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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links:

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

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Gung Ho, Climate Policy, and Striving Together For a Greater Good

For years, we have focused on what we can do, as individuals, to address climate change. And though much has been achieved through the efforts of many valiant individuals, these admittedly heroic efforts have fallen short. This short-coming is through no fault of those who have attempted, alone and without aid, to surmount it. It is simply that the scope of the problem that is climate change is greater than any single person, or any fragmented group of leaderless people, can adequately manage.

If we are truly going to address the issue of climate change we are going to need to learn to act a little bit more like Marines. We are going to need to adopt the practice of ‘Gung Ho.’ In other words, we are going to need to learn to work together.

Though there is much we can do alone, including using less energy, eating less carbon intensive foods, purchasing solar panels for our homes, driving an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle, riding a bike to work, using public transport, switching out for more efficient light bulbs, and a host of other positive actions, there isn’t much we can do, alone, to make those good choices and actions more appealing or more available to others. And when the pace of emergency grows, as it has in recent years, it becomes more clear that we need to step out of our individual worlds and join with others in our communities, our states, our countries, our nations and even throughout the world to address these problems.

Simply put, sometimes problems exceed the ability of an individual to manage. It is during these times when we must make use of the agencies available to us in order to work together for a common good.

Thankfully, our government systems already provide many of these agencies. We can contact our Congressmen. We can express our concern through media bodies, through the net, and at town hall meetings. We can enhance policy discussion by sharing our input and experiences. And, through these agencies, we can encourage our governments to adopt sound policies and to work with other nations to address the growing problem of climate change.

With expanding zones of drought gobbling up ever-larger sections of the world. With Arctic sea ice in full retreat. With the Greenland Ice Sheet beginning to soften up. And with Arctic methane beginning to emerge as an amplifying feedback, it is high time to establish national and international policies to both prevent further climate change and to mitigate the effects of the climate change already happening. We have spent years quibbling and arguing. But now, for the good of us all, it is time to act.

Some countries have already accepted the need for sound climate policies and these countries have benefited from their own actions. Australia, for example, after suffering a 1000 year drought, recognized the necessity of responding to climate change and put serious policies in place to begin that process. With the US having suffered its own series of extraordinarily dry periods — the driest 800 year period on record from 2000-2004 and the recent major droughts of 2011 and 2012 — it is high time that national climate change prevention and mitigation policies are established.

Climate change will not stop and wait for us. And if we wait for things to grow worse, events can quickly spiral beyond our control. The size of the problem is comparable to the threat posed by nuclear proliferation during the Cold War. Though different in many respects, the need for coordinated action and policy measures to address a wide-ranging threat makes it a useful corollary. We may also compare the current climate difficulty with the ozone threat dealt with during the late 20th century. Both were major issues and both were made manageable through sound policy measures established by nations around the globe.

Both nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation policies as well as chlorofluorocarbon reduction policies resulted in a safer world for all inhabitants of all nations. They contributed to peace, stability, and the healthy economies of all participating nations. There is no reason that climate change policy could not also function in this manner.

In general, the goals of nations engaged in climate change prevention, mitigation, and adaptation policies must be simplified. General goals of reducing carbon output, replacing fossil fuel infrastructure with renewable infrastructure, and of making countries more resilient to the ravages of ongoing climate change should be put in place. Broad definitions should be applied. But very specific long-range goals should be established. We should call for voluntary compliance but we should also put in place serious measures for keeping track of compliance, as well as mechanisms to incentivize that compliance.

Approaching this problem, we must be careful not to allow the special interests of powerful industry players to dominate. However, since some industries will clearly be losers in any transition away from fossil fuels, incentives should be put in place that provide a means for these industries to survive short-term, and prosper long-term, should they take part in a transition away from fossil fuels. For example, government subsidies to fossil fuel industries that replace a significant and growing portion of fossil fuel out-put year-on-year with renewable energy output could be provided. An example of such a transition would be the outfitting of mobile oil platforms to serve as mobile wind generation platforms, finding areas with the highest wind concentration and then transmitting it back to the mainland.

That said, since the false comforts of a dangerous status quo are so appealing, there will be pressure from these interests to only deal with and adapt to the problems caused by climate change and not to address the root cause itself — fossil fuel burning. Unfortunately, bowing to this directive would consign the world to a global warming future that it could not economically or politically adapt to. The threats to world food production, to coastal towns, to livable climates, to the health and well being of citizens for many nations of the world is far, far too great.

The impact of 1000 parts per million CO2 on the climate system, a level that will almost certainly be reached if business as usual fossil fuel emissions continue, is a force that no single nation on this Earth is equipped to handle. And planning to deal with such an instance would be to plan for the dismemberment of human civilization before the end of this century. This is not an acceptable outcome, so adaptation-only policies must be recognized for what they are: plans to fail.

