Choosing Our Nation’s Course for the Next 40,000 Years — Democratic and Republican Party Platforms Show Extreme Contrast on Climate Change

According to our best understanding of the science, the Permian hothouse extinction event which wiped out more than 90 percent of life in the oceans and more than 70 percent of vertebrate life on land lasted between 48,000 and 60,000 years. Continued fossil-fuel burning through the end of this century could set off an event as bad or worse, proceeding with a speed far faster than the Permian and possibly having more harmful and longer-lasting impacts.

Keeping these sobering thoughts in mind, it has been rightly said that though we are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, we are likely the last generation with the opportunity to do anything about it. And in this election we will choose the path of our nation not only for the next four years, but over the course of at least the next 40,000. For when we vote, we will be choosing between leaders who have called for a global mobilization to attempt to prevent catastrophic changes to the Earth’s climate that will last for untold millennia and those who have promised to ignore these worsening harms until they have wholly swallowed us up.

Stark Climate Policy Contrasts

Never before has climate change been such an important issue in a national election. And never before have the two dominant party goals on the issue of climate change shown such stark contrast. On the one hand, you have a Republican party that downplays and denies the threats posed by rising seas, worsening droughts, oceans suffering expanding dead zones and acidification, stronger and more damaging storms, and deteriorating food and water security. On the other, you have a Democratic party committed to a response that does not ‘leave our children a planet that is profoundly damaged.’

In pursuit of these goals, Democrats are seeking to put policies in place to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent through 2050. Republicans pledge to stymie any progress in carbon emissions cuts by fighting the Kyoto and Paris climate summit provisions, in effect locking in more and more harmful warming over the short through long term.

2016 Climate Change Platforms Democrat Republican

(When it comes to climate change, ever-strengthening Democratic policy measures come into conflict with increasingly intransigent Republican climate change denial, support for continued fossil-fuel burning, and attacks on agencies like the EPA. Image source: InsideClimateNews.)

Democrats have pledged to implement President Obama’s Clean Power Plan (which would, among other things, allow the EPA to regulate carbon emissions), continue to increase fuel economy standards for light and heavy-duty vehicles, and continue to increase environmental and efficiency standards for building codes and appliances. Laughably calling coal — the dirtiest, most heavily polluting energy source — clean, Republicans pledge to do away with the Clean Power Plan altogether.

Democrats are planning to empower the EPA to regulate hydraulic fracturing to protect water supplies. Such plans would necessarily result in limits placed on the destructive practice. The Republicans pledge to scrap the EPA, turning it into a bipartisan commission neutered of any real power to prevent bad-actor businesses from expanding fracking, ruining the environment or dumping toxins into the air, water and land.

(We are beginning to feel the first slings and arrows of climate change, but compared to what we could see if we continue fossil fuel burning, if we support the devastating climate and energy policies that Republicans are pushing, the current difficulties are minor and easy. Even though climate impacts will continue to worsen for some time, Republican policies will ensure that the absolute worst case climate impacts will be made real for our generation and for hundreds and perhaps thousands of generations to follow. Video source: Not Reality TV by James Cameron.)

Democrats support Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline (along with an associated expansion of tar sands extraction and burning) and state that no such pipeline will be constructed under Democratic governance. Democrats further pledge to support federal land, infrastructure and resource management decisions that do not further contribute to worsening climate change. Republicans pledge to complete the Keystone Pipeline, expand tar sands extraction, and to build numerous other such fossil fuel facilities.

Democrats support placing a price of some kind on carbon emissions in order to reflect their larger damage to the environment. Republicans pledge not to tax or price carbon and promise to push for expensive carbon capture and storage which has, thus far, primarily been used to further increase oil extraction resulting in yet more carbon emissions long term.

Moreover, the Democratic party has issued this global call to action on the issue of climate change:

We believe the United States must lead in forging a robust global solution to the climate crisis. We are committed to a national mobilization, and to leading a global effort to mobilize nations to address this threat on a scale not seen since World War II. In the first 100 days of the next administration, the President will convene a summit of the world’s best engineers, climate scientists, policy experts, activists, and indigenous communities to chart a course to solve the climate crisis.

