On June 23, 1988, a sultry day in Washington, James Hansen told Congress and the world that global warming wasn't approaching — it had already arrived. The testimony of the top NASA scientist, said Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley, was "the opening salvo of the age of climate change."
Thirty years later, it's clear that Hansen and other doomsayers were right. But the change has been so sweeping that it is easy to lose sight of effects large and small — some obvious, others less conspicuous.
Earth is noticeably hotter, the weather stormier and more extreme. Polar regions have lost billions of tons of ice; sea levels have been raised by trillions of gallons of water. Far more wildfires rage.
Over 30 years — the time period climate scientists often use in their studies in order to minimize natural weather variations — the world's annual temperature has warmed nearly 1 degree (0.54 degrees Celsius), according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And the temperature in the United States has gone up even more — nearly 1.6 degrees.
"The biggest change over the last 30 years, which is most of my life, is that we're no longer thinking just about the future," said Kathie Dello, a climate scientist at Oregon State University in Corvallis. "Climate change is here, it's now and it's hitting us hard from all sides."
Warming hasn't been just global, it's been all too local. According to an Associated Press statistical analysis of 30 years of weather, ice, fire, ocean, biological and other data, every single one of the 344 climate divisions in the Lower 48 states — NOAA groupings of counties with similar weather — has warmed significantly, as has each of 188 cities examined.
The effects have been felt in cities from Atlantic City, New Jersey, where the yearly average temperature rose 2.9 degrees in the past 30 years, to Yakima, Washington, where the thermometer jumped a tad more. In the middle, Des Moines, Iowa, warmed by 3.3 degrees since 1988.
South central Colorado, the climate division just outside Salida, has warmed 2.3 degrees on average since 1988, among the warmest divisions in the contiguous United States.
When she was a little girl 30 years ago, winery marketing chief Jessica Shook used to cross country ski from her Salida doorstep in winter. It was that cold and there was that much snow. Now, she has to drive about 50 miles for snow that's not on mountain tops, she said.
"T-shirt weather in January, that never used to happen when I was a child," Shook said. When Buel Mattix bought his heating and cooling system company 15 years ago in Salida, he had maybe four air conditioning jobs a year. Now he's got a waiting list of 10 to 15 air conditioning jobs long and may not get to all of them.
And then there's the effect on wildfires. Veteran Salida firefighter Mike Sugaski used to think a fire of 10,000 acres was big. Now he fights fires 10 times as large.
"You kind of keep saying 'How can they get much worse?' But they do," said Sugaski, who was riding his mountain bike on what usually are ski trails in January this year.
In fact, wildfires in the United States now consume more than twice the acreage they did 30 years ago. (...)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstinesays he changed his mind on the existence of man-made climate change because he “read a lot.”
“I heard a lot of experts, and I read a lot,” Bridenstine told The Washington Post on Tuesday. “I came to the conclusion myself that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that we've put a lot of it into the atmosphere and therefore we have contributed to the global warming that we've seen. And we've done it in really significant ways.”
The former congressman from Oklahoma had long denied the scientific consensus on climate change and said in a 2013 speech on the House floor that "global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago."
In May, Bridenstine first announced publicly that he now believes human activity is the main cause of climate change. (...)
(...) According to the aforementioned Grist article, runoff from the Rocky Mountains to the Colorado River is expected to be down by 40% this year, or in other words, an extreme severe continuation of a merciless 19-year drought that’s literally parching large swaths of the Southwest. It is a vicious megadrought that won’t quit!
The Bureau claims the odds have tripled, three-times as likely, that reservoirs fall below critical levels with an another 50% probability that, by 2020, the first official water shortage hits the Colorado River. Watch out below!
The crux of the problem is all about living standards. According to laws governing the Colorado River, Arizona is first in line for big-time cuts, which means water allotments could be cut by 20% or more. Meanwhile, Burman has called for “conservation” measures.” Ahem… well, better late than never.
It’s not like scientists have not advertised this upcoming crisis. An article by Robinson Meyer in The Atlantic (2016) spelled out the danger “A Mega-Drought is Coming to America’s Southwest,” furthermore “Unless carbon emissions plummet soon, the risk of a region-altering disaster in Arizona and New Mexico will exceed 99 percent,” prompting a big important question: How is it possible to cut carbon emissions when America’s stated energy policy gooses up fossil fuel exploration, production, and use? Answer: Not.
A “region-altering” disaster with 99% risk of it happening in Arizona and New Mexico implies a worst-case scenario, which is a breakdown of the ecosystem and consequent life support system. There are no silver linings to be found in that analysis, less bathing, no lawn watering, forget car washes, close swimming pools, and dried out splotchy sandy golf courses, among other inconveniences.
Toby Ault, professor of earth science at Cornell University, one of the authors of the study in The Atlantic, says: “As we add greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – and we haven’t put the brakes on stopping this- we are weighting the dice for mega-drought conditions,” or in plain English 99% certainty it’ll happen. Take that to the craps table for a sure-fire winner.