Yet we should still hope that our swift action can result in a good end. Though we are very likely to experience a period of difficulty, though we are already experiencing some difficulty due to climate change, we can still prevent the worst impacts if we start working together immediately. And in doing so, we can affect changes to our countries, lands, and ways of doing business, that result in a more resilient world. In a world that relies on sustainable energy sources. In a world that has managed to balance its populations and consumption with the world’s resources. In a world that has a future well beyond the span of the 21rst century. If we do so. If we start to do so now, we can begin that good work which will enable a greater prosperity and improve the prospects of all people.

This is the promise of a good, sound climate policy. And we should not turn away from it. Instead we should embrace the benevolent spirit of working in ‘thy brother’s service’ in the spirit of ‘Gung Ho.’ We can certainly do this. And we can do this the right way. The way that avoids conflict, domination, and the threat of disintegration. Let us join to take this path together. To take the road of stabilization and to enjoy the rewards of good work. To set our feet on a path toward shining futures and to enjoy the comforts of a world of shrinking troubles.

And of the other way? Let us say no more of it than this: that way lies the abyss.

‘Year of Epic Melt’ Continues to Hunt New Records in Arctic, Highlights Ongoing Reality of Global Warming

For the Arctic, this has been the year of epic melt. Greenland broke its record for melt in early August, more than a month before melt normally ends, and Arctic Sea ice has been tracking at daily record low levels since the end of July. Now, every few days seems to bring with it a new major record. Just yesterday, sea ice area broke its all-time record low and today sea ice area continued to show losses.

The Arctic sea ice monitor Cryosphere Today showed sea ice area at a new record low of 2,844,000 square kilometers for the date. This is 61,000 square kilometers below the previous record low and with more than three weeks of melt remaining, final values will almost certainly be even lower.

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To put things in perspective, the 2.84 million square kilometer ice area measurement for today compares to a sea ice area low for the end of summer in 1986 of about 5.5 million square kilometers. The size of the current ice sheet floating over polar waters is nearly half that of what it was just 26 years ago.

The measure for sea ice extent is also rapidly falling. Values from both the NSIDC and the Japanese Space Agency show sea ice extent measurements at around 4.5 million square kilometers. This is less than 300,000 square kilometers above the record set in 2007. At the current rate of melt, a new record low for sea ice extent will likely be seen within the week.

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Sea ice volume also continues to track toward new record lows.

And according to Neven over at the Arctic Ice Blog, a new low for Northern Hemisphere snow cover has also been reached.

If the volume and extent values fall, then all previous records for Arctic melt including Greenland, Sea Ice Area, Sea Ice Extent, Northern Snow Cover, and Sea Ice Volume will have been broken this year.

This year of epic melt has occurred at the same time as the hottest July for Northern Hemisphere land masses ever recorded. Russia has experienced its hottest summer in at least 170 years while the US has experienced its hottest 12 months ever on record. The heat has also ignited massive fires and resulted in the worst drought since 1956 in the US.

In the Arctic, sea ice melt usually ends sometime around mid September. So we have weeks to go before we can declare an end to a season that has clearly set in bold for all the world to see these two words:

GLOBAL WARMING.

Links:

http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/

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

http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

Satellite Data Compiled By University of Maryland Shows Amplifying Arctic Methane Release

Climate scientists have long been concerned that rising temperatures in the Arctic, brought about by human caused global warming, could enhance the release of Arctic methane. The methane is stored on the sea bed in the form of methane hydrates, a form of frozen methane that is very unstable. Methane is also locked up in decayed biological matter on the tundras surrounding the Arctic or in the submerged tundra of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

The volumes of carbon-based methane stored in this way are large. Larger, in fact, than all the carbon released by humans through the burning of fossil fuels since the industrial age began. In addition, methane provides a powerful kick to the climate system. Over the course of a hundred years it traps 20 times more heat than CO2, before turning into CO2 and adding even more insult to injury. So even a relatively small fraction of this methane making its way into the atmosphere can have a very significant impact.

The concern of some scientists is that the initial warming caused by human emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses will result in a forcing powerful enough to unlock this methane. To unlock it in high enough volumes that it creates a kind of runaway feedback loop (see Amplifying Feedbacks).

Unfortunately, research in this very new field does indicate increasing releases of methane from the Arctic. Research conducted last year found very large plumes of methane bubbling up from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. Many have cautioned that we shouldn’t draw too many conclusions from these early indications, despite the fact that previous observations found methane plumes measuring about 10 meters across, while later observations found methane plumes in the same region measuring more than 1 kilometer across.

Now, satellite data compiled by the University of Maryland provides observations of methane release from space. The Atmospheric Infrared Sensor (AIRS) is aboard NASA’s AQUA satellite and has provided a record of increasing methane release over the Arctic since 2003. You can view a slide-show of 2003 through March of this year below:

The months when methane release tends to pulse higher is from October through February, with the most intense pulses occurring in January. Just look at these two images. The first is from January of 2003, the other from January of this year:

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As you have probably noticed, there is a striking difference between the methane concentration in the January, 2003 image and that in the January, 2012 image. And based on the trend established in the period shown, we can clearly see we have an amplifying methane release over the past nine years.

