbon emissions in the near term. And one clean energy leader appears set to break new ground toward achieving that helpful goal.

(Tesla appears set to achieve goals, squeeze shorts, and help make clean energy more accessible for everyone.)

According to recent reports from Electrek, a Tesla employee recently leaked that Gigafactory battery pack production for the Model 3 has averaged 5,000 per week during June. If true, it shows that one key portion of the Tesla Model 3 line is humming along at a very strong rate of production commensurate with the company’s sky-high goals.

In addition, we have recently discovered that Tesla has not one, not two, but three production lines running for the Model 3 at its Fremont factory. During April and May Tesla constructed a second production line. And by late May these two lines surged to 3,500 Model 3 per week production.

(Tesla has constructed a massive semi-permanent structure to house a third Model 3 line in an effort to hit 5,000 vehicles per week. This line appeared in a very short period of time and shows that Tesla may indeed be capable of very rapid jumps in the number of electrical vehicles it produces. Image source: Teslarati.)

Meanwhile, during June, reports emerged that a hard-shell semi-permanent shelter had been erected to house a third Model 3 production line at the Fremont factory site. This third line is dedicated to producing dual-motor and performance versions of the EV — which are now officially on offer.

Overall, it appears that the clean energy company likely produced between 25,000 and 30,000 Model 3s during Q2. With total EV production including Model S and X in the range of 45,000 to 55,000. By comparison, Tesla produced approximately 100,000 EVs during 2017. So they are on track to at least double clean energy vehicle production during 2018.

(Indicators point to between 25,000 and 30,000 total Model 3s produced during Q2 — a massive surge over Q1. Image source: Bloomberg.)

This big surge reminds me a bit of the mass production effort that occurred in response to Axis power aggression during World War II. Although, the present clean energy production wave is in response to a serious and ramping climate threat posed by fossil fuel burning. A response that is peaceful, global, and occurring both in a chiefly capitalistic fashion (for Musk and Tesla) and in a socialistic (market-command) fashion for countries like China.

In the end, what’s most important is that a clean energy transition happens, not which political or ideological forces are engaged to achieve it. And what we see now is a mix of society-enhancing policy coming from a variety of cities and states with various market responses. In fact, it is this kind of mixed response that provides the most healthy and broadest-based solutions to the threat of human-caused climate change. So we welcome it in all its various forms.

How Arctic Sea Ice Loss Could Make the Hot Pacific Blob Permanent 

From the North Pacific to the tropics, loss of sea ice will result in a vastly heated Pacific Ocean in which events like the recent Hot Blob become far more common. Those were the conclusions of a new model study conducted by Wang, Deser, Sun and Tomas and recently published in Geophysical Research Letters.

(Understanding how sea ice loss in the Arctic can result in large-scale Pacific warming.)

An ocean heating event called the Blob resulted in mass loss of sea life during the period of 2013-2014. It was associated with a towering high pressure ridge in which the upper level winds ran far to the north and into the Arctic. Beneath the ridge, temperatures both at the land and ocean surface grew to be much warmer than normal.

Though viewed as a fluke by some, many began to draw connections between the powerful ridge feature, the related Pacific warming, and sea ice loss in the Arctic. Now, a new scientific study using climate models has produced some rather telling findings. First, the study found that Arctic sea ice loss results in large scale Pacific Ocean warming within just 10-20 years of widespread Arctic Ocean ice reductions. Second, the study models indicated that warming occurred first and strongest in the North Pacific, but then rapidly translated toward the Equator.

(Sea surface temperatures across the North Pacific were much warmer than normal during the hot Blob event of 2013-2014. A new model study finds that sea ice loss will make such extreme events common.)

The reason for this change in planetary and Pacific Ocean energy balance is scientifically described as a teleconnection. In very basic terms, loss of sea ice at the Arctic Ocean surface produces changes in local wind patterns that ripple through the global atmosphere. After a rather short period of time, wind patterns in the upper levels of the atmosphere and at the surface in the Pacific Ocean become involved.

Winds are often the vehicle by which energy is transferred throughout the atmosphere and at the surface. So a change in winds, from the top of the atmosphere to the bottom, can swiftly translate to a change in surface temperatures.

(A new model study shows radical changes in Pacific sea surface temperatures in response to Arctic Ocean sea ice loss.)

