Blog Archive

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

John Abraham: Another global warming contrarian paper found to be unrealistic and inaccurate

Abraham et al. show that a paper by ‘sceptics’ Spencer and Braswell is rife with unrealistic assumptions in an overly simple model

by John Abraham, "Climate Consensus - The 97%," The Guardian, October 21, 2014

A woman looks at a globe model in the climate village during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-16), in Cancun, 2010.
A woman looks at a globe model in the climate village during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-16), in Cancun, 2010. Photograph: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images
It’s hard to find a reputable scientist who denies that human emissions of greenhouse gases are warming the planet and that there will be consequences for human society and the biological health of the planet. There are a few holdouts who, for various reasons, either think humans are not causing warming or that the warming will not have much consequence.
Some members of this vocal minority spend a lot of time trying to convince the public that they are right. They write letters to newspapers, appear in slick movies, give press conferences, promote their views to Congress, and so on. Their high profile gives the public a false sense that there are two relatively equal-sized bodies of experts that cannot agree on climate change; this is not true
An even smaller subset also tries to publish their views in the scientific literature – the dueling ground for experts. Sometimes these contributions have been useful, adding some nuance to the discussion, but all too often they have proven to be of very poor quality when other scientists have had a chance to dissect them.
A few months ago, I co-authored an article which charted the different quality in scientific output from the Dwindling Few contrarians compared to the majority of experts. My colleague, Dana Nuccitelli, summarized the article here. What we show is that the Dwindling Few have had a very poor track record – having papers rebutted time after time after time because of errors they have made. The low quality of their research has caused journal editors resign, and they have wasted the time of their colleagues who have had to publish the rebuttals to their work. 
Well, again this year, I’ve wasted my time (and my colleagues’ time) by rebutting a 2014 paper published by the darling of the Dwindling Few, Roy Spencer. Dr. Spencer wrote a paper earlier this year that used a very simple ocean model to suggest that standard climate models overestimate the Earth’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere. You can see his manuscript here although it is behind a paywall so you will have to shell out about $40 to read it.
Dr. Spencer and his colleague Danny Braswell made a number of basic math and physics errors in the article that call into question their conclusions. 
Before we get into the errors, let’s talk about what their model does. They basically treated the ocean like a non-moving fluid and allowed heat to diffuse into the ocean depths. They did allow some mixing in the upper layers through added terms in a one-dimensional equation. The model neglects down-welling or up-welling of waters which occur particularly at the poles. In the end, they end up with a bunch of tunable parameters, which they adjusted so that the model output matches the measured temperature history.
So, what were the errors and poor modeling choices?
  1. The model treats the entire Earth as entirely ocean-covered
  2. The model assigns an ocean process (El Niño cycle) which covers a limited geographic region in the Pacific Ocean as a global phenomenon
  3. The model incorrectly simulates the upper layer of the ocean in the numerical calculation.
  4. The model incorrectly insulates the ocean bottom at 2000 meters depth
  5. The model leads to diffusivity values that are significantly larger than those reported in the literature
  6. The model incorrectly uses an asymmetric diffusivity to calculate heat transfer between adjacent layers
  7. The model contains incorrect determination of element interface diffusivity
  8. The model neglects advection (water flow) on heat transfer
  9. The model neglects latent heat transfer between the atmosphere and the ocean surface.
Now, simple models like this one can still be useful, even though they necessarily gloss over some details. But some of these errors and omissions are pretty obvious, and would have been easy to fix. For instance, by treating the entire Earth as water covered, Spencer and Braswell omit 30% of the surface of the Earth that’s land-covered, and which heats up faster than the oceans. They then compare the CO2sensitivity of their ocean-only model to those obtained from more realistic models — apples and oranges. Furthermore, the application of a very local phenomenon (El Niño) to the entire globe just doesn’t make much sense. 
But, I here want to talk about the numerical errors, in particular items 3, 4, 6, and 7. In order to explain what went wrong, I need to talk about the underlying math.
The diffusion equation Spencer and Braswell used has a second derivative of temperature with respect to depth in the water. To solve this equation, the common approach is to break the ocean into a number of finite slabs of water and approximate the derivatives by finite differences. So far, so good. The problems arise when you apply what are called boundary conditions. That is, conditions at the ocean surface and the bottom of the ocean. At both locations, Spencer and Braswell’s approach fails.
First, at the ocean surface, you are required to make calculations at the exact surface. In fact, the physical phenomenon which Spencer and Braswell introduce require actual surface temperatures. However, in their computer program, no surface temperatures were ever determined. They basically transcribed a temperature 25 meters deep into the ocean onto the surface (and no, they didn’t do this because of ocean mixing). At the ocean bottom, Spencer and Braswell insulated the ocean, and thereby did not allow any energy exchange there.
Finally, Spencer and Braswell incorrectly used upstream element-diffusivity values in their heat transfer term. They were obligated to use mean values representing adjacent elements. When we implemented the corrected numerical scheme, the quality of the results dissolved. Once again, Roy Spencer has failed in his attempt to show the Earth is not very sensitive to climate change.
These errors are the sort of thing that could have been avoided by consulting any elementary textbook on heat transfer, or any number of papers that have published similar ocean diffusion models. My colleague and co-author, Dr. Barry Bickmore from BYU described the situation like this,
What our paper shows is that Spencer and Braswell’s model was flawed on a very basic level, in such a way that it could have predicted wildly low climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases. Whatever sensitivity their model predicts, the true value is probably significantly higher, and therefore probably in the range indicated by the IPCC. 
Spencer and Braswell might object that their paper says ocean temperature measurements “might not provide a very strong constraint on our estimates of climate sensitivity.” Let’s just say that Roy Spencer forgot to include that little detail when he recently told a U.S. Senate committee, “Our most recent peer-reviewed paper on this subject... has arrived at a climate sensitivity of only 1.3 degree C for a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide, based upon a variety of global measurements, including warming of the global oceans since the 1950s.”
In a recent blog post, Dr. Spencer challenged well-known and well-respected Dr. Andrew Dessler to a debate. While the peanut gallery was busy chiding Dessler for not taking the bait, it perhaps is important to remember that the place where scientists debate is in the scientific literature. It is a venue that has not been kind to Dr. Spencer in the past decade or so. We published our latest work in an open-source journalhere so that any interested reader can see the results for themselves.

