Seth Borenstein of the AP leads the national press in reporting on a leaked IPCC report starkly warning that global warming will give us a poorer, sicker, more violent world.
And he puts the language of the report itself front and center:
"Throughout the 21st century, climate change impacts will slow down economic growth and poverty reduction, further erode food security and trigger new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger," the report says. "Climate change will exacerbate poverty in low- and lower-middle income countries and create new poverty pockets in upper-middle to high-income countries with increasing inequality."
The warnings pull no punches:
The report says scientists have high confidence especially in what it calls certain "key risks":
—People dying from warming- and sea rise-related flooding, especially in big cities.
—Famine because of temperature and rain changes, especially for poorer nations.
Which raises the question: Well, how dangerous is the methane that is emerging from the Arctic? Is it just blowing holes in the permafrost, or does it presage global atmospheric doom?
It's not a small volume of methane, after all, and we know that methane in the short term is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2-- about 30x more potent, to be exact. So the concept of a "methane time bomb" that will set off the greatly feared runaway global warming seems plausible at a glance.
But look closer, says RealClimate, with lots and lots of data. (From last week.) They conclude:
...the future of Earth’s climate in this century and beyond will be determined mostly by the fossil fuel industry, and not by Arctic methane. We should keep our eyes on the ball.
As Judith Lewis Mernit wrote for a blog with High Country News:
The weather of Venice Beach, California, where I live, is for the most part stable, and almost always predictable. No sudden squalls appear out of the southwest to chase skateboarders off their concrete ramps; never do we hear the civil-defense sirens warning of an approaching tornado. Living here, swimming and surfing at the beach a few blocks from my house, I have considered many threats: sharks, staph infections, rogue rip tides. Lightning was never on the list.
I didn't go to the beach on Sunday morning, July 27. Crowds generally clog up the swells on weekends, so I escaped to the mountains in Ventura County. When I left, the weather in Venice was gloomy with a mild drizzle — not an unusual syndrome for the Southern California coast — but by the time I hiked and returned to the car at around 3 pm, it had evidently taken a dramatic turn. When I flipped on the radio for the traffic report, I heard that just a half an hour earlier, a bolt of lightning had struck the water near Venice Pier, and 13 people had been injured. Two were found face down in the water.
She -- like yours truly, the Los Angeles Times, and no doubt many others -- were wondering: Could climate change be responsible?
Well, it's within the range of possibility. Climate models have brought it up. A study from 2013, led by David Pierce of Scripps, ran sixteen different general circulation models and found increasing monsoonal moisture in SoCal:
Winters show modestly wetter conditions in the North of the state [CA], while spring and autumn show less precipitation. The dynamical downscaling techniques project increasing precipitation in the Southeastern part of the state, which is influenced by the North American monsoon.
But Pierce will be the first to tell you that a) this is a projection fifty years into the future, and b) it's impossible to ascribe any weather event to a change in climate. It's like attributing a single car crash to ten years of traffic congestion. Statistically not possible.
Still, there is data to show an increase in monsoonal precipitation. Not only do we have these bizarre weather thunder and lighting storms at places like Santa Catalina Island and Venice beach, but we have a strong upsurge in monsoonal moisture this year. Keep in mind that these clouds, with their potential for thunder and lighting, come from the south, the Sea of Cortez, and rotate counter-clockwise across the Southwest, roughly speaking the reverse of the winter weather pattern we're accustomed to.
Here's the monsoonal precipitation over Albuquerque this year: the highest in over 100 years [green line].
From John Fleck, a weather and climate reporter in Albuquerque. And here, from Daniel Swain's interesting Weather West site/feed, an image of the monsoonal surge a week [precipitable water anomalies, in green] a week before the storms that brought death to Venice beach.
It's too soon to connect the dots to climate -- but not too soon to take cover.
As political/scientific statements go, it's blunt and to the point. The longer we wait to act to reduce emissions, the more it will cost the economy, and the less likely we will to succeed.
John Podesta, the semi-new chief of staff, is the co-author, and displays a hard authority in his prose:
If delayed action causes the mean global temperature increase to stabilize at 3° Celsius above preindustrial levels, instead of 2°, that delay will induce annual additional damages of 0.9 percent of global output. To put this percentage in perspective, 0.9 percent of estimated 2014 U.S. GDP is approximately $150 billion. The next degree increase, from 3° to 4°, would incur greater additional annual costs of 1.2 percent of global output. These costs are not one-time: they are incurred year after year because of the permanent damage caused by additional climate change resulting from the delay.
Clearly no one can contemplate a rise in temperatures beyond 3 degrees Celsius -- except a few nutty scientists and writers, and perhaps a few climate refugees, such as an old friend moving to Portland.
Cliff Mass, a meteorologist in the Seattle area, makes a compelling argument for the Pacific Northwest as the place for climate refugees...and has an idea how to keep the Californians out.
Yours truly sees all sorts of movies with alleged environmental messages (even the recent Godzilla, for crying out loud) to see how pop culture understands the on-coming prospect of planetary disaster.
One of the best such movies in recent years was "The Host," from South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho, which at least one other critic called "the best monster movie ever made." That 2007 movie had it all: a classic premise, brought to vivid (and anti-American life); a bizarre failure of a man who became a hero more or less in spite of himself; an endearing child battling a ghastly monster; an odd but captivating sense of humor; great action direction; a surly Communist to set events in motion -- surely one of the best genre movies of the century to date.