Looking at the study, it appears more likely now that the Northern Pacific Hot Blob of 2013-2014 was not a fluke, but instead an early knock-on effect of Arctic sea ice loss. A kind of event that will tend to become commonplace as the Arctic Ocean ice continues to melt. And that eventually, sooner rather than later, the heat build-up in the North Pacific will translate south to the Equator. First warming the Eastern Pacific in a more persistent El Nino type pattern and then spreading west (see image above).

As with the Blob, everything from the health of sea life to the intensity of extreme weather would be substantially impacted by such large scale changes. In other words, it looks like large scale losses of Arctic sea ice are enough to affect a broad and disruptive change in the global climate regime.

Southeast Texas Hammered by 15+ Inches of Rain

It doesn’t take a hurricane or tropical storm to dump massive amounts of rain on southeast Texas these days. Just a wave of tropical moisture from an ocean warmed by human-caused climate change.

(Not a hurricane, but southeast Texas may see 20 inches or more of rain this week.)

Over the past few days, a massive surge of moisture has flowed off the warmer than normal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This moisture has interacted with a trough dipping down over the Central U.S. to produce prodigious amounts of rainfall. And ever since late Sunday powerful thunderstorms have been firing across the Texas coast.

As of this morning, according to reports from The National Weather Service, between 5 and 15 inches of rainfall had inundated a vast swath stretching from the Texas-Mexico border northward to a Houston area still recovering from Hurricane Harvey’s historic floods. These heavy rains, producing amounts typically seen from a substantial tropical cyclone, have generated major flooding and flash flood warnings across the region. As the waters rise, residents have become justifiably concerned about personal safety and damage to property.

NOAA forecasts indicate that storms expected to continue firing through Thursday, with between 2 and 7 inches of additional rainfall possible. It is worth noting that atmospheric moisture levels over the region are very high. So predicted rainfall totals may be exceeded.

(As of 7 AM, more than 15 inches of rain had fallen over parts of southeast Texas in association with a persistent upper level low and related severe thunderstorms. Heavy rains have continued to fall throughout the day and aren’t expected to abate until at least Thursday. Image source: The National Weather Service.)

During recent years, increased global temperatures have generated more extreme rainfall events for places like southeastern Texas. Warmer ocean surfaces — like those in the heating Gulf of Mexico — evaporate more moisture into the atmosphere. And this moisture generates more fuel for storms — greatly increasing the peak rainfall potential of the most intense storms.

Last year, southeast Texas faced inundation from a number of severe events. A sequence that was capped off by the record-shattering Hurricane Harvey — which tied Katrina as the costliest U.S. storm on record and dumped more than 60 inches of rainfall over parts of the state. Though the present storm event is not likely to reach Harvey levels of extremity, it is a stark reminder that we have entered a new climate and extreme weather regime. One that will continue to worsen so long as we keep burning fossil fuels and forcing global temperatures to rise.

NASA: May Was 4th Hottest on Record

According to reports from NASA GISS, May of 2018 was the 4th hottest in the 138 year global temperature record. This new warmth came as the Equatorial Pacific began to retreat from a cooling La Nina state — which, all things being equal, would have resulted in somewhat cooler than average global temperatures.

(Analysis of global temperature trends based on recent NASA and NOAA reports.)

But all things are not equal. Greenhouse gasses in the range of 410 ppm CO2 and 493 ppm CO2e have created a historically unprecedented heat forcing within the Earth’s atmosphere. As a result, recent global temperatures have consistently exceeded 1 C above 1880s levels and have hit as high as 1.5 C above 1880s levels on a monthly basis and 1.2 C above those levels on an annual basis.

For this May, temperatures were about 0.82 C above NASA’s 20th Century baseline or about 1.04 C above 1880s levels. This was the fourth hottest May in the global climate record despite La Nina influences continuing to maintain hold over the global climate system.

(NASA global anomalies map shows distribution of warmer than normal [yellow to red] and cooler than normal [blue to purple] temperatures across the globe. Note that warmer than normal conditions dominated.)

Overall, the greatest above average temperatures were experienced in the regions of Scandinavia and Antarctica — from an anomaly perspective. Meanwhile, significant trough zones generated counter-trend cool temperatures near Eastern Canada, over the North Atlantic south of Greenland, and across Central Siberia. As we moved into June, some of these zones have shifted or moderated, with cooler air tending to shift closer to eastern Europe in Asia and toward the North Atlantic cool water zone (due to melting Greenland ice) from Eastern Canada.

