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Climate Change, Drought Fan Massive Sand Fire, Forcing 20,000 Californians to Flee

On Friday, amidst temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and at a time when California is now entering its fifth year of drought in a decade when seven out of the last ten years have been drought years, a rapidly growing and dangerous wildfire erupted in the hills north of Los Angeles.

(Sand Fire looms over Santa Clarita, California. Video source: Sand Fire Time Lapse.)

The Sand Fire, which some firefighters are calling practically unprecedented, sparked before typical wildfire season peak and began a rapid spread that consumed 10,000 acres per day from Friday through early Monday. Nearly 3,000 firefighters scrambled to gain a foothold against the blaze, but were somewhat unprepared as contracted water-bomb aircraft from Canada won’t be available until next month, during what is usually the worst part of fire season. The aircraft assistance was planned as extra fire-suppression capability for Santa Clarita, but typical fire threat and risk assessments no longer hold much water in an era where human-forced climate change is pushing temperatures and drought conditions to new extremes across California.

By Monday, the fire had exploded to 33,000 acres (51 square miles). In total, 18 buildings are now reported to have burned and more than 10,000 others have been evacuated. A population the size of a small city, 20,000 people, have now been displaced by this rapidly expanding wildfire. Due to heroic efforts by firefighters, an estimated 2,000 homes have been saved so far. Sadly, the fire has also now claimed a life.

California Wildfires July 24

(Smoke plumes from large wildfires burning over southern and western California, framed by a warming Pacific Ocean, a drying Central Valley, and what appear to be snow-free and bone-dry Sierra Nevada Mountains in this July 24 LANCE MODIS satellite shot.)

Continued hot temperatures and 30-mile-per-hour winds are expected to continue to fan the fire today, which as of this writing is just 10 percent contained. If the worst case is realized and this fire continues to expand out of control, as many as 45,000 homes may ultimately be forced to evacuate. Such an evacuation would be comparable in scale to the Fort McMurray Fire which raged through Alberta during May and forced more than 90,000 people to flee.

Conditions in Context — Living in a Fire Age

There is widespread geological evidence of voracious fires burning through large regions of the globe during past hothouse warming events. At the Paleocene-Eocene boundary 56 million years ago, a warming rate that was about ten times slower than what we are experiencing now set off immense blazes that ripped through the world’s peatlands and forests. In other words, evidence points to past instances of Earth warming into hothouse conditions generating periods of intense fires that may well be called fire ages. Today, the Earth is about 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than during the late 19th century. This high temperature departure combines with a very rapid rate of continued warming to dramatically increase wildfire risks around the globe.

Drought Climate Change

(Conditions related to climate change continue to increase drought frequency across the U.S. West. For the past five years, California has seen the brunt of this predicted increasing drought trend as a result of human-forced warming. Image source: US Drought Monitor.)

More local to the Sand Fire, California is in a zone that global climate models have long predicted would suffer from severe heat and drought as a result of fossil-fuel burning and related human-forced warming. This year’s persistent above-average temperatures on the back of five years of drought have greatly increased wildfire risk for the state. Millions of trees now stand dead, surrounded by withered vegetation in a heating and drying land — a vast range of additional fuel that is ever more vulnerable to ignition.

Not only do these conditions generate a higher risk of extreme fires during fire season — sparking blazes like June’s Erskine Fire which burned 200 homes and was the most destructive fire in this California county’s history — but they also increasingly spark large wildfires out of season. It’s a set of conditions that basically generates a year-round fire season for the state, even as it also sparks winter wildfires at far-flung locations around the world.

Links/Attribution/Statements

10,000 Homes Evacuated Due to Wildfire

Sand Fire Map

Sand Fire Time Lapse

Omens of a Fiery Future

US Drought Monitor

29 Million Trees Died in California this Year

Climate Models Predict US Megadrought

Hat tip to DT Lange

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The Slow Drowning of the Jersey Coast — Seas Have Risen So High That it Just Takes a Tide to Flood Atlantis(c) City These Days

Around the world seas are rising. Fed by human warming, the great waters have been pushed to thermally expand. The added heat is melting the glaciers as well. And from the high mountains to the Arctic and on into the Antarctic there are few ice masses now that have been untouched by the rising temperatures.

