Tag Archives: global warming

Northeast US will have more heat, snow, rain according to powerful data modeling

NCA Heavy Precipitation map
Percent changes in the amount of precipitation falling in very heavy events (the heaviest 1%) from 1958 to 2012 by region. Source: 2014 National Climate Assessment
Civil and environmental engineering Professor Joshua Fu at University of Tennessee, Knoxville carried out a climate change study using a huge dataset on the university’s supercomputer. The results show that the Northeastern United States will become hotter, experience more heat waves and get more precipitation in coming years. Data-based climate models show what cities will experience 50 years into the future.

Harnessing the supercomputing power of UT’s Kraken and Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) Jaguar (now Titan, the fastest in the world), the researchers combined high-resolution topography, land use information and climate modeling. Then they used dynamical downscaling to develop their climate model results. Dynamical downscaling allowed the researchers to develop climate scales as small as four square kilometers.

“Instead of studying regions, which is not useful when examining extreme weather, dynamical downscaling allows us to study small areas such as cities with a fine resolution,” said Fu.

Global warming doesn’t mean that all regions of the earth will always be warmer. ThinkProgress explains:

One of the most robust scientific findings is the direct connection between global warming and more extreme precipitation or deluges. “Basic physics tells us that a warmer atmosphere is able to hold more moisture — at a rate of approximately 7 per cent increase per degree [Celsius] warming,” as the U.K. Met Office explained in its 2014 update on climate science. “This is expected to lead to similar percentage increases in heavy rainfall, which has generally been borne out by models and observed changes in daily rainfall.”

Fu cautions:

It is important that the nation take actions to mitigate the impact of climate change in the next several decades. These changes not only cost money – about a billion a year in the U.S. – but they also cost lives.

The scientific assessment: global warming is actually science

penguin on diminished ice floeTruthout has published a book excerpt from Unprecedented, subtitled Can Civilization Survive the CO2 Crisis?

Author David Ray Griffin addresses the failure of United States’ Big Media to cover climate change fairly, quoting three scientists who explain why this is a mistake.

Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway:

[O]nce a scientific issue is closed, there’s only one “side.” Imagine providing a “balance” to the issue of whether the Earth orbits the Sun, whether continents move, or whether DNA carries genetic information. These matters were long ago settled in scientists’ minds. Nobody can publish an article in a scientific journal claiming the Sun orbits the Earth.

James Hansen also regards misapplied science to be a major problem in communicating scientific conclusions to the public. He wrote:

The scientific method requires objective analysis of all data, stating evidence pro and con, before reaching conclusions. This works well, indeed is necessary, for achieving success in science. But science is now pitted in public debate against the talk-show method, which consists of selective citation of anecdotal bits that support a predetermined position. Why is the public presented results of the scientific method and the talk-show method as if they deserved equal respect?

And he references John Oliver’s segment on the topic:

In May 2014, John Oliver humorously demonstrated on his fake TV news show, “Last Week Tonight,” what this would mean in a “Statistically Representative Climate Change Debate.” Having described the typical TV debate between a climate scientist and a climate denier, he pointed out that the debate should really be representative of the two positions. So after having two more people join the denier, Oliver brought in 96 more to join the scientist.

See for yourself – Oliver’s always interesting (and fun).

Is Climate Change real?

It is, according to more politicians, academicians, public figures and the United States Government: the EPA predicts coastal sees to rise and extreme weather events like Hurricanes to become more frequent.
US EPA carbon emisisons data
Bloomberg.com reports

Here’s what we know: an overwhelming majority of scientists tell us that the Earth’s climate is heating largely due to rising greenhouse gas emissions, which, in turn, is driving more extreme weather and climate events. The underlying changes–warmer oceans, more intense precipitation events, and rising sea levels–are significant contributors to storms like Sandy…

U.S. politicians’ silence on climate change is not only out of step with the rest of the world, but also with the American people, the vast majority of whom are concerned about climate change.

The human and economic costs of Hurricane Sandy and other extreme weather events are abundantly clear. In 2011, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there were 14 extreme weather and climate events of more than $1 billion in the United States, totaling approximately $55 billion. Looking at the bigger picture, a recent report found that the failure to act on climate change is likely to cost the world economy 1.7 percent of GDP, approximately $1.2 trillion per year in the near term, with the figure expected to double by 2030.

Shifting to clean energy opens new economic opportunities, including taking advantage of the $2.3 trillion global clean energy market expected to emerge in the next decade (pdf).

CNN seems to have become a believer since Sandy, too, and they’ve brought in heavy hitting guest writers to tell the public about it. MacArthur Fellow, Stony Brook University professor and president of Blue Ocean Institute, Carl Safina, writes as a CNN special guest

Reporters share their photos with CNN Obstacles and challenges after Sandy Mom can’t get help; two sons die NY mayor: Marathon won’t hurt recovery Search for gas gets more desperate
Sea levels are rising. They’ve been rising since the last ice age and that rise has been accelerating since the Industrial Revolution. We’ve had fair and continual and increasing warning. And yet, small coastal communities and cities as large as New York have done essentially nothing to prepare.
Over decades, we filled many wetlands that are the natural buffers to floods. Shrinking the area of our wetlands has left adjacent areas more prone to flooding.
As the world continues warming, the warming tends to intensify storms. New York has been hit with two hurricanes in two years. That’s unusual. And since at least Katrina, scientists have warned that hurricanes take their strength from the heat of the ocean’s surface.