Joe Romm: Methane Leaks Wipe Out Any Climate Benefit Of Fracking, Satellite Observations Confirm

by Joe Romm, Climate Progress, October 22, 2014
Bridge out
Satellite observations of huge oil and gas basins in East Texas and North Dakota confirm staggering 9 and 10 percent leakage rates of heat-trapping methane. “In conclusion,” researchers write, “at the current methane loss rates, a net climate benefit on all time frames owing to tapping unconventional resources in the analyzed tight formations is unlikely.”
In short, fracking speeds up human-caused climate change, thanks to methane leaks alone. Remember, natural gas is mostly methane, (CH4), a super-potent greenhouse gas, which traps 86 times as much heat as CO2 over a 20-year period. So even small leaks in the natural gas production and delivery system can have a large climate impact — enough to gut the entire benefit of switching from coal-fired power to gas.
Back in February, we reported that the climate will likely be ruined already well past most of our lifespans by the time natural gas has a net climate benefit. That was based on a study in Science called “Methane Leaks from North American Natural Gas Systems” reviewing more than 200 earlier studies. It concluded that natural gas leakage rates were about 5.4%.
The new study used satellites to look at actual “methane emissions for two of the fastest growing production regions in the United States, the Bakken and Eagle Ford formations,” between the periods 2006–2008 and 2009–2011. They found leakages rates of 10.1% and 9.1%, respectively!
Recall the key figure from the 2012 study, Alvarez et al.:
Figure: Maximum life-cycle natural gas leak rate as a function of the number of years needed to achieve net climate benefits after switching from coal power to natural gas. The three curves represent: single emissions pulses (dotted lines); the service life of a power plant, 50 years (dashed lines); and a permanent fleet conversion (solid lines).
If the leakage rate were 5.4%, replacing a fleet of coal plants with gas plants would be worse for the climate for 5 decades. If the leakage rate were 7.6%, fracked gas is worse for a century!
But it’s even worse than that for fracking. Alvarez et al. used old figures for the global warming potential (GWP) of methane. Last year, the IPCC determined that the 100-year GWP of methane is 40% higher than previously estimated.
And it’s even worse than that for fracked gas, which, in the real world, doesn’t just displace coal, it also displaces nuclear power, renewable energy, and energy efficiency. Recent studies have confirmed that — even if methane leakage were zero percent — “increased natural gas use for electricity will not substantially reduce US GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions, and by delaying deployment of renewable energy technologies, may actually exacerbate the climate change problem in the long term.”