Such a statement elevates the threat of climate change to an appropriate level of national and international awareness and response. Wars are terrible, but the threat of climate change promises to multiply the root causes of war, destabilize entire regions, and — by risking the destruction of thousands of cities and communities, water and food supplies, and lands habitable by human beings — singly inflict more damage than any war or accumulation of wars throughout the history of humankind.

Strong Democratic Supports for Climate Action Apparently Open to Improvement

As such, the difference between the two major parties on this critical issue could not be more clear. The Democratic party pledges to act strongly to prevent catastrophic climate change by setting out policies that would rapidly reduce carbon emissions, rapidly adopt renewable energy systems, respond and adapt to climate threats as they emerge, and mobilize the international community to do the same. Republicans pledge to defend coal, expand fracking, increase drilling, dismantle the EPA, ignore the coming harmful global events that climate change will certainly produce, and to build more pipelines.

The Democratic policies would greatly reduce the long-term harm posed by human-forced climate change, whereas the Republican policies would basically work to lock in catastrophic levels of CO2 near 900 parts per million and around 4-5 degrees Celsius total global warming (since 1880) by the end of this century.

RCP 8.5 Nature

(Once the Earth heats up, it can take thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of years for it to cool off again. Republican-supported climate policies would push toward worst-case global warming along an RCP 8.5 pathway resulting in 4-5 C warming by 2100, 6 C warming by 2150 and 9 C warming by 2300. Temperatures in this range would set off a dangerous hothouse environment likely lasting for tens to hundreds of thousands of years. Democratic policies would take us off the RCP 8.5 path and instead push for a still-harmful but more easy to manage RCP 4.5-range scenario. Note that permafrost and hydrate carbon feedbacks are not included in this analysis and that long-term warming in the 500 to 1,000 year range for RCP 4.5 under Earth System Sensitivity is likely to hit near 4 C. Image source: Nature.)

Although it’s true that Democrats could still do more to improve their climate policies, could act even more swiftly than they now pledge to, this is the strongest Democratic party platform on the issue of climate change yet, one that is clearly setting out the goal that Democrats are committed to leading a comprehensive fight against the harms posed by human-forced warming. Moreover, the Democrats have shown an appropriate escalation of responses to climate change that leaves open the door to further, more ardent action on the issue.

Republicans, on the other hand, fight for more fossil-fuel burning, more heat-trapping gasses in the atmosphere. They commit to a rapidly worsening climate situation becoming so terrible by the middle to end of this century, that it’s questionable whether much of modern civilization could endure it without experiencing an ever-worsening series of collapses, losses and retractions.

The choice, therefore, is probably one of the most important voting choices you will ever make in any election. Voting for Republicans will help to lock in thousands upon thousands of years of catastrophic climate harm. Voting for Democrats is a vote for a party that is actively aware of the problem and promotes a national and global mobilization aimed at confronting it and lessening the damage.

Links:

InsideClimateNews

Democratic Platform Calls for Global Mobilization on Climate Change

Nature

Not Reality TV by James Cameron

Obama’s Clean Power Plan

Trump Calls Climate Change a Chinese Hoax

Stop Keystone XL

Under a Green Sky

Hat tip to Greg

Hat tip to DT Lange

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

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Republican Climate Change Denial is Blinding Our Ability to Observe the Arctic

Denial.

It’s all-too-often what happens to the powerful when they are confronted with the consequences of their own bad actions. It can best be said that denial is blindness — the willful inability to open one’s eyes to the tough reality of the world. In literature, we can see denial in the tragic sin of hubris and in the metaphor of Oedipus the King gouging his own eyes out as a result of his failure to come to terms with the warnings of prophecy.

In the psychological sense, denial involves the inability to cope with reality such that a person will act in an irrational fashion to the point of generating fantasies that the object of said denial does not exist. Behaviorally, this results in an increasing degradation of a person’s ability to confront or cope with the object of denial — to the point of ardent, irrational, and possibly destructive outbursts when faced with it.

Arctic sea ice loss.