The rise in ocean heights began as human fossil fuel emissions spread into the airs of the early 20th Century — warming both the atmosphere and the waters. The rate of rise was, at first, slow — less than 1 mm per year. But as the greenhouse gasses built up and rates of global heating increased, so did the annual rate of sea level rise. By the end of the 20th Century, sea level rise had more than tripled to about 2.9 mm per year. And by today that annual rate of increase has accelerated to nearly 3.4 mm per year.

AVISO sea level rise May 2016

(AVISO sea level rise graph shows rate of ocean rise again increasing in the 2010 to 2016 timeframe. It is very likely that glacial destabilization will result in ever-more-rapidly rising ocean waters as the 21st Century progresses. Image source: AVISO.)

The slow sea level rise rates during the 20th Century were manageable. Coastal communities were mostly built on high enough ground to give them some protective margin against the gradually rising tides. But now, for many cities along the US coast and upon its bays and estuaries, a kind of tipping point has been reached. Where it took a moderate-to-strong storm to generate flooding in the past, now only a high tide and a bit of onshore wind will suffice.

This issue is not just a problem for places like Miami and South Florida or New Orleans and the Louisiana Delta. It’s a problem for the entire coastline. And though the lowest-lying areas were affected first, more and more regions are starting to fall below the line of the rising tide.

A Seasonal High Tide Now is Enough to Flood Atlantic City

Such was the situation today in Atlantic City, New Jersey. There, a weak off-shore low pressure system pushed an equally weak wind toward shore. The meager flux of water driven by this mild fetch combined with a seasonal high tide. Together, these entirely normal events were enough to flood streets throughout Atlantic City.

Atlantic City Flooding

(Arizona avenue floods this morning  in Atlantic City. By evening, water levels are expected to have risen even higher. Image source: City of Atlantic.)

The flood began as storm drains dumping into local estuaries started to back up. The rising tide ran up the drains and inundated streets and neighborhoods, causing 1-3 feet of flooding in some areas. Cindy Nevitt — an award-winning Cape May reporter tweeted: “I haven’t seen my street for three days… Forecast for tonight is even worse.”

The flooding was extreme enough to cause road closures and to spark a flurry of social media comments on Twitter. Particularly hard-hit were the neighborhoods of West End and North Wildwood. To be very clear, this is no hurricane, no Superstorm Sandy, just a normal high tide riding on the back of an entirely abnormal sea level rise due to human-caused climate change.

This kind of flooding is not enough to cause major damage. But it is cause for concern. For now, Atlantic City is far more vulnerable to storms and to flooding than it has ever been in the past. And with human warming due to fossil fuel burning continuing to push seas higher, Atlantic City, like so many other US Coastal communities will, sooner or later, face the threat of total inundation.

City Could be Lost by 2030 to 2050, Unlikely to Remain Viable to 2100

For in the far south, the glaciers of Antarctica are starting to rapidly destabilize. And, in the north, Greenland melt is also rapidly accelerating. Due to the way gravity affects the world’s oceans, Antarctic melt will have the greatest effect on base sea level rise in the North Atlantic. Meanwhile, Greenland melt risks backing up the Gulf Stream and contributing to up to 3 feet of additional sea level rise on the US East Coast as water rebounds toward shore.

Atlantic City Sea Level Rise Projections

(Possible sea level rise scenarios as envisioned by a recent Rutgers study. A number of scientists, including Dr. James Hansen, points to even more extreme potentials. Image source: Sea Level Rise in New Jersey Fact Sheet.)