Looking ahead, NOAA is forecasting a 65 percent chance for a return to El Nino conditions in the Equatorial Pacific by winter of 2018-2019. With atmospheric CO2 hitting near 410 ppm and overall greenhouse gas levels hitting near 493 ppm CO2e, this switch to the warm side of natural variability will again bring with it the risk of record hot global temperatures, should the NOAA forecast bear out. Though we should be clear that El Nino is merely a short term aspect of natural variability that is riding over the long term warming trend generated by human produced greenhouse gas emissions, particularly CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning.


When Fear of Migrants Translates to Putting Children in Cages

The United States has long provided a haven for those seeking safety and asylum. The Statue of Liberty reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me…”

(Why opening our hearts to migrants is so crucial for our future. If YouTube is showing a server error, you can follow the link here.)

We have, for two centuries, served as a much-needed charitable example to other nations. Through great famines and wars we have kept our doors and borders open. But ever since Trump’s election, he has done everything in his power to stomp out our nation’s beacon of liberty, to wall America off from those seeking aid in a troubled world.

In the present day, the hopeful light of liberty is needed far more than ever. Across our globe, the storms and droughts of climate change are worsening. Such natural disasters now result in more people losing access to shelter and livelihoods than conflict and war. With glaciers melting as temperatures increase, an additional 140 million to 2 billion people could be displaced by rising seas through 2100.

2 billion people is fully one in every five human beings expected to be living by 2100. What this means is that the threat of displacement from climate change related factors is not at all remote. It is not something down the road, or across the street, or even sitting on our porch. It is in our house. It is very likely to affect both you and me.

(Climate change worsened storms, droughts and other disasters now result in more people being displaced each year than conflict and violence. However, rising ocean levels are now also likely to displace hundreds of millions of people through the 21st Century. Image source: Internal Displacement Monitoring Center.)

In facing this problem we can react in a number of ways running the gamut from harmful to helpful. Some, like those republicans supporting a Trump Administration now holding children in cages at the border, will try to exploit growing fears of poverty or deeper-seated racism by scape-goating immigrants in an effort to enforce harmful political agendas (border wall, travel ban etc). Others will react with denial, turning their faces from a difficult reality and hiding behind an illusion of safety. But the benevolent will seek to respond with charity, to stand by our values, to provide aid and safe passage for migrants.

It is this final choice that will be essential if global civilization is to maintain a peaceful, benevolent stability through the climate-spurred difficulties of the coming decades. For we will all have to face them. Doing it with compassion is a far better, just, and far more resilient way.

Arctic Sea Ice at 4th Lowest Extent on Record

Warmer than normal conditions, abnormal wide areas of open water, large wildfires burning near Arctic Ocean shores, and Arctic sea ice extents at 4th lowest on record. That’s the present reality of a human-warmed Arctic environment.

(An assessment of present Arctic conditions)

With Arctic temperatures hovering around 1.6 degrees Celsius above average and focusing on a rather hot zone near Central Siberia, Arctic sea ice on the Siberian side is experiencing widespread melt ponding. In addition, a large area of open water is expanding through the Laptev Sea due to warm southerly winds and much warmer than normal temperatures.

Overall, temperatures in this Central Siberian zone will range as high as 25 degrees Celsius (45 F) above average today. With some areas hitting has high as 85-90 (F). Near these much warmer than normal temperatures, a series of large wildfires are burning. Fires so far north are historically rare. But they have become more common as the Earth has warmed due to fossil fuel burning.

(Arctic temperatures are well above average for this time of year. These much warmer than normal temperatures are contributing to a number of impacts, including lower than normal sea ice extent.)

Present sea ice decline rates now put Arctic Ocean ice extent at 4th lowest on record. And the present trajectory for Arctic sea ice appears to be aiming toward approximately 4 million square kilometers come melt season end. However, with human-forced warming now resulting in ever-increasing global temperatures, downside risks remain. Particularly with so much heat moving about in the Arctic.

Accelerating Sea Level Rise is Being Driven by Rapidly Increasing Melt From Greenland and Antarctica

From 1993 to the present day, global sea level rise has accelerated by 50 percent. And the primary cause, according to recent research, is that land glaciers such as the massive ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are melting far faster than they have in the past.

(Assessment of factors involved in the presently increasing rate of global sea level rise.)