Bottom line: fracking speeds up global warming and has no net climate benefit whatsoever in any timescale that matters to humanity. Perhaps it is time to stop squandering tens of billions of dollars on it while rendering billions of gallons of water unfit for human consumption.

Free legal help for embattled US scientists

by Rebecca Trager, Chemistry World, October 22, 2014

The legal fund will help to defend scientists in fields such as climate change, where researchers have been targeted © Shutterstock
A pro bono network that will provide legal protection for US scientists in government and academia has been launched by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), an environmental group based in Washington, DC. The new Alliance for Legal Protection of Science (Alps), will provide legal information, counselling and formal representation to embattled scientists at no cost to them.
‘We have public scientists at universities and in the government who are being hassled basically because of their research,’ says Kyla Bennett, the project’s director. ‘A lot of the work that these scientists are doing is of potentially great significance to regulation and even stock prices. There is both industry pressure and political pressure on these scientists to stifle or change their science.’
Bennett emphasises that these researchers need to pursue their work without fear of getting fired, losing their grants or being presented with intrusive public records requests that are designed to hamper their work. Because individual researchers are often ill-equipped to counter what Peer calls well-funded ‘harassment campaigns’, the intent is for Alps to help by organising legal and other resources to protect the targeted scientists and their work.
For example, the programme features a new online resource for scientists to schedule legal sessions and easily access information about their rights and options on various topics, including the right to publish without official approval. It also includes details on what information scientists can legally withhold.

Academic exemption?

Michael Mann is a climate scientist formerly with the University of Virginia, US, now at Penn State University, who was on the receiving end of repeated subpoenas by Virginia’s attorney general and others starting in April 2010 for various records related to his research. He says that Alps appears to be a spinoff from the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund launched in January 2011 to defend climate scientists that was housed in Peer.
‘It is great to see Peer now expanding the scope of the original effort to include the entire community of scientists that have been attacked or intimidated by special interests,’ he tells Chemistry World. ‘Whether studying the health effects of tobacco, the potential threat of certain pharmaceutical products, the pollution of our air and water by industry or the science underlying human caused climate change, scientists have often found themselves under attack when their findings collide with the agendas of vested corporate interests.’ He says it is critical that those scientists have some place to turn when they find themselves under legal attack.
Charles Monnett, a wildlife researcher who was suspended from his job at the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for six weeks in 2011 amid questions about his data and whether he had wrongfully released government records, is also very enthusiastic about the new programme. Monnett and others suggest that he was penalised over his observations of drowned polar bears that became an iconic illustration of climate change in action.
Monnett, whose scientific integrity came under attack, ultimately received $100,000 (£62,000) to settle a whistleblower complaint against the agency. He says he never resumed his former duties overseeing a $50 million portfolio of 20 to 30 studies, and retired from the agency last year due to health issues he says were brought on by stress.
‘This is important if you don’t want scientists to be stifled and to have fear that if they ever buck the system that their science and their careers are going to be destroyed,’ Monnett tells Chemistry World. ‘I was isolated, and many in my agency viewed me with extreme hostility.’

Limiting global warming to 2°C: the philosophy and the science

How much more glacial melting can the planet stand? NASA

by Lawrence Torcello and Michael Mann, The Conversation, October 21, 2014

Industrial civilization must become technologically, economically, politically, and morally sustainable to hold the earth’s temperature below 2 °C (3.6 °F) higher than its preindustrial average. The problem is not insurmountable. It is possible, then, that we’ll benefit in the long run from having to deal with human-caused global warming, by being forced to mature politically and ethically.