By as soon as 2030, seas could be as much as 1.4 feet higher than they are today in the Atlantic City region. And if the worst case scenario that scientists like James Hansen have warned us about come to pass, then by 2100 seas will have completely covered Atlantic City with a multimeter ocean rise. Put in context, by 2030 seasonal tidal flooding seen today is likely to become monthly tidal flooding by 2030. And between 2030 and 2050, such flooding will become a daily event rending most infrastructure useless and likely resulting in a complete loss of the City’s ability to function.

But even before then, one large storm may complete what hundreds of tides would eventually accomplish. For garden variety nor’easters will grow more and more capable of producing the kind of catastrophic flooding seen during Superstorm Sandy as the years progress.

It’s probably true that we’ve already burned enough fossil fuels to generate sea levels high enough to inundate many cities near or on the coastline. But continuing to burn fossil fuels makes the situation worse and far more immediate. Stopping that continued bleed of heat trapping gasses into the Earth’s atmosphere gives communities like Atlantic City a chance — if not to survive long-term against an inevitably rising tide, then to figure out a way to orderly retreat inland and to at least preserve some of the heritage that is now falling under threat from the inexorably rising waters. And such a necessary cessation would give communities still further inland a reasonable hope that they, unlike Atlantic City, will not share the fate of Atlantis.

Links:

AVISO

Coastal Flood Advisory

Sea Level Rise in New Jersey Fact Sheet

City of Atlantic

Cindy Nevitt

Hat tip to Griffin

Major Wildfire Outbreak in Central and Western Africa as Drought, Hunger Grow More Widespread

The major news organizations haven’t picked it up yet, but there’s a massive wildfire outbreak now ongoing over Central and Western Africa. These wildfires are plainly visible in the NASA/MODIS satellite shot — covering about a 1,400 mile swath stretching from the Ivory Coast, through Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon and on across the Central African Republic, the Congo, and Gabon.

Major Wildfire Outbreak Central Africa

(Very large wildfire outbreak in Central Africa in the February 10 LANCE-MODIS satellite shot. For reference, bottom edge of frame covers about 350 miles. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

Smoke from these fires is extremely widespread — stretching over almost all of Western and Central Africa, blanketing parts of Southern Africa and ghosting on out over the Southern Atlantic Ocean. Together with these massive fires we have what appears to be a rather significant CO2 plume showing up in the Coperinicus monitoring system (see below). It’s a signature reminiscent of the amazing Indonesian wildfires that, during a few weeks of the Fall of 2015, matched the CO2 emission of Germany. The satellite representation of these fires is so strong that it’s difficult to believe that no news of the fires has hit the mainstream media. But, so far, there hasn’t even been a peep.

The intensely burning fires now rage across a region of Africa experiencing both severe heat and drought with temperatures hitting well over 40 C in Nigeria and over 36 C throughout the broader region today. An extreme heatwave occurring in tandem with a new kind of flash drought event that’s becoming more and more common as human fossil fuel emissions keep forcing the world into higher and higher temperatures ranges.

Global_Total32column_Carbon32dioxide_00

(The Copernicus CO2 monitor shows an intense CO2 plum issuing from very intense wildfires over Central and Western Africa on Wednesday, February 10th. Other CO2 hotspots include China, the Northeast US, Northern South America, Southeast Asia, and a region stretching from Siberia through to the Arctic. It’s worth noting that Northern Hemisphere CO2 levels now range from 400 to 414 parts per million. Image source: CAMS CO2 Monitoring.)

Central Africa is but the most recent region to feel the effects of extreme drought and related risks to food security. For through 2015 and on into early 2016, both drought and hunger grew in scope and intensity across Africa. An impact that is almost certainly related to the combined influences of a near record El Nino and global average temperatures that are now in the range of 1.1 degrees Celsius hotter those seen at the end of the 19th Century.