So yours truly eagerly awaited the director's next major outing, complete with a plethora of stars: young Chris Evans; Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, and the two most memorable Korean characters from "The Host." And so did other critics, evidently, for as a group they have fallen all over themselves in praising it -- jeez, the usually reliable Andrew O'Hehir of Salon has called it "the best action film of 2014, and probably the best film, period."
Its numerical rating on Rotten Tomatoes comes in at an absurd 94%. Metacritic's algorithm puts it at 83% (Though the real people rating comes in lower -- 75%).
But folks, let me tell you, even if you like the global warming analogy (in which a substance sprayed into the sky brings on a freeze fatal to nearly the entire planet, within six months), you won't like this movie. Even if you enjoy the brutal parable of the 99% living on a train, trying to win some decency in life from the 1% who runs the show. Even if you can stand the ghastly axe-battling, the hoary disco decadence, the bizarre schoolteacher ruling the kids -- all the metaphors, in other words -- it's still a crummy movie, with some of the most banal dialogue in memory, the most boring hero imaginable (Chris Evans, showing not a smidge of the wit of his previous outing as Captain America), and a completely unreal setting.
Politically I have no real problems with the movie (except for the preposterous ending). But I don't think it's too much to ask for a veneer of plausibility, or, if that's not possible, at least a compensatory outrageousness or, um, fun? This is grim, bitter, harsh obvious stuff, in look and in plot.
Think you can see its dullness in this publicity still:
Weird thing is that the critics praise the movie even as they damn so many of its individual elements. O'Herir says it has "a creaky start." David Edelstein, perhaps my fave overall critic today, says the action scenes "are choppy and gracelessly staged, and the actors are high on the hog." Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post, another critic who usually keeps her wits about her, calls the movie
a tonal mishmash that can never decide between thoughtful political metaphor, lightheartedness and pulverizing violence. Bong seems most at home with the latter, which he stages with tiresome, slow-motion fetishism, mixing costumes and weaponry in an effort to distract from the scenes’ sheer repetitiveness.
And yet her mostly laudatory review is headlined: "All aboard a cold train to nowhere!'
Inexplicable. Perhaps the legendarily overbearing producer Harvey Weinstein twisted arms, or spiked the critics' drinks, or something.
Demand better environmental apocalypse movies! Avoid this dumb one. Please.
A week ago tonight, NASA put about a half a billion dollars on a chip fired into space. The mission for the OCO-2 satellite? To find out where the carbon dioxide we emit is coming from, exactly, and where it is going, exactly, and why the uptake varies so enormously from year to year.
It's one of the biggest questions in climate science.
After a $300 million (or so) launch of a carbon observing satellite failed in 2009, the Obama administration asked Congress for more funding (back in 2010, when such things were possible) and NASA tried again to launch at 2:56 a.m. Wednesday. This cost another $500 million or so, but the scientists have a big question to answer.
Here's my story about it for the Santa Barbara Independent. Photograph above is a composite from Jeff Sullivan, who generously offers it to share, and explains his process. It's about a four-minute shot.
Finally, for those interested in natural mysteries, here's the crucial science question.
In the words of the mission's cience team leader Dave Crisp:
“We’ve been slowly but surely increasing the inputs of carbon dioxide over time into the atmosphere, but it turns out that only about half that carbon dioxide stays there. Half of the carbon dioxide is disappearing somewhere. About a quarter is dissolving into the ocean waters, we know that from our measurements, and the other quarter is going somewhere into the land biosphere. Somewhere – but we don’t know where. Have any of you seen a new rainforest springing into existence anywhere over the last forty years or so?”
Crisp pointed out that levels of the carbon dioxide are at their highest levels in the atmosphere in at least 800,000 years, when temperatures were much warmer around the planet, and sea levels considerably higher. Yet for some reason absorption rates have not been steady.
“Although our inputs of carbon dioxide have been growing slowly and steadily over time, the amount that stays in the atmosphere varies dramatically. Sometimes almost 100% of the carbon dioxide we put in the atmosphere stays there, sometimes almost none. We don’t know why.”
Although the mission is intended to answer scientific questions, the precision and global sweep of the satellite could also encourage policy makers to strike international treaties to control the emissions of carbon dioxide because for the first time it may be possible to verify the exact amounts of carbon dioxide released on the surface. Crisp in a press briefing admitted being concerned by what might happen to levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere if ocean temperatures continue to rise.
“We’re concerned that over time as it warms up, due to climate change, that the ocean will actually hold less carbon dioxide than it does today. If you take a bottle of soda out of the refrigerator, and leave it out on the table for a little while, all the carbon dioxide goes away and it becomes flat. We’re concerned that as the ocean warns up due to climate change, it will actually hold less carbon dioxide than it does today, and that might be a big change.”
Could this be a bigger story? Seems so to me. Put it in the subjects for further research category.
"Could there be a connection between climate change and the emerging conflict in Iraq?
The short answer is a qualified yes, according to Frank Femia of the Center for Climate and Security, a Washington-based policy institute advised by senior retired military and national security leaders. He explained in a phone interview:
It's far too early, considering this is happening in real time, to figure out what is motivating [the rebel militia] ISIS and its members. Certainly, the natural resource stresses in the region make things worse. Terrorist organizations can try to control those resources and gain significant influence and power. You can't say climate change is causing ISIS to do what it's doing, but it [climate change] certainly has a role to play in the region."
The agent driving this environmental conflict is drought, and apparently the ISIS group has seized a crucial dam at Mosul. Read the whole thing, as they say, and hear of a comparison between Iraq and the Central Valley in California.