As of yet, however, the world has largely failed to move beyond moral, political, and economic parochialism. Our continued failure will supplant the promise of sustainability with a legacy of collapse.
At our present pace of fossil fuel burning we will, by 2036, exceed the 2 °C limit (using the Northern Hemisphere mean temperature on a true pre-industrial (1750-1849) baseline under the assumption of a mid-range (3 °C) equilibrium climate sensitivity). And if we reach 2 °C warming, then natural feedback could threaten to drive further warming, making it possible for warming in the range of 3 °C or more to occur. If temperatures warm 3 °C (5.4 °F) or more, we may simply be unable to cope with the consequences.
In short, our current model of development could prove catastrophic for human civilization and the natural world.

The philosophy

In the 18th century David Hume wrote provocatively:
It is not contradictory to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.
Hume was not endorsing such judgments. Rather, he was saying that our reasoning tends to be framed by non-rational, and in his example, selfish passions. Cavalier attitudes about climate change in the regions most prepared to cope with it seem to confirm Hume’s insight.
In response to Hume, Immanuel Kant reasoned there was an ethical duty to treat others by standards consistent with one’s own moral status. Doing so encourages a cosmopolitanism that looks beyond national borders.

Kant advocated justice beyond borders.

The concept of “justice as fairness,” advanced more recently by John Rawls, recommends that benefits enjoyed by the most advantaged members of society contribute to the prospects of the least advantaged. Influentially, the contemporary philosopher Peter Singer argues that affluent citizens of the world have an ethical responsibility to assist the global poor and disenfranchised.
Any politically just and morally accountable framing of climate policy must involve consistently weighing the actions of affluent industrialized nations against their impacts on the least advantaged.
So far, the wealthiest nations of the world have exploited the benefits of fossil fuel extraction while securing a future of increased suffering for the planet’s least fortunate. Developing nations of the world cannot sustain a similar rate of carbon based growth to the one previously enjoyed by developed nations.
Those least responsible for climate change are most vulnerable to it, constrained by it, and face the greatest imminent danger from it. To avoid the dangerous comfort of provincialism we in the developed world must understand the dangers faced by those at the frontline of global warming impacts.

The science

Currently, at just 0.9 °C (1.6 °F) warming, sea levels have risen eight inches. As a result, millions in the developing world are increasingly vulnerable to coastal storm surges. Tropical cyclones have an ever more damaging reach over the coastal poor, while warming oceans ratchet their destructive power.
As the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets continue melting, another three feet and possibly as much as six feet of sea level rise by 2100 can be anticipated.
This means the warming level already reached will likely displace millions of people worldwide. Entire island cultures may be scattered and their traditional ways of life destroyed. Any resulting refugee crisis will be exacerbated by a greater range of agricultural pests, tropical diseases, increasingly frequent heat waves, wildfires, droughts, and subsequent crop failures. Migrating climate victims will be at risk of further injustice as social and political tensions intensify.

Kiribati is under threat: it’s our responsibility to save it. David Gray

And to it, we must add a reckoning with what is now the greatest ongoing mass extinction period since dinosaurs wandered the earth. Despite having accessible public information about global warming for more than two decades, many countries continue emitting greenhouse gasses at record-breaking rates.

Unfair devastation

To be sure: the planet we hope to leave the youngest children alive today and their offspring will be a world of unfair ecological devastation, with little margin for error on their part. If we don’t take aggressive action now it will remain a world of increased suffering, hunger and starvation, and ever less biodiversity.
Members of the industrialized world shoulder a shared moral responsibility for the ongoing consequences of our current behavior. We have long understood how to curb global warming through carbon pricing agreements. Instead we have postponed action while many in the political and industrial sectors, with financial interests in collective inaction, encouraged (and in some cases financed) a phony, immoral, and dangerous attack on settled science.
Climate justice and practical necessity require that wealthy nations assist the developing world in addressing climate related threats while adapting sustainably. Likewise, wealthy nations must act aggressively in a sincere effort to avoid the 2 °C threshold.
Doing so is a moral and practical imperative that will require legally binding mitigation plans, increased investment in sustainable infrastructure, and renewable technologies.
If we fail to avoid 2 °C warming, a possibility we must be ready for, aggressive action taken now will still position the next generation to better build on our efforts—while learning from our mistakes. The difficulty of our situation is no excuse for moral dithering.
This article has been updated to include more detail about the basis for passing 2 °C by 2036.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Chris Mooney, WaPo: Climate records are breaking so often now, we’ve stopped paying attention