El Nino + Global Warming’s Impact on African Drought Risk

As a human-forced heating of the globe warms the world’s airs and waters, the rate of evaporation and precipitation intensifies. On the wet end of the spectrum, the added heat and atmospheric moisture provides more available energy for storms. But on the dry end, droughts can appear more rapidly, become more intense and, in many cases, become longer-lasting. Effects can generate entirely new weather patterns — as seen in increasing instances of heat and drought appearing over the US Southwest or the progressively more stormy conditions showing up over the North Atlantic. Or they can intensify an already prevailing pattern.

Large sections of Africa suffering from severe drought

(Large sections of Africa suffering from severe drought as of February 7th in the Africa Flood and Drought Monitor graphic above. Widespread areas in red show soil moisture levels hitting their lowest possible rating in the monitor over widespread regions during recent days.)

In the case of the latter, it appears that just such an event may be happening now across Africa. During typical strong El Nino years, heat and drought were already at risk of intensifying — particularly for regions of Southern and Eastern Africa. But now, with global temperatures 1.1 C hotter than those seen during the late 19th Century, the drought risk is amplified. Added average atmospheric heat sets base conditions in which water evaporates from the soil more rapidly — so a pattern that would typically result in drought risk becomes far more intense and dangerous.

Over the past year, intense drought has impacted widespread regions across eastern and southern Africa. Sections of South Africa experienced its lowest levels of rainfall since record-keeping began in 1904 even as widespread drought from the Horn of Africa and regions south and westward put millions at risk of a growing hunger crisis.

Hunger Crisis Spreads, Fear of Famine Grows

According to The World Food Program and a February 10 report from VICE News, the widespread and growing drought is taking its toll. Skyrocketing local food prices, mass displacement due to political instability, and failed crops due to the driest conditions in 35 to 111 years are all having an impact. Now, more than 20 million people are at risk of hunger across Africa.

In Zimbabwe, President Mugabe declared a state of emergency as more than a quarter of the 13 million population struggled to access food. Many families were reported to have gone more than a week without a meal amidst heightening concerns over potential food riots. In Somalia, more than 3.7 million people faced acute food insecurity even as 58,000 children were at risk of dying during 2016 due to lack of food. Nearly 10 million people in Sudan were reported at risk of going hungry even as 40,000 were identified as potential immediate casualties due to the growing crisis. In Ethiopia, massive livestock losses due to drought are resulting in the worst food crisis since 1984 — a year that saw an estimated 1 million die due to famine.

Food Emergency in East Africa

(A food emergency — shown in red — emerges in East Africa even as food crises erupt across Central and Southern Africa. Food emergency regions indicated in red on this map are just one level below famine. Image source: Famine Early Warning System.)

Meanwhile, according to the Famine Early Warning System, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Yemen, Zambia, Mozambique and Madagascar all faced potential food crises through March. Risk of hunger is also compounded by a large number of displaced persons throughout Africa with East Africa alone hosting over 5.1 million refugees across South Sudan, Burundi, and Yemen.

Rain patterns are expected to shift eastward, bringing some relief to sections of the Horn of Africa even as drought is predicted to expand into the regions of Central Africa now experiencing intense wildfires.

Links:

LANCE MODIS

Famine Early Warning System

The World Food Program

VICE News

South Africa Experiences Its Lowest Rainfall Levels in 111 Years

CAMS CO2 Monitoring

Climate Refugees — Extreme Weather Displaced 157.8 Million People From 2008 to 2014

Does it seem to you that the weather is getting worse? Rainfall more intense, droughts drier, longer, more prolific, the strongest storms growing ever stronger? Well, in this case, seeming is all-too-real.

Four decades ago our climate was more placid. Global temperatures were about 0.5 C cooler than they are today. There was less available heat energy to pump up storms. The intensity of evaporation and precipitation was about 4 percent less than it is today and the pace of global warming due to an ongoing fossil fuel emission was slower. Our atmosphere has changed. It has become more dangerous. More capable of producing extreme and disrupting weather events.

