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NASA’s Hansen: “If We Stay on With Business as Usual, the Southern U.S. Will Become Almost Uninhabitable.”

By Joe Romm on September 29, 2011 at 5:17 pm

"NASA’s Hansen: “If We Stay on With Business as Usual, the Southern U.S. Will Become Almost Uninhabitable.”"

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Climatologist Slams Media for “Silent Summer”:  Poor Coverage of Link Between Extreme Weather and Human-Caused Climate Change

The nation’s top climatologist, NASA’s James Hansen, has a new paper out — and he has been speaking out.  At 350.org’s Moving Planet event in New York on Saturday, he said:

“Climate change — human-made global warming — is happening.  It is already having noticeable impacts…. If we stay on with business as usual, the southern U.S. will become almost uninhabitable.”

Hard to argue with that.

The combination of extreme heat, constant Dust-Bowl conditions in the Southwest and South central, the whipsawing from drought to deluge in the Southeast, and decade after decade of sea level rise will create nearly intolerable conditions by century’s end (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impact”).  Conditions might look a lot like this:

Oops, that’s the US Drought Monitor for Texas this week!  Dark red is “exceptional drought” (covering 86% of the state) — virtually no rain for a year.  Red is “extreme drought” (covering 97% of the state) — a Palmer Drought Severity Index of -4 or worse.

Imagine what it will be like when much of the South is like this most of the time (other than the occasional record-smashing deluge) — and temperatures are some 9°F to 11°F warmer on average.  It will be the great repopulation of the North.

Hansen also has a new paper out on climate change in which he says:

It is time for all of us to get Tea-Party-angry about what our political system has become and about the intergenerational injustice being perpetrated on young people.

Again, no argument here.

The most interesting part of the paper is his critique of the media coverage (“Silent Summer”), his discussion of the intimidation of climate scientists, and a tantalizing introduction to a forthcoming analysis on extreme weather and attribution to human emissions.  Also, he doesn’t like the phrase “global weirding.”  Here are the highlights:

Silent Summer

There is ample evidence of growing climate disruption. But despite record or near-record heat and drought in the United States this past summer with simultaneous extreme flooding, and despite comparable extremes in China and elsewhere, there has been little public discussion of the connection of these climate extremes with human-made climate forcing.

The media are partly responsible for the silent summer, as they have mainly chosen not to examine connections between climate anomalies and human-made causes. A cynic may ask whether their silent summer is related to increasing right-wing control of media and large advertising revenues from fossil fuel companies. Regardless of reasons for media silence, should scientists be making more effort to draw public attention to the human role in climate anomalies?

Scientists face one long-standing obstacle to public communication and one new factor. The old difficulty arises from limits on our ability to detect expected change in a chaotic climate system, especially concerning the significance of specific regional events. The new factor is the likelihood of being pilloried for reporting evidence of a human role in climate change.

In a later section, he elaborates on that last sentence:

Character Assassination

There was criticism of my congressional testimony about global warming in the 1980s, but it was mainly normal healthy scientific skepticism (Kerr, 1989). A different sort of criticism, including an element of character assassination, has developed since then and has been leveled most heavily against scientists Ben Santer, Michael Mann and Phil Jones. The approach has included acquiring and digging into personal correspondences of scientists in search of any inappropriate or questionable statements, as well as fine-toothed scrutiny of their scientific analyses in search of any element, however minor, that could be criticized.

The ultimate target of the critics in Santer’s case was a specific sentence that Santer was responsible for as a lead author in the 1995 IPCC report: “Taken together, these results point towards a human influence on climate.” The target in Mann’s case was the temperature record of the past millennium, which Mann had shown to resemble a “hockey stick”, bending upward into rapid warming in the past century. The target in Jones’ case was his analysis of observations showing the rapid warming of the past century.

The important point I wish to note is that each of these three targets, the scientific conclusions that provoked the critics and which they aimed to destroy or discredit, have been shown in subsequent analyses to have been correct, indeed, dead-on-the-mark.

However, the scientific community is well aware of the toll that these attacks took on the scientists, despite the fact that their work was eventually vindicated and corroborated.

Thus, it would not be surprising if these experiences have an effect on the willingness of other scientists to make statements that draw attention to the likely role of human-made forcings as a contributor to the climate extremes of the past summer.

In any case, there is abundant evidence that the attacks on the science and the scientists have contributed to a pullback in public support for national and international efforts to find a path forward that would lead to the large reductions in emissions that are needed to stabilize climate and provide young people with a promising future.