by Chris Mooney, "Wonk Blog," The Washington Post, October 21, 2014

On Monday, we learned from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that last September was the hottest of them all, out of 135 Septembers going back to 1880.The same was true for August 2014. And June of 2014. And May of 2014. What that means is that for each of these months, the combined, average, global, land and ocean, surface temperature has never been higher, at least since we started recording these temperatures back in the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes.
These kinds of records are becoming so regular that they're starting to seem a lot less impressive. They're shrug-inducing. But to think of them in that way is a mistake. A little context shows just how dramatic the warming of the globe, on a month-by-month basis, has actually been.
You see, for 355 months now (up through September), "every month on this planet has been warmer than the 20th century average," according to Jessica Blunden, a scientist at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. The Post's own Philip Bump, then writing at Grist, pointed out numbers like these back in November 2012, when the streak was only 332 consecutive months -- but since then, every month has just added to the total. And now, we're just shy of 30 years of unbroken warmer-than-average months. The last month that actually was not warmer than the 20th century average, according to Blunden, was February of 1985. (It was merely average, she says.)
If you took out a 30-year mortgage that February, and never refinanced or sold -- but just kept paying the unchanged payment -- you'd have just a few months to go now. And during that entire period of the mortgage, the globe never saw a cooler-than-average month.
Or consider the human lifespan. Right now, in the US, it's 78.7 years. That's just over 944 months. In other words, for more than a third of an average US human lifespan, warmer-than-average months have been the unbroken rule. So will we ever have a colder-than-average month again? Blunden doesn't see it as very likely. "It can happen, but we just haven’t seen it in a long time, and we don’t really expect to see it any time soon," she says. A colder than average year is even less likely.
Granted, it is not as if most Americans actually feel these steady above-average temperatures, certainly not in a constant way. Nobody actually experiences a global average temperature. Less than a year ago, many of us were freezing amid the descent of the “polar vortex” into the continental US. But that’s local weather. There are constant cold and warm fluctuations in individual places. But warmth has predominated overall.

In its analysis of 2014 and its amazingly warm temperatures, NOAA also presents this figure, which takes a bit of interpreting—but once you figure out the punchline, it’s pretty stunning.
The gist here is that 2014 appears reasonably likely to wind up the hottest year on record, in NOAA's accounting. In fact, to tie that record, the remainder of the year merely has to be average for the 21st century.
In climate science circles, there’s already much discussion of the likelihood of 2014 setting a new record. Climate researchers are particularly struck by the fact that prior record years, like 1998 (now the 3rd warmest overall, according to NOAA)  have often been El Nino years, which are hotter than average. But so far an official El Nino has not yet been proclaimed.
Thus, a new global average temperature record in 2014 would be all the more extraordinary. So will it happen? "As we watch daily temperature results come in, it’s becoming ever more likely," says John Abraham, a climate scientist at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota who studies ocean warming and climate change. Abraham emphasizes, though, that there are several other global agencies besides NOAA (including our own NASA) that also track temperatures, and they don't always perfectly agree on the ranking of record years.
"We may break the all-time temperature record without having an El Nino," adds Abraham. "Which means that the Earth shouldn’t be warm this year."
Global warming has often been likened to the situation of a frog in slowly boiling water. We’ve been the frog for almost 30 years.

Monday, October 20, 2014

As Casualties Mount, Scientists Say Global Warming Has Been "Hugely Underestimated"

