What We Should Be Doing About Weather Disasters

By William S. Becker After every devastating weather disaster, a reporter standing in the floodwaters or rubble tells us, “It may take months or even years, but the people here are determined to rebuild.” It is the promise of a happy-ever-after-ending, the way we like all our stories to end. It is the assurance that the human spirit will triumph. But the real question after each disaster is whether its victims will demonstrate the triumph of human intelligence over stupidity. The long-time pattern of disaster recovery in this country has been families and entire communities rebuilding in the same disaster zones over and over again, hoping for different results. The federal government helps them do it. It could be a homing instinct or the resistance to change or the dogged determination to prevail over nature or all of the above, but generations of disaster victims have rolled the dice to rebuild their homes and communities back in the floodplains and forestlands and on the same shorelines that destroyed them. Real estate developers have helped pressure city officials not to

October 13th, 2018|home|

New from the IPCC: 12 years left to keep warming to 1.5oC

From The Guardian: The world’s leading climate scientists have warned there is only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. The authors of the landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released on October 8, 2018, say urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to reach the target, which they say is affordable and feasible although it lies at the most ambitious end of the Paris agreement pledge to keep temperatures between 1.5C and 2C. What difference would restricting warming to 1.5C make? A key finding of the new IPCC report is the dramatic difference that restricting warming to 1.5C above pre industrial levels would have on the global environment. The scientists found: By 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5C compared with 2C. Extreme heat waves will be experienced by 14% of the world's population at least once

October 9th, 2018|home|

Clean Energy, the Economy and Jobs

Our leaders should know it. Our candidates should know it. Our policymakers should know it. Clean energy is America's most dynamic job-producer today. That's not all. It reduces air pollution, improves public health, prevents energy price shocks, gives us greater energy independence, offers consumers energy choice, increases disposable household incomes, boosts business profits, makes our industries more competitive, and much much more. Here in detail are many of the reasons the United States should make a rapid transition to clean energy. As the 2018 midterm elections approach, six of every 10 Americans say the U.S. government is not doing enough to protect the environment.[1] Three-quarters of Americans favor the production of wind and solar energy over more oil, gas and coal. Most say they want higher emission and pollution standards, stronger enforcement of environmental regulations, mandatory controls on greenhouse gas emissions and a national carbon tax to encourage less carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution. A majority of Americans say they want environmental protection even if it risks economic growth. As experience proves, however, economic growth need not be sacrificed for environmental

October 8th, 2018|home|

On the Path to “Hothouse Earth”

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Aug. 14, 2018 Excerpts from "Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene" Will Steffen, Johan Rockström, Katherine Richardson, Timothy M. Lenton, Carl Folke, Diana Liverman, Colin P. Summerhayes, Anthony D. Barnosky, Sarah E. Cornell, Michel Crucifix, Jonathan F. Donges, Ingo Fetzer, Steven J. Lade, Marten Scheffer, Ricarda Winkelmann, and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber PNAS August 14, 2018 115 (33) 8252-8259; published ahead of print August 6, 2018 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1810141115 Edited by William C. Clark, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, and approved July 6, 2018 (received for review June 19, 2018) Abstract We explore the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a “Hothouse Earth” pathway even as human emissions are reduced. Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene. We examine the evidence that such a threshold might exist and where it might be. If the threshold is crossed, the

Just Out: State of the Climate 2017

Every year, hundreds of scientists from around the world analyze data on climate conditions and issue a State of the Climate Report. This year's report, covering 2017, shows that a variety of records were set for the Earth's temperature, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG), and sea level rise. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says it is especially concerned about how rapidly temperatures and greenhouse gas concentrations are rising. Here are some highlights. Global temperatures: Each of the last four years set a new record high for the Earth’s temperature. Temperatures across land and seas ranked as the second or third highest since record-keeping began in the 1800s. The temperature was 1.8°F above average in 2014; 1.98 F above average in 2015 and 2017; and 2.16% average in 2016, NOAA said. The top 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1997 and the four warmest years on record have taken place since 2014. NOAA explains, "Given the size and tremendous heat capacity of the global oceans, it takes a massive amount of accumulated heat energy to raise Earth’s average

August 6th, 2018|home|

“We’ve never seen anything like this…”

In case you haven’t noticed, several new words and phrases have become more common in newspapers and on the evening news lately. They are used so often, in fact, that they are replacing “war torn nation” and “’tis the season” as the tritest phrases in the news business. This would be trivial except for one thing: The words reveal something very important about our times and about our upcoming elections. Here are some of them: Unprecedented Record-breaking Not in my lifetime Disaster Tragic Loss Victims Deaths Homeless Floods Heat Wildfire Firefighter Drought Evacuation Everything lost New normal These are part of the emerging lexicon of climate change.  We don’t have to rely on computer models and climatologists anymore to know whether global warming is real. Millions of Americans, as well as billions of people worldwide, are experiencing it first-hand. The people who still deny that climate change is real -- including the President of the United States, his Cabinet and more than half of the members of Congress -- are looking more and more ridiculous, like the proverbial ostriches with