Scale of displacement

Nearly 158 million people, or a number equivalent to just under half the population of the United States, were forced from their homes as a result of extreme weather over the past 7 years. It’s a number six times greater than those displaced by earthquakes, volcanoes or other geophysical causes. Individuals living on the Earth today are now at a 60 percent greater risk of being displaced — chiefly due to increases in extreme weather — than they were in 1975. Image source: Internal Displacement Monitoring Center.

And it’s for these reasons that you and I are more vulnerable. More likely to become a casualty of worsening weather. For according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Agency, an agency that tracks the number of displaced persons globally, you and I are 60 percent more likely now to be forced from our homes by a natural disaster than we were in 1975.

The numbers at this point are pretty concerning. On average, over the past 7 years, 26 million people have been displaced by natural disasters in a single year during that period. For 2014, the count was 19.3 million, 17.5 million of which came from extreme weather events — a factor directly related to human-caused climate change. In total, weather disasters resulted in 157.8 million people being forced to flee their homes during the entire period from 2008 to 2014. Extreme weather — not warfare, volcanoes, or tsunami — is now the primary reason human beings are displaced. Droughts, wildfires, floods, powerful hurricanes, superstorms. A litany of self inflicted violence whose impacts we are continuing to worsen.

Displacement by hazard type

From 2008 to 2014, storms and floods resulted in 84% of natural disaster caused displacements. In 2014, storms and floods generated 91% of the total displacement. Image source: Internal Displacement Monitoring Center.

The Impacts of Displacement Linger as Worsening Weather, Sea Level Rise Loom

Displacement caused by natural disasters is not an easy problem to fix. Anyone who suffered the loss of a home due to impacts related to Superstorm Sandy or Hurricane Katrina can attest to the fact that it often takes a long, long time to become re-established under a secure shelter. For this reason millions of people displaced by extreme weather disasters over the last few years have continued to live as a kind of climate refugee — forced to reside in tent villages or other temporary shelters. Reliant on government assistance because much of what they had, the storms destroyed. Often segregated from larger populations these groups suffer greater risk of falling into permanent poverty and contracting disease even as they are even more vulnerable to subsequent displacement from follow-on events.

As global warming intensifies and the risk of extreme weather events continues to increase, there is also an increasing risk that this expanding number of displaced persons will result in nation-destabilizing stresses in various regions of the world. Currently, the greatest number of displaced persons is centered in the high population density countries of Asia and the Caribbean. But as climate change begins to add another flood stress due to global sea level rise, it is likely that displacement will become ever more ubiquitous.

Even more concerning is the fact that the storms we see now are the early, easy outliers. The ‘small’ climate change weather demons that have already displaced more than 150 million people. Hansen’s Storms of our Grandchildren haven’t yet arrived in full force. And rates of sea level rise are just now starting to ramp up. Would that we had the wit, will, and wisdom to help prevent at least some of this unfolding tragedy. If we do not, there’s no fall back. We’re it.

Links:

Internal Displacement Monitoring Center

NOAA Temperature Graph

How Global Warming Wrecks the Jet Stream and Pumps up The Hydrological Cycle to Generate Extreme Weather

The Storms of My Grandchildren

 

 

Pope Francis Encyclical to Set Divine Imperative — Halt Climate Wreckage, Help the Poor

The Pope is on a mission. The most moral and ethical mission of this century and perhaps of all time. A mission to stop a fossil fueled capitalist monstrosity from a “tyrranical” destruction of much of the world’s life-sustaining resources for the temporary gain of a handful of wealthy billionaires. A mission to stop this unjust system from victimizing the poor and from swelling their ranks with climate change sacrifice zone refugees. A mission to stop this unbridled, amoral, money-worshipping construct from killing our peoples, our civilizations, our planet.

Pope Climate Action

(In the lead-up to the 2015 Climate Summit in Paris, the Pope is urging the world to take climate action. His new encyclical will focus on the moral and spiritual imperative to preserve and nurture the Earth’s life support systems and to help the poor. The Pope views climate action as not only a moral and social justice issue, but also as a divine imperative. He sees the role of fossil fuel based political, market and resource domination as deeply unjust — a tyrannical treatment of nature and the poor that puts humankind under existential threat.)