Ever since 1979 an array of satellite sensors has allowed our scientists to directly observe the sea ice in the Arctic. Since that time, and as a human-forced warming of the world ramped up, the area which that ice covers has dramatically shrunken. So much so that by this year, 2016, there’s a risk that not only will a new all-time record low be reached, but that by the end of this summer almost all the ice in the Arctic Ocean will be melted out entirely. A risk that a new climate change related event will start to take shape in the Arctic. The blue ocean events.

Arctic Sea Ice Area

(Arctic sea ice area as measured by observational satellites and most recently by  F17. The bottom line of the graph measures days of the year. The left side of the graph measures sea ice area. The corresponding intersections determine sea ice area on any given day of a year in the record. The up and downward swoop of each line on the graph shows the seasonal variation of sea ice area for that given year. The blue line on the graph represents 1980 sea ice area. The dark gray line represents the 1979 to 2000 average. The red line represents the 2012 record low year. 2016, in black, shows a squiggle as F17 begins to fail in early March of this year — a year that could significantly beat 2012 as the worst melt year on record. The sensor is failing because it is old and needs replacement. A replacement that is now sitting in a warehouse due to republican-led satellite research funding cuts. Data source: NSIDC. Image source: Pogoda i Klimat.)

We will know whether or not such an event took place because there are satellites giving us an accurate picture of this critical and sensitive part of our world in real-time. In effect, these satellites grant us the gifts of sight, of foresight, and of forewarning too. They give us the ability to catch a glimpse of what waits over the horizon and affords us with the opportunity to act to avoid an ever-worsening catastrophe — should we have the wisdom to choose to do so.

Willful Blindness

Where does denial meet with Arctic sea ice loss? In the form of climate change denying republicans attempting again and again to cut and with-hold funding to NASA and NSIDC instruments that track what is an unprecedented and historic melt now ongoing. For ever since their coming to power in Congress in 2010, republicans have done everything they can to remove funding for the devices that provide a direct observation of the changes coming as a result of a human-forced warming of our world.

You can read about the recent history of republican attempts to blind the satellite eyes of science here in this comprehensive article by The Atlantic. Attempts that have finally played out in the increasing degradation of the National Snow and Ice Data Center’s ability to track sea ice area and extent during this crucial year. For as the critical Arctic sea ice observation sensor called F 17 begins to fail, a sensor that could replace it sits grounded — lacking funding to operate or launch it during a year in which the Arctic is likely to experience historic and wrenching changes. A year that has already experienced both record Arctic heat and record low sea ice coverage throughout both Winter and Spring with more records likely on the way.

What’s happened now, due to republican ties to fossil fuel industry and a related push to obliviate climate science that observes changes in the Earth, the atmosphere, the world’s ice and the oceans, is a degradation of climate and weather disaster preparedness. For the fossil fuel industry — which has come to completely dominate republican policy-making since at least the years of the Bush administration and which is the cause of pretty much all the harmful changes we now see in the world due to human-forced warming — the degradation of these sensors may help confuse the science and perhaps allow these dirty and dangerous interests to dump carbon into the atmosphere for a few more years or decades. Extending dirty industry profits and what has been a deleterious and corrupting political influence for a little while longer.

Beaufort Sea Ice Early Melt

(Beaufort sea ice in the Arctic is now melting and breaking up at least one month faster than it does during a typical year. Republicans and their fossil fuel allies may not want to hear or see this happening as it’s direct observational proof that the policies they’ve been pushing — drilling, fracking, coal burning, and suppression of renewable energy — are resulting in increasingly dramatic and dangerous changes to the Earth system and environment. So much so that they want to shut off the satellites that provide us with such critical observational data of what’s happening to our Earth and oceans in real time. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

For the rest of us, the loss of these sensors means the loss of a key piece of infrastructure — one that is critical to our climate resiliency. For if we cannot observe and predict trends in the Arctic, then we will come to be more and more at the mercy of dangerous changes now going on there. We will be increasingly caught by surprise by the changes that are now almost certainly bound to happen. And a growing number of us will fall into risk of being caught off guard. Of suffering from loss of property and, perhaps, injury or loss of life.

Willful and destructive blindness. That’s what happens when hubris rules in Washington. And for too long now we’ve suffered this republican climate change denial and its all-too-related fossil fuel based hubris. A plague that is now not only wrecking the world’s climate, but is degrading our ability to observe and respond to the dangerous and Earth-altering changes that are now taking place.

