Archive for the ‘Climate Change’ Category

Blogs For Victory’s Mark Edward Noonan never misses an opportunity to prove he isn’t a scientist, repeating the latest climate change denialism talking points. And this week he was true to form, dutifully repeating a canard that’s been making the rounds of conservative blogs and websites lately:

A bit of a Global Warming Climate Change update – turns out that Antarctic ice mass isn’t actually declining. There are 6.36 million cubic miles of ice in Antarctica; the average thickness of the sheet is 6,500 feet (that is well more than a mile, folks) – we’re going to have to warm up more than a degree or two by 2100 to make a real dent in that.

It’s almost as if Noonan trolls the Internet for his talking points…

Anyway, Noonan’s secondhand source is Watts Up With That, not exactly a paragon of science. And Mark Edward Noonan, being a twenty-first century conservative, uncritically accepts anything that denigrates science. After all, science is, in his mind, a grand leftist liberal conspiracy to steal money from those who earned it.

Not surprisingly, Watt’s claim relies on a faulty and incomplete interpretation of partial data that is favorable to climate deniers, which they know the Noonans of the world will eat up. (This is also the way he wrote 150 Reasons Why Barack Obama Is the Worst President In History, by the way.)

Here’s what’s actually going on, courtesy Phil Pliat at Slate:

A new study just published in the Journal of Glaciology is causing some buzz in climate circles, because it appears to claim that Antarctica—long thought to be losing ice at extremely alarming rates—is actually gaining ice.

However, note the word appears. The reality is more complicated, and in the end the important aspect of this is that the study only talks about part of Antarctica, and only used data up to 2008. Both of these points are critical.

Here’s what’s what.

The authors looked at satellite altimeter data, using that to track how much snow accumulated over a given time period. Looking at different satellites, they found that enough snow fell over some parts of the southern continent (most importantly the vast area of East Antarctica) to more than balance the ice lost via melting.

In other words, East Antarctica (and parts of West) was gaining mass. That’s interesting!

But the authors note that the accumulation rate is steady while losses are increasing. As they mention in their conclusion, this gain in mass over the regions studied can’t keep up with losses, and they’re likely to balance in about 20 years. After that, losses win.

There’s more. They looked at data going from 1992–2008. Starting right around that time, mass loss due to melting ice in Antarctica (mostly in the west) has accelerated. It’s actually been speeding up for some time, but in recent years it’s really kicked in. Every year, about 6 billion more tons of ice are lost than the year before. In the past two decades, the loss rate has doubled.

This is enough to easily outpace the mass gained by snowfall over East Antarctica. Using data taken by the Grace satellites (which measure how mass underneath them changes over time), we know that overall, Antarctica is currently losing more than 130 billion tons of ice per year, and again, that number is increasing every year. Since 2002 it’s lost about 2 trillion tons of ice.

Mind you, this isn’t including Greenland, which is losing ice at an even more staggering 280 billion tons per year, and has lost well over three trillion tons over that same time period.

So no matter how you slice it, Antarctica is losing ice, and losing it fast.

Plait goes on to say (my emphasis added):

Of course, the usual suspects in the global warming–denying noise machine are jumping all over this study, claiming triumph … but, as usual, they obfuscate, they cherry-pick, and they ignore evidence that contradicts their claims that everything is rolling along just fine.

Here’s the difference between real science and what they do: When I first read about this Antarctic study, my reaction was one of hope. Although I knew that sea levels were rising, and that this must be coming from somewhere, if Antarctica was actually gaining ice, that could provide a good buffer against catastrophic melting.

But upon further examination it became clear that this was not the case. I was happy to entertain the notion that I might be wrong in my conclusions, and I still am. But all the evidence points to the conclusion that Antarctica is still losing hundreds of billions of tons of ice per year, will lose more every year, and it’s joined (and even outpaced) by Greenland.

The world really is warming up. We really are losing ice. The sea levels really are rising. Oceans really are getting more acidic as they absorb some of the 40 billion extra tons of carbon dioxide we humans pump into the atmosphere every year.

With the recent confirmations by NOAA, NASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency that 2014 was the hottest year on record, conservatives have gone through a few stages of dealing with that reality. First, they tried to impugn the data. Second, they claimed that global warming is so minimal that it doesn’t matter. Third?