Ten years ago an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) paper (2008) by Justin Sheffield and Eric F. Wood, “Projected Changes in Drought Occurrence Under Future Global Warming From Multimodel, Multi-Scenario, IPCC AR34 Simulations,” clearly stated that America’s Southwest is one of the most sensitive regions in the world for increased risk of drought caused by global warming.
In fact, scientists have been warning about the relationship of global warming/climate change, aka: climate crisis and droughts for decades, but the United States has not taken bait. The U.S. has never ever, not even a whisper, instituted a nationwide plan to forestall or to beat back a climate crisis that is quickly, very quickly getting out of hand. Is it too late?
According to Commissioner Burman: “We can’t afford to wait for a crisis before we implement drought contingency plans.” But, it’s already a crisis, just ask the city of Las Vegas about water resources, but whisper, don’t shout. LV has ordinances in place to penalize citizens that waste water, which is increasingly precious as it flows from Lake Mead, which hit record lows in recent years, prompting LV to install a “third straw” lower intake to capture the final drops in an absolute worst-case scenario, which increasingly looks like reality. (...)
The news came on a Friday evening in late April last year: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had removed an informational website about climate change, taking down a page that had been up, in some form, for nearly two decades and under threepresidents.
Before its removal, the page had plainly stated a position on climate change: It is caused by humans, and there’s no significant doubt about that. But that position contradicted statements by the new EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, who had expressed doubts about human activity being the dominant driver of climate change.
EPA said at the time that the site had been taken down for review and that it had been archived and was still available as part of a “snapshot” of the state of the site on Jan. 19, 2017, just as the new administration took command.
But a year later, the agency’s climate page is still down, and would-be visitors are redirected to a notice saying that “this page is being updated.”
“We are currently updating our website to reflect EPA’s priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator Pruitt,” it reads. (The archived snapshot remains in place.)
The removal of EPA’s main page on climate change (though it also has a number of others that remain online), an extensive informational resource, is significant because it underscores the ambivalence about climate change science within the Trump administration. From Trump to Pruitt, there are many who have called into question the scientific consensus on climate change. (...)
A recent CO2 measurements at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. (Scripps Institution of Oceanography)
For the first time since humans have been monitoring, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have exceeded 410 parts per million averaged across an entire month, a threshold that pushes the planet ever closer to warming beyond levels that scientists and the international community have deemed “safe.”
The reading from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii finds that concentrations of the climate-warming gas averaged above 410 parts per million throughout April. The first time readings crossed 410 at all occurred on April 18, 2017, or just about a year ago.
Carbon dioxide concentrations — whose “greenhouse gas effect” traps heat and drives climate change — were around 280 parts per million circa 1880, at the dawn of the industrial revolution. They’re now 46 percent higher.
As you can see in the famed “saw-toothed curve” graph above, more formally known as the Keeling Curve, concentrations have ticked upward in an unbroken progression for many decades. But they also go up and down on an annual cycle that’s controlled by the patterns and seasonality of plant growth around the planet.
The rate of growth is about 2.5 parts per million per year, said Ralph Keeling, who directs the CO2 program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which monitors the readings. The rate has been increasing, with the decade of the 2010s rising faster than the 2000s.
“It’s another milestone in the upward increase in CO2 over time,” Keeling said of the newest measurements. “It puts us closer to some targets we don’t really want to get to, like getting over 450 or 500 ppm. That’s pretty much dangerous territory.”
“As a scientist, what concerns me the most is not that we have passed yet another round-number threshold but what this continued rise actually means: that we are continuing full speed ahead with an unprecedented experiment with our planet, the only home we have,” Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, said in a statement on the milestone.
Planetary carbon dioxide levels have been this high or even higher in the planet’s history — but it has been a long time. And scientists are concerned that the rate of change now is far faster than what Earth has previously been used to.
In the mid-Pliocene warm period more than 3 million years ago, they were also around 400 parts per million — but Earth’s sea level is known to have been 66 feet or more higher, and the planet was still warmer than now.
As a recent federal climate science report (co-authored by Hahyoe) noted, the 400 parts per million carbon dioxide level in the Pliocene “was sustained over long periods of time, whereas today the global CO2 concentration is increasing rapidly.” In other words, Earth’s movement toward Pliocene-like conditions may play out in the decades and centuries ahead of us.
Even farther back, in the Miocene era between 14 million and 23 million years ago, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are believed to have reached 500 parts per million. Antarctica lost tens of meters of ice then, probably corresponding to a sea level rise once again on the scale of that seen in the Pliocene.
Farther back still, at the Eocene-Oligocene boundary around 34 million years ago, Antarctica is believed to have had no ice at all, with atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations of 750 parts per million.