bDahr Jamail, Truthout, October 20, 2014
Climate change
(Image: High altitudeair pollution via Shutterstock)
As we look across the globe this month, the signs of a continued escalation of the impacts of runaway anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) continue to increase, alongside a drumbeat of fresh scientific studies confirming their connection to the ongoing human geo-engineering project of emitting carbon dioxide at ever-increasing rates into the atmosphere.
major study recently published in New Scientist found that "scientists may have hugely underestimated the extent of global warming because temperature readings from southern hemisphere seas were inaccurate," and said that ACD is "worse than we thought" because it is happening "faster than we realized."
As has become predictable now, as evidence of increasing ACD continues to mount, denial and corporate exploitation are accelerating right along with it.
Climate Disruption DispatchesThis is the start of the paragraph.
The famed Northwest Passage is now being exploited by luxury cruise companies. Given the ongoing melting of the Arctic ice cap, a company recently announced a 900-mile, 32-day luxury cruise there, with fares starting at $20,000, so people can luxuriate while viewing the demise of the planetary ecosystem.
This, while even mainstream scientists now no longer view ACD in the future tense, but as a reality that is already well underway and severely impacting the planet.
It is good that even the more conservative scientists have come aboard the reality train, because a recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-led (NOAA) study published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society has provided yet more evidence linking ACD with extreme heat events.
To provide perspective on how far along we are regarding runaway ACD, another recent study shows that the planet's wildlife population is less than half the size it was four decades ago. The culprits are both ACD and unsustainable human consumption, coupling to destroy habitats faster than previously thought, as biodiversity loss has now reached "critical levels," according to the report. More than half of the vertebrate population on the planet has been annihilated in just four decades.
Let that sink in for a moment before reading further.
Meanwhile, the situation only continues to grow grimmer.
NASA announced that this August was the hottest globally since records began in 1880. Days later, NOAA confirmed this and added that 2014 is on track to become the hottest year on record.
Shortly thereafter, NASA announced that this September was the hottest since 1880.
And emissions only continue to increase.
Global greenhouse gas emissions rose this last year to record levels, increasing 2.3 percent.
The effects of all these developments are especially evident in the Arctic, where sea ice coverage reached its annual minimum on September 17, continuing a trend of below-average years. According to the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center, Arctic sea ice coverage this year is the sixth lowest recorded since 1978.
Equally disconcerting and symptomatic of the aforementioned, 35,000 walruses crowded onto land near the Northwest Alaska village of Point Lay late last month, when they couldn't find their preferred resting grounds of summer sea ice.
The European Space Agency announced that, due to billions of tons of ice loss, a dip in the gravity field over the Western Antarctic region has occurred, making even gravity itself the latest casualty of ACD.
recent analysis of 56 studies on ACD-related health problems revealed that increasing global temperatures and extreme weather events will continue to deleteriously impact human health on a global scale.
On a micro-scale, another report showed how Minnesota's warming (and increasingly wetter) climate is escalating the risk of new diseases in the area, according to the Minnesota Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment.
Further north, warming temperatures continue to disrupt the fragile ecological balance in the Canadian Arctic, which is warming faster than most of the rest of the planet. Canada's minister for natural resources provided a new report detailing the impact ACD is having on that country's forests, which are being impacted "faster than the global average."  [The boreal forests of Siberia, Alaska and Canada are having ever more numerous uncontrolled wildfires.]
In neighboring Alaska, summer heat and invasive insects are taking a similar toll on interior Alaska birch trees, according to experts there.
Wildlife populations continue to struggle to adapt to the dramatic changes wrought by ACD. In California, one of the largest populations of state-protected Western pond turtles in the southern part of that state is struggling to survive as its habitat, a natural two-mile long lake, has become a smelly, severely alkaline death trap due to drought and fires there.
Of course it isn't just wildlife that is struggling to adapt and cope with ACD.
Members of the Swinomish tribe, located north of Seattle, were recently awarded a large grant from the federal government in order to deal with rising seas and flooding, as they live near the mouth of the Skagit River.
The extremes of water, flooding and drought continue to persist and escalate as ACD continues.
In California, where record-breaking drought is becoming a way of life for much of the state, at least 14 communities are on the brink of waterlessness and are trucking in water while trying to find a solution.
In East Porterville, a small rural community in Tulare County, California, the situation has become so desperate that residents are no longer able to flush toilets, fill a glass with water or wash their hands without using bottled water.
Dairy farmers in that state are struggling to survive the drought, as the cost for feed and water is being driven up by the lack of water.