Well, every once in a while, conservatives express themselves with such candor that it is actually refreshing, if not revealing. Such was the case when our favorite retired Naval intelligence officer said this, in response to the fact that 2014 was the hottest year on record:

Who cares? The Left doesn’t care if my descendants live in a less free, less prosperous world. Why should I care if their descendants live in a slightly warmer world. Besides, in the over all scheme of things, warmer is better than colder. You want to watch a Liberal’s head explode? Ask them how much colder they’d like it to be, and what scientific principles they propose using to get to that temperature. Better yet, ask them what significant changes they’ve made in their personal lives and how much of their income the’ve voluntarily donated to help address the problem.

Wow. At the heart of his statement is what motivates conservative thinking these days, which is, “I’ve got mine, now fuck off.” It’s a desire, more than anything, to just maintain the status quo, which is not surprising coming from individuals are already well off and taken care of. Disrupting the status quo is perceived as a threat, and that, ultimately, is the emotion that guides their thinking. (It’s also worth pointing out that, in stating that he doesn’t care about the climate that will confront “their [liberals’] descendants,” he tacitly admits that he also doesn’t care about his own descendants. That is truly breathtaking. It is sad that such individuals can’t look beyond themselves.)

But then he moves on to acceptance that the world is warming, and states with impunity that, not only does it not matter, it will actually be better for humanity. “Warmer is better than colder.” This is truly ignorant. Since this conservative lives on Frozen Pond, Indiana, the direct experience he has recently had is actually colder temperatures. This is because the easter part of the United States is one of the few places on earth that was actually colder than average in 2014, as can be seen in this map.

As far as “warmer is better,” it’s such a simplistic and superficial analysis that it strains credulity to believe that an intelligent person would make it. Since residents of Frozen Pond consider themselves to be a part of the heartland of the United States — the “real Americans” –– perhaps this analysis from the State of Wisconsin will help:

On the plus side, a warming climate during the first half of this century could mean lower winter heating costs, a longer frost-free growing season and better yields of some crops. It is also expected to improve forest growth, and enlarge resident populations of birds, warmwater fishes, reptiles and small mammals, especially nuisance animals like mice, bats, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons and opossums. Waterborne commerce will enjoy longer ice-free shipping seasons on the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi River. Winter recreation may suffer, but summer recreation could enjoy a boom.

On the minus side, as the climate continues to warm, it will bring higher summer cooling costs, more frequent ozone alerts, and longer, more intense heat waves. Over time, the benefits of a warming climate for agriculture will likely be outweighed by the adverse effects of declining soil moisture and more frequent droughts, severe storm and erosion damage, and a northward invasion of various warm-climate crop and livestock pests and pathogens. The need to irrigate crops and greater urban demands for water will strain groundwater supplies in some areas. Warmer, damp conditions will cause populations of disease-carrying insects to swell and spread, and outbreaks of infectious diseases like West Nile virus may increase.

Greater evaporation due to generally warmer temperatures and less winter ice cover are expected to cause Great Lakes water levels to decline several feet, threatening coastal drinking water supply systems as well as waterborne commerce, and causing shipping, dredging and harbor maintenance costs to rise. Barge and train traffic through the Upper Mississippi River Valley could be interrupted alternately by low summer-autumn stream flows and winter-spring floods. Warmer water temperatures and increased stormwater runoff will reduce the water quality of many inland lakes and rivers as well as Great Lakes coastal waters.

Longer, hotter, drier summers and increasing evaporation will result in warmer and shallower rivers, shrinking wetlands, and dried-up streams, flowages and wild rice beds. Algal blooms will create anoxic conditions for aquatic life in ponds and many lakes. These conditions will reduce the amount of suitable habitat available for trout and other cold-water fishes, amphibians and waterfowl. A two-degree rise in temperature could wipe out half of Wisconsin’s 2,700 trout streams. Hot dry conditions, coupled with more frequent thunderstorms and lightning, will increase the chance of forest fires. Red pine, aspen and spruce trees will disappear from our northern forests.

And that’s just Wisconsin, which would be impacted less by global warming than other regions. And a lot of food is grown in other regions –– like California, whose prolonged drought certainly threatens the food supply of the country. (California has been the top food and agricultural producer in the United States for more than 50 consecutive years, and produces more than half of the nation’s fruit, nuts, and vegetables.) But cloistered conservatives on Frozen Pond can’t think beyond their porch — even ones who should know better.