These data points help show why it is that scientists believe that planetary temperatures, sea levels and carbon dioxide levels all tend to rise and fall together — and thus, why Earth is now headed back toward a period like the mid-Pliocene or even, perhaps, the Miocene, if current trends continue.
Keeling said that the planet, currently at 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels, is probably not yet committed to a warming of 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius, but it’s getting closer all the time — particularly for 1.5 C. “We don’t have a lot of headroom,” he said.
“It’s not going to be a sudden breakthrough, either,” Keeling continued. “We’re just moving further and further into dangerous territory.”
Under the Trump administration, the Environmental Protection Agency has veered so far from its foundational mission of protecting human health and the environment that it faces the highest risk in its 47-year history of being reshaped to serve industry rather than the American public, according to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health.
The EPA routinely faces criticism from environmental and public health advocates for allegedly quashing science and softening rules to help industry. During the early years of the Reagan presidency in particular, EPA Administrator Anne Gorsuch worked to scale back the agency's activities.
But the new study, based on interviews with current and former EPA staff and reviews of White House and EPA initiatives, concluded that the agency is now on the edge of "regulatory capture," when industry priorities determine policy rather than the public interest and impartial research.
"New EPA leadership has thus far aimed at deconstructing, rather than reconstructing, the agency by comprehensively undermining many of the agency's rules, programs, and policies while also severely undercutting its budget, work capacity, internal operations and morale," concluded the study, titled "The Environmental Protection Agency in the Early Trump Administration: Prelude to Regulatory Capture."
The study, part of the American Journal of Public Health'sspecial issue on climate change, adds to the mounting scrutiny and criticism of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's policy, personnel and operational decisions, which sometimes weave together.
For instance, the study suggests that the undermining of the EPA's public health mission is enabled in part by Pruitt and his aides making policy decisions with little input from longtime staff and scientists.
Such isolation is cemented by "the extraordinary lengths that Pruitt has to preserve secrecy and autonomy from the EPA career staff, such as cordoning his office wing off from career employees, reportedly forbidding note taking at some meetings and employing 24-hour armed guards," the report said. The study was accepted by the peer-reviewed journal in February of this year, before some of the recent scandals around Pruitt had surfaced, including his condo rental from the wife of a lobbyist. He currently faces at least 10 investigations from his EPA tenure. (...)
Jerry Taylor, the founder of the Niskanen Center, spent years of his career as a professional climate denier - his senior role at libertarian think tank Cato Institute demanded it, and he was unconvinced that the risks of taking action outweighed the destruction that action might have on the world’s economy.
But starting about seven or so years ago, Taylor began to question his own assumptions, and after studying the scienceâ- and in particular the academic economics- âmore carefully, he had a complete change of heart. Taylor is now an advocate for addressing climate change, and in this talk at the NewCo Shift Forum earlier this year, he explains why.
The warm Atlantic current linked to severe and abrupt changes in the climate in the past is now at its weakest in at least 1,600 years, new research shows. The findings, based on multiple lines of scientific evidence, throw into question previous predictions that a catastrophic collapse of the Gulf Stream would take centuries to occur.
Such a collapse would see western Europe suffer far more extreme winters, sea levels rise fast on the eastern seaboard of the US and would disrupt vital tropical rains. The new research shows the current is now 15% weaker than around 400AD, an exceptionally large deviation, and that human-caused global warming is responsible for at least a significant part of the weakening. (...)
Wipeout: Human role in climate change removed from science report National Park Service officials have deleted every mention of humans’ role in causing climate change in drafts of a long-awaited report on sea level rise and storm surge, contradicting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s vow to Congress that his department is not censoring science.
People along the Northeast coast braced for more flooding during high tides Saturday even as the powerful storm that inundated roads, snapped trees and knocked out power to more than 2 million homes and businesses moved hundreds of miles out to sea.
Areas from Maryland to Maine remained under flood warnings. Officials in eastern Massachusetts, where dozens of people were rescued from high waters overnight, warned of another round of flooding during high tides expected around noon.
As Saturday's midday high tide arrived, heavy surf crashed into the cliffs along Cape Cod Bay in Bourne, Massachusetts, drawing dozens of onlookers to watch churning brown waves take big bites out of the eroding coastline.
"We've been here a long time and we've never seen it as bad as this," said Alex Barmashi, who lives in the hard-hit village of Sagamore Beach.
Up the coast in Scituate, Massachusetts, Becky Smith watched as ocean waters started to fill up a nearby marina's parking lot from her vantage point at the Barker Tavern, a restaurant overlooking the harbor.
"It looks like a war zone," she said, describing the scene in the coastal town near Boston where powerful waves dumped sand and rubble on roads and winds uprooted massive trees. "It's a lot of debris, big rocks and pieces of wood littering the streets."
Residents in other coastal areas, meanwhile, bailed out basements and surveyed the damage while waiting for power to be restored, a process that power companies warned could take days in parts. More than 2 million homes and businesses remained without power Saturday. (...)