Links:

NOAA Says GOP Funding Cuts Would Halve The Performance of Severe Weather Forecasts

The Republican Push to Cut Climate Change Observational Research

The Arctic is Melting and Scientists Just Lost a Key Tool to Observe it

Republicans Slash Climate Funds

Satellite Data in Support of Climate Resilience

NSIDC

Pogoda i Klimat

Expanding Exxon Mobile Climate Change Denial Investigation

Hat Tip to Redsky

Elephant Tears Over Lost Climate Cherries — House Republicans’ Most Recent Witch Hunt Targets NOAA

We live in dark times.

Dark times of rampant, media-supported climate change doubt and denial mongering. Dark times when global temperatures are hitting new all-time record highs and extreme weather and climate change related events are growing in scope, scale, and danger. Dark times when it is becoming all-too-obvious that the fossil fuel companies of the world are committed to continue burning their dangerous and heat amplifying fuels regardless of the cost or pain or devastation inflicted upon others. Inflicted on persons, communities and the very nations of this world. Dark times when public officials level unfounded and baseless attacks against the very science upon which we depend to track the dangerous and growing crisis that is human-forced warming of the globe.

* * * *

NOAA September Hottest On Record

(Most recent NOAA global analysis graph showing that land and ocean temperatures for September of 2015 were the hottest on record. Republican climate change deniers in Congress have singled out NOAA for a Witch Hunt, implying that NOAA scientists aren’t telling the truth about warming. However, every temperature monitor around the globe shows warming since the 1880s and every major monitor shows that we are now experiencing the hottest period ever recorded. The Republican assault on NOAA is therefore not just an attack against a single agency. It’s an attack against the whole of climate science. A false and unfounded attack made for the financial benefit of their fossil fuel backers. Image source: NOAA Global Analysis.)

Over the past few weeks this continued commitment to inflicting climate harm could not have been more plainly obvious than in the actions of the Republican House Science Committee. The Committee, led by Representative Lamar Smith, made baseless accusations that NOAA was intentionally manipulating climate data. Lamar Smith, in a recent statement seen here at Ars Technica blustered:

The American people have every right to be suspicious when NOAA alters data to get the politically correct results they want and then refuses to reveal how those decisions were made. NOAA needs to come clean about why they altered the data to get the results they needed to advance this administration’s extreme climate change agenda. The agency has yet to identify any legal basis for withholding these documents. The Committee intends to use all tools at its disposal to undertake its Constitutionally-mandated oversight responsibilities.

Representative Smith and his committee, in a now typical tactic among those serving fossil fuel corporate interests over the past two decades, has basically decided to conduct a witch hunt. He has no reason to suspect that NOAA is manipulating data. He has merely accused NOAA of such a manipulation by claiming that NOAA temperature data revisions are somehow a reason to suspect foul play. This despite the fact that NOAA often revises data based on new information as it becomes available. Despite the fact that the data is publicly available and has been published for peer review in the broader scientific community. Data that if it had been inconsistent, manipulated, or baseless, would have been revealed as such during the peer review process. NOAA’s updates and data refinement are not fraud. They are simple due dillegence.

Elephant Tears over Lost Climate Cherries

But despite the fact that both the methods and data are publicly available, Representative Smith, his committee, and the members of the fossil fuel media that support them continue to generate trumped up accusations. This is likely due to the fact that the NOAA revision came up warmer than their previous data set by a margin of 0.06 degrees Celsius. A margin that isn’t really too significant when it comes to overall warming. But it is significant when you look at the most recent years in the climate graph following the monster El Nino year of 1998. The section that climate change deniers claim represents a pause in global warming. With the revision, the new span of the graph really doesn’t look like a pause anymore — much to the grief and outrage of climate change deniers everywhere.

global-temperature-anomaly-time-series-and-trends

(Elephant tears over lost cherries. NOAA’s most recent global temperature trend analysis revision for the period of 1995 through 2014. Note that in both versions the hottest years on record remain 1rst 2014, 2nd 2010, 3rd 2005, 4th 1998. Also note that neither graph really supports the notion of a ‘pause’ in the long term warming trend. Basically what climate change deniers have done is focus in on the section of the graph that follows the record 1998 El Nino year temperature spike. A period that was also followed by a cool phase in natural variability called negative Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Image source: NOAA.)