This is important, because the actions that are required can only be achieved through the political process. That will not happen until the public understands and supports what is needed.

Finally, Hansen has an interesting discussion of extreme weather and attribution to human emissions:

Limits on Detection

Global warming is expected to intensify climate extremes: (1) Warmer air holds more water vapor, and precipitation occurs in more extreme events. ’100-year floods’ and even ’500- year floods’ will become more likely. Storms fueled by water vapor (latent heat), including thunderstorms, tornadoes and tropical storms, will have the potential to be stronger. Storm damage will increase because of increased flooding and stronger winds. (2) Where weather patterns create dry conditions, global warming will intensify the drought, because of increased evaporation and evapotranspiration. Thus fires will be more frequent and burn hotter.

Observations confirm that heat waves and regional drought have become more frequent and intense over the past 50 years. Rainfall in the heaviest downpours has increased about 20 percent. The destructive energy in hurricanes has increased (USGCRP, 2009).

Is the Texas drought related to human-made global warming? There is strong reason to believe that it is. Basic theory and models (Held and Soden, 2006) and empirical evidence (Seidal and Randel, 2006) indicate that the global overturning circulation, air rising in the tropics and subsiding in the subtropics, expands in latitude with global warming. Such expansion tends to make droughts more frequent and severe in the southern United States and the Mediterranean region, for example. Climate simulations, shown in Figure 3 for one of the best climate models, support that expectation.

[JR:  I suspect this study underestimates likely drought in the West due to early snow melt and other factors.  I'll have to take a look.]

So the occurrence of unusual Texas heat and drought is consistent with expectations for increasing CO2. But is this year’s event just climate ‘noise’? Scientists need to help the public distinguish climate change caused by global warming from natural climate variability.

I used ‘climate dice’ in conjunction with testimony to Congress in 1988 to try to help the public understand that the human-made climate ‘signal’ must be extracted from the large ‘noise’ of natural climate variability. I believe the public can grasp the concept of natural climate variability and its effect on perceptions of climate change.

In an upcoming post (Climate Variability and Climate Change, Hansen, Sato and Ruedy) we try to clarify this matter via simple maps and graphs that show how the odds have changed, allowing comparison of expectations and reality. We believe this is a truer approach than the frequently suggested alternative of dropping the long-standing ‘global warming’ terminology in favor of anything (‘climate disruption’, ‘global weirding’, etc.) that avoids the need to explain the occurrence of unusually cold conditions.

We show that a ‘signal’ due to global warming is already rising out of the climate ‘noise’, even on regional scales. Figure 4 is an example, showing surface air temperature anomalies in the last four Northern Hemisphere summers relative to the climate of 1951-1980, the time when the ‘baby-boomers grew up – it was a time of relatively stable climate, just prior to the rapid global warming of the past three decades.

During 1951-1980 the world had equal areas of blue (cool), white (near average), and red (warm) temperature anomalies. The division 0.43σ, where σ is the local standard deviation about the local 1951-1980 mean, was chosen to yield equal area categories for a normal (‘bell curve’) distribution of temperature anomalies. The other divisions in the figure, 2σ and 3σ, allow us to see the areas that have extreme anomalies relative to climatology. The frequency of an anomaly greater than +2σ is only 2-3 percent in the period of climatology for a normal distribution. The frequency of a +3σ event is normally less than one-half of one percent of the time. The numbers on the upper right corner of each map are the percentages of the global area covered by each of the seven categories of the color bar.

Figure 4 reveals that the area with temperature anomaly greater than +2σ covers 20-40 percent of the planet in these recent years, and the area greater than +3σ is almost 10-20 percent. The United States has been relatively ‘lucky’, with the only +2-3σ areas being the Texas region in 2011 and a smaller area in the Southeast in 2010. However, these events are sufficiently fresh in people’s memories that they provide a useful measure of the practical impact of a 3σ anomaly.

There is no good reason to believe that the United States, or any other region, will continue to be so ‘lucky’. On the contrary, as shown in our upcoming post, there is a clear positive trend to increasing areas of +2-3σ anomalies, consistent with expectations for the climate response to increasing greenhouse gases. If BAU emissions continue, the area with anomalies of +2-3σ and larger will continue to increase.

The chaotic element in climate variability makes it impossible to say exactly where large anomalies will occur in a given year. However, we can say with assurance that the area and magnitude of the anomalies and their practical impact will continue to increase. Clear presentations of the data should help the public appreciate the situation as global warming continues to rise further above the level of natural variability.