When added to observations of amplifying methane release from the seabed, a proliferation of melt ponds over the Arctic tundra releasing high levels of methane, a general melting of the Arctic tundra resulting in the release of methane from decaying material there, and now this series of satellite observations, it appears that we have solid evidence of an amplifying methane pulse in the Arctic. And this is cause for serious concern because it is a powerful feedback to the already strong climate forcing of human greenhouse gas emissions.

Links:

http://asl.umbc.edu/pub/yurganov/methane/MAPS/NH/

http://aqua.nasa.gov/science/images_data.php

http://www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org/2012/05/satellite-data-video-shows-methane-escape-in-arctic/

National Climate Data Center: “Drought Expands to Cover Nearly 63% of the Lower 48; Wildfires Consume 2 Million Acres”

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The hottest month in US history has brought with it a number of wide-ranging impacts, according to reports from the National Climate Data Center.

Wildfires

During the month of July over 2 million acres were consumed by forest fires across the country. In Oregon, the Long Draw fire consumed 560,000 acres in a single blaze. This was the largest fire ever to affect Oregon since record-keeping began in the 1840s. Other large fires affected the heartland which is currently sweltering under the most intense heatwave on record.

Severe Impacts to US Agriculture

According to the NCDC, the nation’s primary corn and soybean belt experienced its eighth driest July, its third driest June-July, and its sixth driest growing season (April-July) since records began in 1895. This drought has had severe impacts on US crops forcing many farmers to simply plough their ailing fields back into the soil, abandoning crops in hopes that next year will be better.

Fully half of the US corn crop is in poor to very poor condition with 37% of the US soybean crop also in the lowest rating assigned by the US Department of Agriculture. Due to these impacts, it is expected that US corn output will fall by 13% and US Soybean output will fall by 11%. These declines are expected in spite of the US having planted its largest corn crop in 75 years. The result is that corn prices are flirting with record high prices at over $8 per bushel.

Area of Severe Drought Doubles

The area of the Nation suffering from extreme to exceptional drought more than doubled from 10% at the end of June to 22% at the end of July. Areas hardest hit were the heartland of the United States: Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Arkansas, Nebraska.

Hottest 12 Months in US History For the Past Four Months Running

Just last month, the hottest 12 month period in US history was recorded. Wait one month, and the previous record set in June has been broken again. So, as of this report, the US is currently experiencing ongoing increases on top of a long period of already record high temperatures. In fact, the same thing happened in April and May as well. We’ll have to see if August breaks the record 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit departure from average temperatures set in July.

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Global Warming Link Established

Earlier this month NASA scientists established a link between extreme summer heating events and human caused global warming. They did this by tracking temperatures since 1951 and showing that under the current regime of ever-increasing levels of CO2, extreme summer heating events like the one experienced this year are now 30 times more likely to occur than they were sixty years ago. Though a handful of oil company funded scientists have taken issue with this assessment, the data presented by NASA couldn’t be clearer as it tracks the increasing frequency of these extreme events.

“This is not some scientific theory. We are now experiencing scientific fact,” NASA scientist James Hansen told The Associated Press in an interview.

Please help support our continuing efforts.

Please help support our continuing efforts.

Links:

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

NASA: Extreme Summer Heat, Agricultural Impacts, “Causally Connected to Global Warming.” This Summer’s Drought Event Result of New Potential for Extremes.

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A new report by NASA links extreme summer heating events to global warming. The report, which drew temperature data from 1951 to the present showed that extreme events like this year’s US drought, the extreme drought in Russia in 2010 and last year’s Texas drought are now 30 times more likely to occur than they were in 1951-1980. The above curve, produced by NASA, shows a comparison of summer temperature distributions between 2001-2011 and 1951-1980.

Though the report takes into account 2011 data, researchers were quick to point out that the current summer drought and impacts to US agriculture were also linked to human caused global warming. “This summer people are seeing extreme heat and agricultural impacts,” James Hansen, Head of NASA’s GISS, noted. “We’re asserting that this is causally connected to global warming, and in this paper we present the scientific evidence for that.”

The report defined an extreme heating event as the highest summer temperatures experienced by 1% of Northern Hemisphere land masses in the period of 1951-1980. What the research found was that from 2006-2011, fully 10% of Northern Hemisphere land masses experienced extreme summer temperatures. The report also noted that more extreme events were occurring with much greater frequency. Events that previously happened once every 300 years were happening once every ten years.

Hansen says this summer is shaping up to fall into the new extreme category. “Such anomalies were infrequent in the climate prior to the warming of the past 30 years, so statistics let us say with a high degree of confidence that we would not have had such an extreme anomaly this summer in the absence of global warming,” he says.

Links:

http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/warming-links.html

http://blogs.nasa.gov/cm/blog/whatonearth/posts/post_1344022702866.html

https://robertscribbler.wordpress.com/2012/08/03/half-of-counties-in-us-declared-disaster-areas-due-to-drought/

Please help support our continuing efforts.

Please help support our continuing efforts.

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