Monday, July 30, 2012

The math of climate change

This piece by McKibben had been recommended to me many times now.  I like McKibben a lot and recommend his writings pretty regularly.  But I wince when I see article like this one because I have been convinced on the science of climate change for almost 25 years now.  The subject should have LONG ago shifted to "What are we going to do about it?"  I'd like to think that is the subject of this blog.  But I DO encourage everyone to send the link to this article to anyone they may know who still cannot imagine the disaster that is climate change.

Global Warming's Terrifying New Math

Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe - and that make clear who the real enemy is
July 19, 2012

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven't convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the "largest temperature departure from average of any season on record." The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet's history.

Not that our leaders seemed to notice. Last month the world's nations, meeting in Rio for the 20th-anniversary reprise of a massive 1992 environmental summit, accomplished nothing. Unlike George H.W. Bush, who flew in for the first conclave, Barack Obama didn't even attend. It was "a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago," the British journalist George Monbiot wrote; no one paid it much attention, footsteps echoing through the halls "once thronged by multitudes." Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I've spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we're losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.

When we think about global warming at all, the arguments tend to be ideological, theological and economic. But to grasp the seriousness of our predicament, you just need to do a little math. For the past year, an easy and powerful bit of arithmetical analysis first published by financial analysts in the U.K. has been making the rounds of environmental conferences and journals, but it hasn't yet broken through to the larger public. This analysis upends most of the conventional political thinking about climate change. And it allows us to understand our precarious – our almost-but-not-quite-finally hopeless – position with three simple numbers.

The First Number: 2° Celsius

If the movie had ended in Hollywood fashion, the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 would have marked the culmination of the global fight to slow a changing climate. The world's nations had gathered in the December gloom of the Danish capital for what a leading climate economist, Sir Nicholas Stern of Britain, called the "most important gathering since the Second World War, given what is at stake." As Danish energy minister Connie Hedegaard, who presided over the conference, declared at the time: "This is our chance. If we miss it, it could take years before we get a new and better one. If ever."

In the event, of course, we missed it. Copenhagen failed spectacularly. Neither China nor the United States, which between them are responsible for 40 percent of global carbon emissions, was prepared to offer dramatic concessions, and so the conference drifted aimlessly for two weeks until world leaders jetted in for the final day. Amid considerable chaos, President Obama took the lead in drafting a face-saving "Copenhagen Accord" that fooled very few. Its purely voluntary agreements committed no one to anything, and even if countries signaled their intentions to cut carbon emissions, there was no enforcement mechanism. "Copenhagen is a crime scene tonight," an angry Greenpeace official declared, "with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport." Headline writers were equally brutal: COPENHAGEN: THE MUNICH OF OUR TIMES? asked one. more
Climate change deniers like to call themselves "skeptics."  They are anything BUT.  No!  They are the modern equivalents of the guys who insisted Galileo was wrong. They are the folks that have stood in the way of solving real problems since forever.  And while I am happy some of these guys are finally seeing the light, I must ask, "What the hell was wrong with the science that James Hansen had done by 1988?"  As my good friend would say about these so-called "scientists", "they're just smart enough to be dangerous."

Climate change study forces sceptical scientists to change minds

Earth's land shown to have warmed by 1.5C over past 250 years, with humans being almost entirely responsible
Leo Hickman, 29 July 2012

The Earth's land has warmed by 1.5C over the past 250 years and "humans are almost entirely the cause", according to a scientific study set up to address climate change sceptics' concerns about whether human-induced global warming is occurring.

Prof Richard Muller, a physicist and climate change sceptic who founded the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (Best) project, said he was surprised by the findings. "We were not expecting this, but as scientists, it is our duty to let the evidence change our minds." He added that he now considers himself a "converted sceptic" and his views had undergone a "total turnaround" in a short space of time.

"Our results show that the average temperature of the Earth's land has risen by 2.5F over the past 250 years, including an increase of 1.5 degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases," Muller wrote in an opinion piece for the New York Times

The team of scientists based at the University of California, Berkeley, gathered and merged a collection of 14.4m land temperature observations from 44,455 sites across the world dating back to 1753. Previous data sets created by Nasa, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Met Office and the University of East Anglia's climate research unit only went back to the mid-1800s and used a fifth as many weather station records.

The funding for the project included $150,000 from the Charles G Koch Charitable Foundation, set up by the billionaire US coal magnate and key backer of the climate-sceptic Heartland Institute thinktank. The research also received $100,000 from the Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research, which was created by Bill Gates. more

1 comment:

  1. "The team of scientists based at the University of California, Berkeley, gathered and merged a collection of 14.4m land temperature observations from 44,455 sites across the world dating back to 1753."

    --These are not scientists, they are the modern equivalents of doubting Thomas, who could not accept fellow scientist data and rather had to dither about replicating their own set of data over another 25 years before they could no longer deny it.

    So they had data going back to 1753, and yet what data were they seeing between 1988 (when all scientists were fully aware of this problem) and today (when they finally admit defeat) that gave them true cause to doubt Hansen and other's data...sadly, it must be the Koch Bros funding data.

    Our intellectual leaders, their minds and reputations bought for thirty pieces of silver...and yet we shall forgive them.

    For now comes their greatest intellectual challenge, how to overcome their 25 year folly and lead humanity into saving itself from itself. I pray they are up to the challenge.