The Pope is on a mission. A divinely inspired mission to root out a deep injustice that has been with all people, all nations, since the beginning, but that has greatly worsened due to the exploitation of fossil fuels and a proliferation of institutions possessing no moral values and only valuing a greed-based profit motive. A mission we must succeed in if we are to survive and have much hope of thriving in the coming years, decades, and centuries. A mission which you are called to join if you are thinking, feeling, and believe in life outside of the money-worship and resultant carbon conflagration that has now put every human, every creature into ever-amplifying peril.

It is a mission the Pope will more deeply explore in his coming encyclical on Thursday, June 18. A call for action that bears the clear and undeniable message: “If we destroy God’s Creation, it will destroy us.”

And it is very clear from the early releases of his upcoming proclamation that the Pope is taking on the powerful and wealthy political supporters of fossil fuel burning around the world. Taking on the 169 billionaires who now hold in their hands more than half of all the world’s wealth. A wealth whose concentration is enabled by unfair market systems and the domination of enforced consumption of finite and terribly destructive fossil fuels. An unjust base of terrible economic might enforced by conservative (neo-liberal) policies that delay and deny renewable energy adoption, the expansion of more efficient energy use, and that force destructive fossil fuel use upon ever growing numbers of people.

*    *    *    *    *

The Pope’s Clear Message — Help the Poor, Cease Environmental Destruction

To these points, the Pope has laid down a number of clear messages. The Pope warns us of expanding poverty and a swelling of the number of refugees due to economic exploitation and climate change:

[A] threat to peace arises from the greedy exploitation of environmental resources. Monopolizing of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness.

The Pope calls us to understand the essential imperative to protect the Earth and to nurture both it and its creatures. To not abuse, exploit, or destroy it. In other words, we are Earth’s protectors and nurturers, not her tyrants and good work is directly linked to the care of the Earth:

Genesis tells us that God created man and woman entrusting them with the task of filling the earth and subduing it, which does not mean exploiting it, but nurturing and protecting it, caring for it through their work.

The Pope tells us that the global hothouse crisis is existential for human beings and one that is due to a failure of human ethics:

We are experiencing a moment of crisis; we see it in the environment, but we mostly see it in man. The human being is at stake: here is the urgency of human ecology! And the danger is serious because the cause of the problem is not superficial, but profound, it’s not just a matter of economics, but of ethics.

The Pope equates the current incarnation of neo-liberal (read US conservative) market capitalism and hyper-individualism to the ancient golden calf idol of the Bible saying:

We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money. Trickle-down economics is a failed theory. Excessive consumerism is killing our culture, values and ethics. The conservative ideal of individualism is undermining the common good.

The Pope sees greed-based economic systems as tyrannical, unjust and destructive, forcing unhealthy consumption, and calls for a radical new financial system to avoid human inequality and environmental devastation:

It is no longer man who commands but money. Cash commands. Greed is the motivation. An economic system centered on the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rthymn of consumption that is inherent to it. [A] radical new financial system [is required] to avoid human inequality and ecological devastation.

The Pope calls us to stop seeking to dominate and exploit Creation, but to instead cooperate with, care for and respect it. That it is a task set out by God to live in the heartbeat of Creation. To nurture Creation. To care for Creation. This is the calling in each of our hearts:

This task entrusted to us by God the Creator requires us to grasp the rhythm and logic of Creation. But we are often driven by pride of domination, of possessions, manipulation, of exploitation; we do not care for Creation, we do not respect it. Nurturing and caring for Creation is a command God gives not only at the beginning of history, but to each of us. It is a part of his plan; it means causing the world to grow responsibly, transforming it so that it may be a garden, a habitable place for everyone.