Finally, he asks, “what significant changes [liberals have] made in their personal lives and how much of their income the’ve voluntarily donated to help address the problem.” The implication, of course, is that he knows the answer, which is that liberals have done nothing. And he’s wrong again. And again, it’s because he is unable to look any further than Frozen Pond. No electric or hybrid cars in Frozen Pond? Must mean that no one is buying them anywhere. No solar installations at Frozen Pond? Obviously no one is using solar anywhere. I personally know a lot of people who have bought electric cars in the last couple of years. And I know a lot of people who have installed solar panels on their homes. But that doesn’t count in Frozen Pond because they can’t see such people from their porches.

And we haven’t even gotten to the government policies that liberals support with their own tax dollars, which comes from their own pockets. And here the conservative argument falls apart again, because they already know that there are government policies that have been put in place by so-called liberals, which conservatives abhor. So therefore they know that liberals do support changes that will affect their personal lives and their own pocketbooks. After all, who put these “liberal” elected officials into office? Conservatives? I don’t think so.

I can respect a thoughtful argument questioning the effects of global warming and the policies that should be undertaken in response. But ignorant responses motivated solely out of fear need to be called out.

Earlier this week, the Japan Meteorological Agency released its average global temperature data for 2014, which shows that globally last year was the hottest year, by far, in JMA’s 120 years of record-keeping. Nine of the ten hottest years recorded have occurred in the twenty-first century. The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is expected release similar data soon.

Furthermore, there has been no “pause” in warming. Here is the chart from JMA of the average global temperature by year since 1891:


Does that look like a pause to you? Didn’t think so. The trend line is obvious.

The fact is, “[T]here is broad agreement among climate scientists not only that climate change is real (a survey and a review of the scientific literature published say about 97 percent agree), but that we must respond to the dangers of a warming planet. If one is looking for real differences among mainstream scientists, they can be found on two fronts: the precise implications of those higher temperatures, and which technologies and policies offer the best solution to reducing, on a global scale, the emission of greenhouse gases.”

Michael Mann has written a paper for the scientific community, and others, about how special interests try to intimidate and discredit scientists. He calls it “the Serengeti strategy”:

Much as lions on the Serengeti seek out vulnerable zebras at the edge of a herd, special interests faced with adverse scientific evidence often target individual scientists rather than take on an entire scientific field at once. Part of the reasoning behind this approach is that it is easier to bring down individuals than an entire group of scientists, and it still serves the larger aim: to dismiss, obscure, and misrepresent well-established science and its implications. In addition, such highly visible tactics create an atmosphere of intimidation that discourages other scientists from conveying their research’s implications to the public. This “Serengeti strategy” is often employed wherever there is a strong and widespread consensus among the world’s scientists about the underlying cold, hard facts of a field, whether the subject be evolution, ozone depletion, the environmental impacts of DDT, the health effects of smoking, or human-caused climate change. The goal is to attack those researchers whose findings are inconvenient, rather than debate the findings themselves.

He goes on to say, “Many of the attacks have been aimed at undermining one of the scientific community’s great strengths—the trust that the public has in scientists as communicators and messengers. A poll conducted by Yale University and George Mason University indicated that climate scientists are the most trusted source of information about global warming for voting-age Americans (Yale Project, 2012). This is in line with a number of polls regarding science that have been conducted over the years, which consistently show that the public ranks scientists near the top for trustworthiness (Pew Research Center, 2009)—while they put members of Congress, TV reporters, and used-car salesmen near the bottom. (At the very bottom are lobbyists, who have only a 6 percent approval rating for honesty and ethics (Gallup, 2014)). In their effort to discredit the genuine science behind climate change, fossil fuel interests and their front groups have sought to undermine that trust in science and scientists.”

The full paper is worth a read.

Meanwhile, a perfect example of an individual with an agenda–in this case, an ideological one–is Blogs For Victory’s Mark Noonan, who continues with his on-going series of “global warming hoax” updates. In his latest post, Noonan latches onto an article alerting readers to the fact that “two rounds of Arctic cold will move through much of the U.S. this week.” To Noonan, this isn’t a temporary weather phenomenon; it’s further proof that global warming is a hoax. Clearly, like his favorite conservative politicians, Noonan isn’t a scientist.

Don’t be fooled by the clowns who live on Frozen Pond, Indiana. They can’t be bothered to look any further than their own backyard because ideology. Instead, they are convinced that cold Midwest winters prove there is no global warming. They don’t.

The real “hoax” in the “global warming hoax” is the one being perpetrated by individuals and organizations who attempt to discredit science and scientists for their own personal gain or agendas. It’s really pretty simple.

From Slate:

The Japan Meteorological Agency said June 2014 was the warmest June globally since at least 1891, when its dataset begins. This follows May 2014, which was the warmest May globally on record, which follows April 2014, which was the warmest April globally on record.