As a part of their attack on NOAA for the outrage of making their fake pause look even less like a pause, the Republican Committee (which may as well be named the Fossil Fuel Committee for the sake of accuracy and consistency) continued to single out the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as the object of its attacks. This action despite the fact that the whole of climate science basically confirms NOAA’s data even as any rational or informed analysis clearly finds no pause in the rate of atmospheric warming.

Attacking Individual Scientists, Demanding All Internal Communications

Naming individual scientists, particularly scientists who in the words of Andrew Rosenburg had the “temerity to express … views that fossil fuel companies should be held accountable for climate change,” the committee had the audacity to falsely imply, yet again, that global warming isn’t actually happening or that it stopped and that NOAA is somehow at fault for reporting the fact that, yes, it is happening and, no, it didn’t stop. It was, sadly, a scene that could have come straight out of Animal Farm when the Republican House Committee then made the ridiculous and unreasonable demand that NOAA surrender “All Internal Communications” for its review.

Japan Meteorological Agency Global temperatures through 2014 end

(Japan’s Meteorological Agency shows global annual temperature averages on a consistent and continued rise since the dawn of widespread fossil fuel burning in the late 19th Century. Japan’s data confirms that of NOAA — the Earth is warming, we are hitting new all time record high temperatures now. Image source: Japan’s Meteorological Agency.)

Unfortunately, the top scientists of the world have been subjected to this ridiculous and baseless bullying time and time again. A prime example was the manufactured Climategate scandal in which IPCC scientist emails had sentences taken out of context by members of the conservative media in an effort to claim that global warming science was a fraud. The scientists, after years of fake controversy and doubt-spreading, have since been vindicated time and time again. But not after being subjected to the most heinous bullying to include constant calls for internal records, court appearances, endless attacks and demonizing by the corporate media, and even the receipt of death threats to themselves and members of their families.

In a recent article published by the Union of Concerned Scientists, representative Ed Markie’s (D) outrage at the new order is plainly noted. He points out that all of the scientific data is already public and that requesting all internal documents amounted to basically bullying and harassment:

However, obtaining all of the data and methods used in this study seemingly was not enough for the majority. You also demanded internal communications by NOAA scientists regarding their scientific research. NOAA, rightfully, has been reluctant to waste their time and resources, not to mention break confidence with their superb research scientists by responding to this demand…

I cannot help but note that your requests in this case echo the tactics of notable climate change skeptics, who frequently submit similar FOIA requests of climate scientists in both the federal government and in state universities. One of the most publicized occasions of harassment occurred when then-Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and the American Tradition Institute (ATI) sought email communications of former University of Virginia climate scientist Michael Mann.

Knowing that the Republican House Committee was likely involved in another fake fishing expedition, the NOAA head courageously refused to submit to Republicans’ demands. And, now, predictably, the fossil fuel media screams its fake outrage about what NOAA supposedly has to hide.  According to a recent report in Media Matters:

Conservative media outlets are wrongly claiming that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is hiding data related to a recent study that challenged the so-called “pause” in global warming, and echoing Republican House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith’s baseless accusation that NOAA manipulated temperature records to show a warming trend. In reality, the NOAA study’s data is publicly available online, and NOAA routinely makes adjustments to historical temperature records that are peer-reviewed and necessary to account for changes to measuring instruments and other factors.

Every Major Climate Monitor in the World Shows the Earth is Warming — So Why Are Republicans Aiming Their Fake Outrage at NOAA?

It’s not like the NOAA data is new or unique. Sure, NOAA shows the world is warming. But so does everyone else in the global scientific community. NASA GISS shows the world is warming. Japan’s Meteorological Agency — warming. The Hadley Center — warming. NCAR — warming. The UN’s IPCC — warming. Every sensory system, every monitor that tracks global temperatures all shows the same — warming.

NASA Land Ocean Temperature Index

(NASA’s Land-Ocean Temperature Index showing that the world is entering its hottest period ever recorded. Image source: NASA GISS.)