Antarctica, in particular, is melting much more rapidly — with melt rates tripling in just the last ten years.

The primary factors contributing to global sea level rise include thermally expanding oceans and the melting of ice on land. During the decade of 1993 to 2004, the World Meteorological Organization notes that oceans rose by 2.7 mm per year. During this time, land ice sheets amounted to 47 percent of that rise — or about 1.35 mm. The same report found that from 2004 to 2015, oceans rose by around 3.5 mm per year and that land ice contribution had risen to 55 percent (1.93 mm per year). Looking at sea level measurements from AVISO, we find that from March of 2008 to March of 2018, the average rate of sea level rise accelerated further to 4.3 mm per year.

The net takeaway is that the rate of global ocean rise has increased by more than 50 percent since the early 1990s and that this acceleration has been driven by increasing melt from large land glaciers like those in Greenland and Antarctica.

(Sea level rise contributors as reported by the World Meteorological Organization in its 2017 report on the state of the global climate.)

Over the coming years and decades, this rate of rise is likely to continue to accelerate — surpassing 5 mm per year sometime rather soon, and likely exceeding the 1 cm per year mark by the 2040s through the 2060s. Melt rates will likely increase substantially as we approach the 1.5 C and 2.0 C warming marks. However, the net heat pressure from fossil fuel emitted greenhouse gasses will also drive sea level rise rates. As a result, it is imperative that we work to cut fossil fuel emissions more rapidly and that we pursue a swift as possible transition to clean energy.

Will Tesla Shorts Be Milked For Billions in Clean Energy Investment Money?

Tesla short sellers have been on a rampage ever since the start of Model 3 production back in July. And to support their position, they’ve penned thousands of Tesla attack articles on blog sites like Seeking Alpha. As a result of this negative media campaign, short interest in Tesla has risen to 12 billion during recent months.

(Tesla shorts are starting to feel the squeeze. But it could get a lot worse real fast if Tesla keeps achieving goals.)

But if shorts get hit with a margin call when Tesla stocks are rising, they’ll end up losing money to the all-clean-energy automaker. If Tesla succeeds, it could ultimately mean that shorts are milked for billions of dollars that will in turn go to building more gigafactories, more electrical vehicles, more solar panels, more batteries.

It’s not beyond the realm of possibility. Back in 2012 when Tesla was ramping up production of the Model S, shorts had a field day. They said that Tesla should have never left behind the Roadster, that Telsa would never produce more than 20,000 Model S’s, that EVs were unprofitable and a failed business model. But as Tesla achieved profitability during 2013, it was the shorts that met with failure. And so as Tesla stock rapidly climbed, short positions were called and Tesla got a big infusion of investment capital.

Short interest remained strong for Tesla during 2013 through 2016. Though it took a bit of a back seat for the Model X ramp. But by 2017 the shorts were back in force. They claimed that the Model 3 ramp would fail, that Tesla would go bankrupt by May, that Tesla’s cash burn was insurmountable, that the Model 3 was unprofitable. Tall anti-clean-energy tales that we’ve all heard versions of before.

(Tesla shorts feeling the squeeze. Image source: Tesla Market Summary.)

And recently as Tesla Model 3 production has raged forward — and is likely to hit near 30,000 during Q2 — the shorts have begun to show a bit of strain. During the past few weeks, Tesla stock has risen from around 280 to around 340. And shorts have lost more than 2 billion dollars in value during the same period. Though just 3 percent of short shares have returned during that time, shorts are starting to feel a bit of a squeeze.

But this small squeeze is likely just a prelude to what will happen when Tesla Model 3 production ramps above 5,000 per week and if Tesla manages to achieve profitability in Q3 and Q4. If Tesla meets those two goals then it will end up milking shorts for billions of clean energy investment dollars. And if/when that happens we can thank the shorts for their unwitting clean energy investment dollars and for helping to fight human-caused climate change.

Stronger, Slower Hurricanes Spell Big Trouble in a Warming World

Recent research by Stephan Rahmstorf and others shows that hurricanes are growing stronger due to human-caused climate change. Unfortunately, this is not the only destruction-enhancing impact. Due to changes in atmospheric circulation, the forward speed of hurricanes is also slowing down. Which makes their destructive effects last longer over a given region.

(Stronger, slower hurricanes means longer-lasting destructive impacts.)