Also on Monday, NASA released its monthly global temperature numbers for June, with nearly identical results that were reached by a different method. According to NASA, June was the all-time third warmest, May was the warmest, and April was tied for second, with 2010 nudging out 2014 by an imperceptible 0.003 degrees Celsius in the three-month average. The two datasets are among the gold standards for keeping track of Earth’s escalating fever.

Meanwhile, Wingnut Pond in Indiana gets left in the cold and still isn’t warm enough to swim in. The obvious conclusion of the local citizenry is that directly observable data (with their own eyes, no less!) trumps globally collected data every time. Nothing to see here. Move along.

New polling data from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire shows:

“A growing left-right split over the validity of scientific information. This “science gap” is apparent most of all on the issue of climate change, but the problem is much broader, encompassing topics ranging from evolution to the safety and effectiveness of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

This is pretty striking: The first three political groups—Democrats, independents, and non-tea party Republicans—all trust scientists on the environment. But then you come to tea party members, and suddenly, distrust in scientists soars. The numbers are stark: 60 percent of traditional Republicans trust scientists on the environment, versus only 28 percent of tea partiers.

Is anyone surprised? Go here for the rest of the article.

Well, here’s a new development — one we’ll no doubt see more of in the future. Farmers Insurance Company is suing Chicago-area municipal governments in response to claims stemming from April 2013 flooding.

Now a major insurance company is suing Chicago-area municipal governments saying they knew of the risks posed by climate change and should have been better prepared. The class-action lawsuits raise the question of who is liable for the costs of global warming.

Filed by Farmers Insurance Co. on behalf of itself, other insurance companies and customers whose property was damaged by the surge of storm water and sewage overflow, the lawsuits allege the governments of Chicago-area municipalities knew their drainage systems were inadequate and failed to take reasonable action to prevent flooding of insured properties.

“During the past 40 years, climate change in Cook County has caused rains to be of greater volume, greater intensity and greater duration than pre-1970 rainfall history evidenced,” a fact that local governments were well aware of, a suit filed in Cook County, Ill., alleges, citing a climate change action plan adopted in 2008 that acknowledges the link between climate change and increased rainfall.

The suits also say the localities knew their drainage systems weren’t up to snuff because the regional water management authority had published plans in 2011 detailing various defects.

Knowing the risks, they argue, local governments should have increased their storm water storage capacity. Furthermore, the suits allege they were negligent in failing to take temporary measures in the days before the storm, such as deploying water-inflatable property protection systems to mitigate damage.

While the deniers live in Rubio-land, the rest of us have to deal with the real world.

So while conservatives compete with each other to see who can be Dumb & Dumber when it comes to climate change, the rest of us have to deal with reality.

Clear skies above but water below, a woman on a moped navigates a flooded street corner on Miami Beach, an all-too-familiar sign for residents of this iconic peninsula where the ocean seems more likely than ever to swamp Ocean Drive one day.

If there’s an image that starkly illustrates the threats of climate change, it’s this photograph, which was included in the recent National Climate Assessment released by the White House. It is noteworthy because the flood is from exceptionally high spring tides – not heavy rains. Tidal flooding like that is relatively new. And scary. “People in Miami Beach are living climate change,” said David Nolan, a meteorology and physical oceanography professor at the University of Miami. “They’re on the frontline.”

The people of Miami Beach didn’t need the National Climate Assessment to tell them low-lying south Florida is “exceptionally vulnerable to sea level rise”. The city is already spending $206m to overhaul its drainage system.

The day after the White House released its climate change report, Miami-Dade County’s commission passed a 6 May resolution that calls on planners to account for sea level rise. Local officials across the four counties of south Florida are making similar moves. Almost anyone who lives in south Florida has a nagging fear about climate change. It’s both abstract and, at times, very real.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Chait writes about President Obama’s dilemma when it comes to the new Environmental Protection Agency rules he will announce in a few weeks regulating carbon emissions.

The best way to think of the dilemma is keeping in mind the three things Obama wants his regulations to accomplish: He wants them to effectively reduce carbon pollution, he wants them not to cost consumers too much, and he wants to be sure they can survive legal challenge. The trouble is that he can only pick two of these. And the primary question weighing on administration regulators as they make their decision will be how to read the mind of Anthony Kennedy.

No matter what he decides, conservatives will scream and shout in protest, in part because their overarching strategy is to oppose any Obama initiative and deny him any accomplishments. It’s a helluva way to run a government.