The brave new world of climate change

The brave new world of climate change

With zero chance of stopping global warming, the best we can do is mitigate and slow down its effects

By John Grula 08/23/2012

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On Sept. 22, 2011, I described and commented on the record-breaking heat and drought that struck Oklahoma and Texas during that summer in a column called “Hell on the horizon.”
 
 It was noted, with considerable irony, that these states are home to two of the biggest climate change deniers currently on the national political scene:  Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas). 
What’s changed this summer? Not much. Oklahoma and Texas are still hotter than hell and drought-stricken, while Inhofe and Perry still claim it has nothing to do with global warming. 
 
If anything, the extent of record-breaking heat and drought has only expanded and intensified. By late July, the US Department of Agriculture had designated more than half of the nation’s counties — 1,584 in 32 states — as primary disaster areas, where crops have been decimated by heat and drought. Cities like St. Louis, Little Rock, Denver and Indianapolis have experienced brutal periods of day-after-day triple-digit heat, and drought-fueled wildfires have ravaged large areas of many states, including Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas and Arkansas. Welcome to the brave new world of climate change.
 
Californians may wishfully think we can whistle our way past the graveyard, but a new series of 34 peer-reviewed scientific studies released by the state on July 31 paint a bleak picture for California and indicate climate change here is real and unfolding. The studies were made public by the California Natural Resources Agency and the California Energy Commission and are the product of 26 research teams from six University of California campuses, Stanford University and five other institutions. A summary of the studies, titled “Our Changing Climate 2012,” is available online at energy.ca.gov.
 
What’s in store for California, according to these studies? More scorching heat waves, especially in the arid Central Valley, where farmers will have to decide if crops grown today will still be productive in a harsher environment. Longer fire seasons with more severe, numerous and damaging wildfires can be expected in a state that’s already had plenty. By the end of this century, rising sea levels will start to inundate municipal water and sewage systems located near the Pacific Ocean, as well as other structures along the state’s 840 miles of coastline. Rising temperatures will also yield more rain but less snow and cause the mountain snow packs that do accumulate to melt earlier and more quickly. This will reduce California’s ability to generate hydroelectric power and deliver a steady source of water during the hot and dry summer months, when power and water are most needed. The state currently gets about 15 percent of its electricity from hydropower, but this source of power is declining because of diminished snow packs.
 
This is just a sampling of the problems the state faces as the planet warms, but because California has limited influence on the world’s climate, what do the scientists who conducted the research and the state agencies that released their findings hope to accomplish? Primarily, the report is an attempt to inform citizens of where and in what ways California will be most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and to ensure planning decisions are based on the best possible scientific evidence and forecasts. This will make it possible for us to prepare for and adapt to climate change, because mitigating and slowing it are probably the only possibilities at this point, as the chances of stopping it have effectively shrunk to zero.
 
As Californians, we can be proud that our state has been a leader in the climate change struggle. Gov. Jerry Brown has long been one of the most outspoken elected officials on climate change issues, and state and local governments are moving forward with a range of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the use of renewable energy sources.
 
Having said that, we still cannot afford to lose the climate-change debate on the world and national stages. Unfortunately, at this point, it is a debate that is still quite muted, despite the magnitude of the problem. Even though most of the nation is suffering through record-breaking heat and drought, neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney is talking about global warming. Maybe this summer’s weather will finally force them to engage the issue. The only way global warming is going to be moderated is by implementing worldwide policy changes designed to drastically curtail greenhouse gas emissions.
 
One recent development that might help ramp up the climate change discussion is the sudden conversion of a heretofore well-known climate change skeptic, UC Berkeley physics professor Richard A. Muller. Using generous funds provided mostly by the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation (founded by libertarian petrochemical billionaire Charles G. Koch), Muller recently co-founded the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project. 
 
Writing in the July 28 edition of The New York Times, Muller now states, “Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming is real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct.  I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.”  
Would anyone out there like to shed a tear for Mr. Koch? 

John Grula, PhD, is affiliated with the Southern California Federation of Scientists.

To read “Hell on the horizon,” visit: pasadenaweekly.com/cms/story/detail/hell_on_the_horizon/10552/

A summary of “Our Changing Climate 2012,” can be obtained here:
energy.ca.gov/2012publications/CEC-500-2012-007/CEC-500-2012-007.pdf

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Comments

Looking ahead at the R's convention in Miami, one may anticipate much laughter and disdain for those who state AGW is real. Sadly the R's continue to hold such is a folly akin to the best jokes ever told. There's one grain of truth to that, which is that great humor often has a dark and sad backdrop to it, and, that's exactly what the R's scheme is: A dark and sad plot to continue the stream of money flowing to the wealthy energy conspirators. It's number one on their agenda, until the time comes that there is nothing we can do to reverse the trend.

So, no. No tears for Koch and company: The R's.

posted by benwelgoed on 8/23/12 @ 01:27 p.m.

Climate-Change? Well duh, yeah! The climate is always changing on our tremendously complex planet. But is it Global Warming(TM, AlGore)? Or perhaps a hodgepodge goulash of something much less understood ... on purpose?
http://www.climatecooling.org/
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/01/30/bi...
http://noconsensus.org/
http://www.populartechnology.net/2007/10...

DanD

posted by DanD on 8/23/12 @ 06:51 p.m.

Dan D, if you read only one book this year, make it "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars" by Michael Mann. When you realize how badly you've been "had" by the professional deniers (some of whose websites you link to), there is a place that will welcome you as a former denier:
http://www.facebook.com/RecoveringCCDeni...
It's OK, it's not your fault, we WILL forgive you. But you need to read and educate yourself on the issue.

posted by jimspy on 8/24/12 @ 02:42 p.m.

Re: jimspy ~

Al (Gore), is that you?

DanD

posted by DanD on 8/24/12 @ 09:31 p.m.
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