The US Energy Information Administration announced that California's ability to produce electricity from hydroelectric dams is being significantly hampered by the drought, which covers 100% of the state now. This is because the reservoirs, which create power when the water in them is released into turbines, are drying up, thus providing less pressure to spin the turbines. The first six months of this year have seen the state's hydropower generation decrease by half.
And it's not just California that is experiencing drought. The better part of the entire Western Hemisphere has experienced some form of drought in recent years, according to another recent report published in the journal Science which states: "A dry spell has killed cattle and wiped out crops in Central America, parts of Colombia have seen rioting over scarce water, and southern Brazil is facing its worst dry spell in 50 years." [Sao Paulo's reservoir is done to 4% of capacity -- 22 million people are gonna need a lot of water.]
Across the Atlantic, at a recent international conference that was held to discuss the growing global water crisis, experts warned that Britain must prepare for the "worst droughts in modern times."
In Iran, worshippers have sought divine intervention and they're being urged to literally pray for rain.
An excellent report by National Geographic asked a critical question: What will happen to the American West, which has been built upon the back of snowmelt, when the snows fail?
On the other end of the water spectrum - melting and flooding - we continue to see global evidence of the impact of ACD. The aforementioned recent satellite observations from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center revealed in October that the Arctic ice cap has melted so much that open water is now a mere 350 miles from the North Pole, which is the shortest distance ever recorded, according to scientists.
This coincides with predictions from leading British and American polar researchers that Truthout has previously interviewed who predict the ice cap will melt completely during the summer as early as next year.
recent report by the Union for Concerned Scientists warned that several major US cities will see at least 10 times more coastal flooding by 2045, in addition to at least 11 inches of sea level rise by the same year.
In Delaware, they aren't waiting. There, millions of dollars have been spent to pump sand in to build up dunes along the beaches in order to create a buffer from future storms and sea level rise.
Down in Miami, hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent to install new storm pumps and storm drains in order to combat sea level rise at Miami Beach. Near the Cape Canaveral area, a low-lying barrier island is getting even lower as sea levels continue to rise, so communities there are investigating ways to keep the water at bay, or to plan a retreat.
Edmonton, Canada, is pushing forward with a $2.4 billion bill for flood prevention, as that city is seeing increasingly severe downpours.
Southern France experienced a deluge of 10 inches of rain in just three hours, which amounted to half a year's worth of rain in one day in Montpellier. [The Florida panhandle had more than 26 inches in 24 hours.]
In Norway, massive amounts of melt-water from streams and blue ice on mountains indicated that the ice fields and glaciers on central Norway's highest peaks were in full retreat, and exposed rock and ice that had not been seen for 6,000 years. On that note, recent studies also show that sea-level rise over the last century (20 centimeters) has been unmatched in 6,000 years.
Recent reports indicate that the Gulf of Alaska has become unusually warm, warmer in fact than since researchers began tracking surface water temperatures in the 1980s, according to NOAA.
In the Atlantic, lobsters off the coast of southern New England are moving up into Canada due to warming waters. The exotic lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific, is also heading north up the Atlantic coast, as warming waters are changing ocean habitats.
In Greenland, "dark" snow atop the ice sheet is now being called a "positive feedback loop" by an expert there, as the increasing trend is reducing the Arctic's ability to reflect sunlight, further contributing to runaway ACD.
Recent analysis indicates that scientists could have underestimated the size of the heat sink across the upper ocean, according to a recent report. The study, published in Nature Climate Change, found that the upper 700 meters of the ocean have been warming 24-55% faster since 1970 than previously thought. This means that the pace and scale of planetary warming is much faster than previously believed.
Lastly in this section, and possibly the most distressing, a recent report revealed that fish are failing to adapt to increasing carbon dioxide levels in the oceans. This means that within just a few generations of fish, a mass die-off could occur due to lack of adaptation. More carbon dioxide in the oceans is adversely changing the behavior of fish through generations, which means that marine species may never fully adapt to their changing environment.
study published in Geophysical Research Letters showed that tornado activity in "Tornado Alley" in the Midwestern United States is peaking two weeks earlier than it did 50 years ago, and ACD is the culprit.
Erratic jet stream behavior is now believed to be caused by the rapid retreating of Arctic sea ice as a result of ACD. The increasingly unpredictable jet stream is being blamed for more frequent, prolonged spells of extreme weather in Europe, North America and Asia. This includes more and longer freezing temperatures, storms and heat waves.