According to new research published by Nature and written by James Kossin, the forward speed of hurricanes in the tropics is slowing down. This slow-down is driven by a weakening of tropical atmospheric circulation. Such weakening has been identified by climate studies for decades and is associated with a warming climate.

As the Earth warms, the Hadley Cell expands and slows, the poles warm faster than the lower latitudes generating more blocking patterns in the middle latitudes, and the Walker Cell also slows down. The net effect is that steering currents for hurricanes are weaker, which reduces their forward speed.

(Observed reduction in hurricane forward motion since 1950. Image source: A global slow-down in tropical cyclone translation speed.)

Reduced forward speed means that hurricane impacts such as strong winds and heavy rain persist for longer periods over a given area. Such longer persistence produces more damage and higher rainfall totals.

Since storms are already increasing in intensity due to warming ocean surfaces, rainfall rates and wind speeds are on the rise. However, these much more powerful storms are becoming brutally slow. The net effect is a pretty terrible combination for cities and regions facing the climate change enhanced storms of today and tomorrow.

(Not a fluke event. The catastrophic flooding produced by Hurricane Harvey is much more likely to occur in a warming world as storms intensify and persist for longer periods over a given region. Image source: The National Weather Service.)

With the world having already warmed by about 1.1 C above 1880s averages, and with the oceans continuing to gain a tremendous amount of heat, we have already seen substantial changes to hurricane severity. However, if fossil fuel burning continues, that severity — both in terms of storm strength and persistence, is likely to continue to increase along with their related catastrophic effects.

Mapping Climate Change Impacts to the World Ocean

The world ocean supports 2.5 trillion dollars in economic activity annually and generates food for more than 1 billion people. Stable coastlines provide homes and livelihoods to hundreds of millions even as coastal ecosystems are among the most vibrant and productive on Planet Earth. But ocean health and all that relies on it is under serious threat from human-caused climate change.

(Resource Watch provides a graphical survey of various climate-ocean indicators)

A new series of maps produced by Resource Watch gives an analysis of present and future ocean health. And if fossil fuel burning continues, the prognosis isn’t good (follow this link and/or watch the above video to see more).

Present impacts to ocean ecology are already measurable in key regions such as the North Atlantic. There, ocean health is in decline from climate-change-related algae blooms, fishery losses, and expanding oxygen-deprived regions. Near the North Atlantic, the Baltic Sea hosts a large oxygen-poor dead zone and its deeper waters seep with hydrogen sulfide gas. Ocean life in the region has taken a serious blow with diverse species from puffins to lobsters to fish all feeling the heat.

(Coral bleaching predicted for the Pacific and Indian Oceans by 2050. Regions in bright yellow are expected to experience bleaching once every year under present fossil fuel burning scenarios. Image source: Resource Watch.)

With warming just at about 1 C above 1880s values, climate change related impacts to oceans are mild compared to what they will be if human civilization keeps burning fossil fuels. More severe impacts come with rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels creating a grim future for corals in rather short order.

By 2030, according to WRI data, equatorial corals are expected to face bleaching every other year under present fossil fuel burning scenarios. By 2050, many equatorial and near equatorial regions will see bleaching every year. At that time, it is possible that 80-90 percent or more of present corals will have been lost.

(Hampton Roads faces large-scale inundation with 2 meters of sea level rise. Image source: Resource Watch.)

A third major impact to the global ocean system comes from melting glaciers and thermal expansion in the form of sea level rise. With both Greenland and Antarctica experiencing increasing melt rates, it’s possible that oceans could rise by 2 meters or more by mid-to-late Century. And higher levels of fossil fuel burning lead to faster rates of ocean rise.

The above map is an example of which areas are likely to face inundation across the Hampton Roads region (take a look at this link to view the interactive map) under 2 meters of sea level rise.

In total, human caused climate change impacts the oceans through four major mechanims: warming temperature, loss of ocean oxygen, acidification, and sea level rise. The maps by Resource Watch provide a broad summary of such key impacts. However, there are still quite a few avenues by which climate monitoring for the world ocean can be improved and expanded.

Climate Change Indicated in Forced Migration of 1.7 Million from Mekong Delta

Global sea level rise caused by fossil fuel burning is an issue that is creating worsening impacts to cities, nations, and civilization itself. And according to recent reports out of Vietnam, 1.7 million people have migrated from the low-lying Mekong Delta region over the past decade. Primary causes included climate change and poverty.