And all this warming backed up by reams and reams of scientific evidence. The Himalayas have lost 20 percent of their ice as 90 percent of the glaciers around the world are melting. Greenland is melting, and at an ever more rapid rate. The North Atlantic Overturning Circulation is weakening. The Oceans are becoming more stratified. The wetlands of the world from the Arctic to the Equator are belching out more methane (a feedback that comes about with warming). And everywhere temperature records are falling, supplanted by new records that last for a few years or maybe a decade before they fall again. Wildfires are increasing in both intensity and frequency. The severity of droughts and rainfall events are increasing. And we, as a global community, are now treated to 100 or even 1,000 year floods, hurricanes, droughts and fires on an annual basis.

Over the past few weeks residents of Texas and South Carolina alike were subject to freakish flood events of the kind that we’ve really never seen before. The intensity of rainfall in South Carolina was so horrific that residents now report that they suffer from Post Traumatic Stress disorder. Scientists warned us that rainfall events would tend to become more intense as human-forced warming loaded up the atmosphere with more and more moisture. Now, around the world, it’s happening.

And last of all — sea levels are rising. Rising more rapidly than at any time in the Holocene. Rising because they are warming up and because the world’s glaciers are melting.

Sea level rise Hansen

(For most of the Holocene, global seas were remarkably stable — neither rising or falling at a significant rate. By the late 19th Century, seas had begun to slowly rise. As the Earth warmed and oceans sucked up more heat, thermal expansion combined with glacial melt to cause the seas to rise at an ever-more-rapid rate. As the world’s oceans trap more than 90 percent of the excess heat re-radiated by greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, rates of sea level rise are a good confirmation that global temperatures are also rising. Image source: Dr. James Hansen.)

This mountain of scientific proof that global warming is indeed real, worsening, and ongoing is probably greater than any other proof for any other science in existence. And yet the Republican House Committee has the temerity to single out NOAA as some kind of sacrificial offering to their demonic fossil fuel masters. And to imply what is basically the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on the American public — that climate change somehow isn’t real and that NOAA, somehow, is hiding something in its email that proves that.

What a ridiculous pile of festering nonsense!

Republicans Fighting Against the Public Welfare

The real reason Republicans are conducting a witch hunt against the faithful public servants at NOAA is due to the fact that the corporations who have supported their election campaigns simply cannot continue to exist as they are now in a world that responds to climate change. They would be forced to switch to new energy sources or to learn how to effectively capture the carbon emitted by their operations. Doing this would cost them money and put them in a position where they no longer dominate markets. Where consumers start to have more and more choice regarding what forms of energy they use.

Having enjoyed market dominance for more than a Century, these entities are not at all enamored with the prospect of having to compete or to allow energy customers a broader range of choices or freedoms. They have therefore made the cynical and ridiculously amoral decision to attempt to deceive the public. To generate doubt about the veracity of climate science reports. And to use this doubt to block government policies that address the issue of human-forced climate change.

Since a failure by government to enact effective climate policies will result in a growing risk of inflicting damage to an ever larger group of the US and global populace, those companies, media figures, and politicians involved in this effort are complicit in what amounts to a vast campaign to inflict harm on individuals, communities, and nations. It does not matter if their original intent is simply to preserve the profits of powerful fossil fuel corporations, the net result is the same — the inflicting of harm on the public.

House Republicans and the fossil fuel companies they serve are therefore complicit in a heinous act. And their actions over the past month in their leveling of trumped up charges against NOAA, is a stark proof for what they’re doing — committing themselves to inflicting climate atrocities upon the public for the benefit of fossil fuel companies which they represent.

Links:

NOAA Global Analysis

Congressman Accuses NOAA of Doctoring Results

Conservative Media Defend Congressman’s Baseless Attacks Against NOAA

Dr James Hansen

NASA/GISS Global Temperature Analysis

Japan Meteorological Agency Global Temperature Analysis

The House Science Committee’s Witch Hunt Against NOAA Scientists

The New Normal — South Carolina Flood Victims Suffer from PTSD

Denying the Neverending Heatwave

Please support public, non-special interest based science like the fantastic work provided by the now politically persecuted scientists at NOAA

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