And Chris Field, Global Ecology Department Chair of the Carnegie Institution for Science and co-chair of a working group tasked with assessing climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), writes as another CNN special guest,

Climate change is occurring now. We see its consequences in hotter temperatures, higher sea levels and shifted storm tracks. In many parts of the world, we are also seeing an increase in the fraction of rainfall that comes in the heaviest events. When it rains, increasingly it pours.
Climate change over the next couple of decades is already largely baked into the system, but changes beyond that are mostly in our hands. As we learn more about the links between climate change and extreme events, it will benefit all of us to think hard about the opportunities and challenges of getting a handle on climate change, so we control it and not vice versa.

Van Jones (as yet another special CNN contributor) proposes a solution that won’t only address climate change, but will improve the United States financial outlook too:

We have just the answer. It’s not a new idea, but as the two parties face off over the federal budget, it could be the path forward. There’s a tool we can use to answer the public’s call for more jobs – without cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security: a carbon tax.

One analysis by the Congressional Budget Office says a moderate, $20-per-ton tax on carbon emissions could raise $1.25 trillion over 10 years. And the savings don’t stop there. For decades, the oil and coal industries have passed along their costs to the rest of us, in the form of asthma treatment, emergency room visits, doctor bills and missed days of school and work. Combined with droughts, wildfires, hurricanes and severe weather events like Superstorm Sandy, rising levels of carbon in the atmosphere cost our nation an estimated $70 billion each year.

Everybody has to make up her own mind about what to believe, but I have no problem all believing that climate change is real, and making changes in my living habits to reverse global warming, and I want my government and business to do the same.

Cap & Trade – an emissions reduction strategy

The Environmental Defense Fund wrote the cap-and-trade approach to sulfur emissions into the 1990 Clean Air Act. A similar program has become law in California to limit carbon emissions, where implementation will begin in 2013. The cap part of the program is an incrementally rising cap on the legally allowable limits for carbon emissions factories produce. The trade portion allows companies that reduce their emissions to a lower level than the legal mandate to use the difference as a credit that a company exceeding the legal limit can buy to bring itself into the compliant range of emissions output.

The EDF explains the history of cap-and-trade, which started in 1990

Traditional, top-down government regulation would have simply directed every plant owner to cut pollution by a specific amount in a specific way. But this method, critics said, would cost too much, impede innovation and ignore the knowledge and initiative of local plant operators.

The way forward, EDF experts argued, was to harness the power of the marketplace. Our cap-and-trade approach, written into the 1990 Clean Air Act, required that overall sulfur emissions be cut in half, but let each company decide how to do it. And power plants that cut their pollution more than required could sell those extra allowances. A new commodities market was born.

Under this market-based plan, sulfur emissions have gone down faster than predicted and at one-fourth of the projected cost. By 2000, scientists were documenting decreased sulfates in Adirondack lakes, improved visibility in national parks and widespread benefits to human health. The Economist called it “the greatest green success story of the past decade.”

EDF explains that the California cap-and-trade market for greenhouse gases addresses is modeled after their plan.

In October 2011, the California Air Resources Board voted to create a cap-and-trade market for greenhouse gases, as required by AB32, the state’s landmark bipartisan 2006 climate bill, which EDF cosponsored and defended in court.

AB32 aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions in California, the world’s eighth largest economy, to 1990 levels by 2020, while generating one-third of its electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind.

The cap-and-trade market alone, which begins operating in 2013, will slash the state’s warming emissions by an amount equivalent to taking some 3.6 million cars off the road.

The LA Times reports

Environmental justice groups oppose aspects of the program, arguing that cap-and-trade’s market allows refineries, power plants and other large-scale facilities to continue polluting poor neighborhoods as long as they purchase credits or offsets ..

and gives details about how the carbon cap-and-trade program will work in California

Emissions caps were established by collecting three years of emissions data from the state’s largest industries. Those businesses were grouped into sectors and assigned an average emissions benchmark. Businesses are allowed to emit up to 90% of that amount in the first year. Companies that operate efficiently under the cap may sell their excess carbon allowance on the market; companies whose emissions are above the benchmark must either reduce their carbon output or purchase credits or offsets.

Offsets are a way of turning carbon “savings” into tradable equities. For instance, a forestry company may change its practices so that its forests store more carbon. That increase in carbon storage can be turned into a marketable credit. An independent entity would verify that the carbon savings are real. That additional storage must be maintained for at least 100 years. No carbon offsets may be purchased from non-U.S. sources.