In October, California found itself in yet another heat wave, with record-breaking temperatures reported in several cities and hotter-than-usual temperatures across the state. The National Weather Service put the San Francisco Bay area and San Diego under a heat advisory and issued a hazardous weather outlook for the Los Angeles area. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) cancelled outside activities and sports for the better part of a week due to the extreme heat, which was the second time this school year that LAUSD has had to cancel activities because of high temperatures.
On one day, downtown Los Angeles reached 92 degrees by noon, whereas the average October temperature for that city is 79 degrees. Several cities in Southern California broke record temperatures. Oxnard reached 98 degrees, breaking an almost 70-year-old record.
As wildfires continued to burn across parts of drought-stricken California, a record-breaking amount of fire retardant was used (203,000 gallons in one day alone) while combatting a massive wildfire in Northern California. The fire was burning so hotly and expanding so explosively, due to the prolonged drought, that firefighters found that normal amounts of retardant weren't stopping the flames.
It is now well known that fire season in California, as well as across all the other Western US states, is extending due to ACD.
Denial and Reality
The person who runs the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a free-market lobbying group that opposes policies to mitigate ACD, is not sure whether humans actually cause ACD, according to an interview recently published in National Journal.
When asked specifically whether or not she thought human carbon emissions are causing climate change, ALEC CEO Lisa Nelson said, "I don’t know the science on that."
The denial-based antics of Gov. Chris Christie are ongoing as well. He recently said that a regional cap-and-trade program from which his state of New Jersey withdrew in 2011 was "a completely useless plan" and added that he "would not think of rejoining it."
Louisiana's Gov. Bobby Jindal, a potential Republican presidential candidate for 2016, is taking a "soft denial" approach by admitting that ACD is real, while saying the extent to which humans have a role is still in "doubt."
The denial project's success is evidenced by large numbers of Americans racing to buy and develop seashore properties in areas well known to be at high-risk for rising seas and increasingly intense storms. Mike Huckabee, now apparently a chronic presidential candidate, is among those racing to build on shores that will be submerged in the not-so-distant future.
It's no coincidence that merely 3% of current Congressional Republicans have even gone on record to accept the fact that climate disruption is anthropogenic, according to PolitiFact, which also found that there is a grand total of eight Republican non-deniers, total, in the House and Senate.
Another interesting turn of events shows companies like GE and Google operating as large companies do in advance of elections - funding both sides to safeguard their interests. In this case, these companies, along with others, are making campaign contributions to Congressional ACD-deniers - while simultaneously professing to be pro-sustainability companies.
Meanwhile the media blitz continues, as the Rupert Murdoch-owned and ACD-denying Wall Street Journal recently ran an article titled "Climate Science Is Not Settled," which was chock full of the usual ACD-denier talking points. The article provides us with a prime example of how the doubt narrative is consistently slipped in as a meme: "Any serious discussion of the changing climate must begin by acknowledging not only the scientific certainties but also the uncertainties, especially in projecting the future."
In stark contrast to the "doubters" and "deniers," the Pentagon recently announced that ACD poses an "immediate risk" to national security, according to the Department of Defense's 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap.
Shaun Donovan, the new US director of the Office of Management and Budget, used his first speech to talk about the dangers of inaction on climate change, in regards to the federal budget. "From where I sit, climate action is a must do; climate inaction is a can't do; and climate denial scores - and I don't mean scoring points on the board," he said. "I mean that it scores in the budget. Climate denial will cost us billions of dollars."
Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently admitted that funding ALEC was a "mistake," and said that the group's spreading of disinformation and lies about ACD was "making the world a much worse place." During an NPR interview, Schmidt said, "Everyone understands climate change is occurring and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren. . . . And so we should not be aligned with such people - they're just, they're just literally lying."
The Endangered Species Coalition recently released a list of things people should take their children to go see outdoors, because if they wait too long, their kids might not get a chance to see them before they become extinct. The list includes monarch butterflies, polar bears, great white sharks, white bark pine trees and Snake River sockeye salmon. [Don't forget the starfish.]
study published in Environmental Research Letters showed that switching to natural gas will not reduce carbon emissions very much, and could in fact increase them slightly, due to the fact that it would discourage the use of carbon-free renewable energy sources. This is significant because there are many lawmakers who are ACD "realists," including President Obama, who advocate that natural gas is a "solution" to ACD.
remarkable electronic dashboard created by The Guardian shows some of the key indicators of planetary health, where you can view updated snapshots of the impacts your country, as well as humans, are having on the environment.
Lastly, possibly the most disturbing reality check of all comes from MIT's 2014 Climate and Energy Outlook. The recently released report revealed that global energy use and carbon dioxide emissions will likely double by 2100.