(Sea level rise now threatens all low-lying regions with increased flooding, loss of crops, and, in some cases, forced migration. Recent reports indicate that hundreds of thousands have already left the Mekong delta as a result.)

Rising oceans have forced Vietnam to erect a system of dykes of up to 4 meters in height in an increasingly complex system of coastal defense barriers. These barriers have saved lands from inundation as the ocean off the low-lying Mekong Delta continues to rise year-after-year. However, the dykes have not prevented salt water from moving further and further up the Mekong River. And during recent years, this salt water has inundated soils used for rice production.

Such salt water inundation has wiped out crops for many farmers. For example, in the Soc Trang region, the farmers of Thang Dong saw their crops completely wiped out during 2013 as salt water seeped into the soil and killed off food-producing plants. In low-lying near coastal regions, the story has been much the same for Mekong farmers. And with less reliable crops come increasing poverty.

(Salt water increases in soils as seas rise. The Mekong Delta is just one of many low-lying regions under threat by human caused climate change and its related sea level rise. Image source: Vietnam Times.)

When crop production is no longer tenable due to climate change impacts, many farming families have been forced to move on. A majority cite poverty as the root cause. But 14.5 percent are more aware — noting that climate change was what ultimately forced them to leave.

The Delta regions of the world are among the most agriculturally productive on Earth. But, as with Mekong, all such regions face ocean flooding and salt water invasion. As a result, a key aspect of global food production is under threat. A factor that has recently weighed in high average global food prices and an increase in the number of under-nourished people by 38 million last year.


Crony Central Planning Posing as National Security — Trump Tries to Foist Rising Coal Costs on the American People

Ever since Trump came to office he’s been doing his best to save a polluting, harmful, and increasingly expensive energy source — coal. Why he would do this is rather nonsensical. Coal employs less and less people each year. It pumps toxins into the air and water. And it is a primary enabler of human-caused climate change — which among other things is putting the nation’s cities under threat from rising seas, worsening storms, and more severe wildfires.

Trump and Perry’s various campaigns to save coal bear a similar connotative ring as such moral winners as ‘help Sauron,’ benefits to ‘promote asthma in kids,’ and ‘save smog.’

(The failing coal industry is trying to use its influence over the Trump Administration to force you to prop it up. This stinks of crony capitalism turned Soviet-style central planning.)

But despite the nonsense, harm and immorality, the Trump Administration has actively courted bankrupt coal executives like Bob Murray to write policy that would throw a number of lifelines to an economically failing and pysically dangerous energy source. The most recent related attempt being the claim that coal is necessary for U.S. national security and that economically failing coal plants represent a ‘grid emergency in the making.’ A claim that was just this week decried by Exelon CEO Chris Cane.

In truth what’s really happening is coal can’t compete economically with wind and solar. And that the Trump Administration, through Perry, is asking you and me to pay an extra 12 billion dollars a year in utility bills to support failing, polluting coal plants. In truth, they’re doing this for no reason whatsoever other than to promote the interests of their political backers — in the form of a direct hand-out. And they are doing it in a way that will harm both U.S. competitiveness, hurt the present rate of renewable energy adoption, raise your utility bills all in one.

(Due to higher costs, coal and even gas are being utilized less and less in favor of lower priced and less polluting renewables. Image source: Think Progress and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.)

Such Soviet-style central planning and forced dirty energy use has generated cries of outrage from a broad coalition of energy industry leaders, environmentalists, and, ironically, conservatives groups that promote free market systems. So the Trump Administration is likely to find itself in court — defending spurious claims of ‘national security,’ increased costs to rate payers, and nonsensical government handouts to failing coal.

Worrisome U.S. Wildfire Risks Leading into Summer of 2018

The trend of increasing large wildfires for the U.S. West due to climate change is clear as clear can be. And as we enter 2018, fire officials are concerned that we might experience another damaging summer and fall similar to 2017.

(Analysis of the present state of U.S. fire season.)

According to forecasters from the National Interagency Fire Center:

…warmer and drier-than-normal conditions have put large portions of the Western United States at above-average risk for significant wildfires between now and September.

This year’s wildfire season could rival last year’s, which was one of the most devastating on record, said Vicki Christiansen, interim chief of the U.S. Forest Service.