The Pope notes that caring for the poor and caring for creation are linked and that there is no way out of the crisis without a radical cessation of every kind of exploitation and harm to innocents:

As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution can be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems as environmental damage does trickle down most on the poor.

This is a divine mission. One the Pope has called upon you to support. To give aid and lend your effort to the divine imperative to help the poor and to preserve the life-sustaining bounty of Earth. Will you join him? Or will you join the others? Those the scriptures have aptly labeled — Destroyers of the Earth?

Links:

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Explosive Intervention by Pope Francis Set to Transform Climate Change Debate

Pope Francis’s Revolution Launches Thursday

Climate Change Renders 30 Million Homeless in 2012

climate-refugees-bangladesh-thumb

(Image of flooded region in Bangladesh. Source: www.worldculturepictorial.com)

According to the International Displacement Monitoring Group, more than 30 million people were forced to flee their homes as a result of extreme weather during 2012.

Droughts, storms and floods caused this massive displacement, one many times the impact of warfare over the globe. Hardest hit regions included Africa, where 8 million people were forced to flee their homes due to extreme weather. That said, even well developed countries suffered major dislocation events resulting in an unusually high number of displaced persons — topping 1.3 million in 2012. The largest number came as a result of a climate change induced Superstorm Sandy which rendered about half a million people homeless in the US.

Over the past few decades, instances of extreme weather have more than doubled, according to reports from the US National Climate Data Center. This amped up weather is driven by increasing temperatures and rising atmospheric water vapor content brought on by human caused climate change. In addition, erosion of Arctic sea ice has led to a disruption of the northern polar jet stream, resulting in more blocking patterns that enhance the chances for droughts, floods, and blizzards. The large north-south dips in the jet also enhance the possibility for powerful hybrid storms, like Sandy, to emerge with ever-greater frequency.

Global monitoring groups expect the numbers of displaced persons to increase as human-caused climate change intensifies. Recent reports from climate expert Lord Stern highlighted in the Guardian called attention to this risk. Stern warned of high risks that temperatures could rise by 5 degrees Celsius or more by the end of this century. Such heating, Stern noted, would have terrible impacts:

“Hundreds of millions of people will be forced to leave their homelands because their crops and animals will have died. The trouble will come when they try to migrate into new lands, however. That will bring them into armed conflict with people already living there. Nor will it be an occasional occurrence. It could become a permanent feature of life on Earth.”

The news comes as worldwide CO2 levels begin to exceed 400 PPM — a dangerous threshold that could melt most polar ice and increase global temperatures by 3-4 degrees Celsius if fossil fuel emissions aren’t halted soon. Sadly, CO2 emissions are only rising, with the world on track to reach 550 PPM by mid-century and 900+ PPM by 2100. Such CO2 rises would be nothing short of catastrophic.

Through the resulting large temperature increases, wet bulb temperatures will be expected to begin to exceed 35 degrees Celsius over growing regions for increasing periods of time. During such instances, these regions will be rendered practically uninhabitable to mammal life, including humans. Human beings and livestock will be effectively heat-driven, first from isolated regions and then from growing areas of the globe as time moves forward. This impact will over-lap the already powerful and growing impacts that result from climate change induced storms, droughts and floods.

With world CO2 levels at 400 PPM, we are already in the period of time when weather events can be expected to cause increasing instances of dislocation. Depending on the rate of global ice loss and ocean heat uptake and on whether or not fossil fuel emissions are curtailed and eliminated soon, instances of heat lethality are likely to become more prevalent and an ever increasing concern after 2035-2050. At the same time, rising sea levels are also expected to begin to have an increasing affect on low-lying regions, especially in areas most prone to cyclone activity. Under business as usual fossil fuel emissions, by 2100 almost all regions will be severely affected by dislocation events.

Links:

Global Estimates: People Displaced by Disasters

Climate Change Will Make Hundreds of Millions Homeless

30 Million Displaced by Climate and Weather

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