With drought conditions and warmer than normal temperatures prevailing across the U.S. West at present, a number of large wildfires are breaking out. The most significant now run through Colorado, New Mexico and California. In addition, four large fires are burning over Alaska where much warmer than normal temperatures have also settled in.

Last year was one of the most destructive fire seasons on record. 53 lives were lost, 12,300 homes were destroyed, and more than ten million acres burned. The situation this year, though not quite as intense as early 2017, has sparked concern. Presently 1.75 million acres have already burned from more than 24,000 fires — which makes the start of 2018 fire season the third worst of the past ten years.

(Severe western drought and above average temperatures are contributing to increased fire potential during June of 2018. Warmer temperatures and worsening droughts are also related to human-caused climate change. As a result, unless human caused warming is abated, fires will continue to grow larger and more intense. Image source: The National Weather Service.)

Climate change is identified as the primary factor increasing wildfire risk across the United States by the Union of Concerned Scientists. According to that scientific body, the incidence of large fires covering more than 1,000 acres has increased from 140 over the U.S. West during the 1980s to more than 250 after 2000. The same study found that fire season for the West had increased from five months to seven months, that temperatures were rising, and that mountain snows were melting earlier.

In the future, unless fossil fuel burning is rapidly reduced, the area of land burned in the U.S. West could increase by up to 650 percent. So wildfires are a substantial hazard related to climate change. And the present more severe season cannot be excluded from a trend that has been amplified by that change.

U.S. Electrical Vehicle Sales Hit 24,560 in May as Tesla Dominates

The rampant rate at which fossil fuel based industry is pumping heat trapping gasses into the atmosphere is a serious and growing problem. A problem that is best answered by a transition to clean energy. Anyone telling you something different is lying or selling the energy equivalent of snake oil.


With atmospheric CO2 equivalents hitting 493 parts per million during 2017 (and likely ramping to 496 ppm this year), the call for a clean energy transition couldn’t be louder. 550 parts per million is enough to warm the Earth by 3 C over one Century time scales. And, over the longer term such high levels of heat trapping gasses would melt most of the land ice on Earth, raise seas by 200 feet, and cause additional warming in the range of up to 6 C.

(Tesla’s record EV production rate for the Model 3 is enabling the all-clean-energy company to dominate U.S. sales.)

With most of the world’s carbon emissions produced by fossil fuel burning in transportation, electricity generation, and industry, transitioning to non-carbon emitting energy sources in these segments is crucial to addressing ramping climate harms. And, thankfully, clean transportation in the U.S. in the form of electrical vehicles is presently making rapid gains.

During May of 2018, according to reports from Inside EVs, 24,560 electrical vehicles sold in the U.S. representing about a 50 percent growth year-on-year over 2017 and setting a new May record for EV sales. This surge in EV sales was led by the Tesla Model 3 which hit 6,250 sold during May. Adding in Model S and Model X, Tesla moved more than 9,200 electrical cars — representing nearly 40 percent of the May market.

Chevy Bolt, on the other hand, eeked out just 1,125 sales even as Chevy Volt sold 1,675. Both behind second place Toyota Prius Prime at 2,924. Chevy has talked a good game RE electrical vehicles — recently marketing the Bolt as a so-called ‘Tesla killer.’ However, Chevy’s sales force has consistently failed to deliver in volumes that are high enough to match the talk. Chevy’s Volt, a plug in electric hybrid with 52 miles of all-electric range, is likely a superior value and overall more attractive vehicle than the Prius Prime (with just 25 miles of electric range). But the new energy Prius frequently outsells the Volt by a large margin.

Other major EVs of note during May include Nissan’s Leaf — which sold 1,576 in the U.S., but is a major seller on the international market. Earlier this year, we thought the Leaf might present the Model 3 with a bit of a challenge in the U.S. But that competition did not emerge as the Model 3 rapidly hit higher and higher sales volumes.

(According to Inside EVs, U.S. plug in sales hit 24,560 during. This is nearly 50 percent growth year on year.)

Another PHEV to watch is the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. Pacifica recently secured a 62,000 vehicle order from Waymo. At 620 U.S. sales during May, the Pacifica also had a rather decent showing for a new PHEV. Although we’re pretty confident that it could sell well north of 2,000 if Chrysler decided to get serious.

Overall, the story is presently one of Tesla dominance. And over the coming months Tesla’s lead is likely to only lengthen as it reaches and exceeds 5,000 per month production capability.

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