However, as Mother Nature makes the dominance of human-made climate change more obvious, proponents of business-as-usual have engaged in another method to stifle communication by scientists about global warming.

Hard to argue with that!

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76 Responses to NASA’s Hansen: “If We Stay on With Business as Usual, the Southern U.S. Will Become Almost Uninhabitable.”

  1. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Drought, drought, flood, then drought. The average rainfall looks good.

    I said it quite a while back and no one seemed to get it, but now you do.

    • Mike Roddy says:

      I believe you, Rabid, and like your stuff, but would believe you more if you told us what your actual name is.

  2. Joan Savage says:

    “Clear presentations of the data should help the public appreciate the situation as global warming continues to rise further above the level of natural variability.”

    Here’s a step in that direction for describing abnormal drought:

    The national US Drought Monitor map now includes other categories of drought along with the degree of severity or exception.

    S Short-term (6 months, e.g. hydrology, ecology)

    Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Georgia, southern Nebraska, and a patch of Nevada are SL; agriculture, grasslands hydrology, and ecology are all affected.

    http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

    • Joan Savage says:

      S short term 6 months, hydrology, ecology

      • Joan Savage says:

        There’s a glitch. Using a symbol for [greater than] knocked out a line, twice.

        L long term [greater than] six months, hydrology and ecology

        • Sarsaparilla says:

          Joan the greater than and less than symbols are actually part of the HTML definition, so when you type one in the server is thinking you are doing something in HTML. I think there is a way in HTML that you can get around this, but I don’t know it off hand.

          • Joan Savage says:

            Thanks. The symbols seem to be used like parentheses that make what was in-between disappear from view in HTML. In this case, it conflated/merged the Short and Long definitions of drought.

          • Calamity Jean says:

            I’ve read that putting a slash (/) in front of the greater than or less than sign lets it be read as “not HTML”. Let’s see if it works: /

          • Calamity Jean says:

            Well, that didn’t work. Now I’m baffled.

        • To get > try >
          To get < try &lt;
          To get & try &amp;

  3. Peter Mizla says:

    The great 20th century migration to the ‘sunbelt’ is ending. The Way back north should start in the 2020′s.

    Demographics and climate change- great Masters or PhD Degree.

    • Bill G says:

      Hello Detriot: Stop! Do Not tear down those thousands of abandoned houses! Tenants are on the way.

      • Spike says:

        The effects of future warming on health may well be severe even as far north as Chicago according to this paper so hansen may well be correct about the South

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3094424/

        • Peter Mizla says:

          Climate models and projections show most of the country by as early as 2040 being hit by extreme drought and heat.

          Only the ‘fringes’ of the continental USA seem to do better at least with temperature. The Extreme Pacific coast, from about San Francisco north to Vancouver- and the upper Northeast will have far fewer days 100 degrees and above.

          The rest of the USA will become an inferno.

          • Mike Roddy says:

            What do you think it will be like in India? They will be migrating to the Southwest to cool off.

  4. Michael Tucker says:

    Well the Secretary of Agriculture is not afraid to mention climate change and the news is out there for those willing to look. But, for the majority of the public the anti-science noise machine is louder than factual climate reporting. Today most news organizations would rather publish the completely faked controversy over the science than the facts of our future.

    From Secretary Vilsack:
    “If people don’t understand that the climate is changing, it’s just hard to explain how anybody could not see that, given this year that we’ve had with natural disasters.”
    http://planetsave.com/2011/09/28/secretary-of-agriculture-hard-to-explain-how-anyone-could-not-tell-the-climate-is-changing/

    Then:
    “Every five years, the Texas Water Development Board publishes a water plan for the state. The 295-page draft of the 2012 plan, published last week in the midst of the worst-ever single-year drought Texas has ever experienced, is a sobering read.

    “The primary message of the 2012 state water plan is a simple one,” the introduction states. “In serious drought conditions, Texas does not and will not have enough water to meet the needs of its people, and its businesses, and its agricultural enterprises.”
    http://www.texastribune.org/texas-environmental-news/water-supply/draft-water-plan-says-texas-will-not-have-enough/

    AND:
    “Texas’ historic and lingering drought has already worn out its welcome, but it could easily stay around for years and there is a chance it might last another five years or even until 2020, says a Texas A&M University weather expert.”
    http://www.kbtx.com/state/headlines/Texas_Drought_Could_Last_Until_2020_Says_Texas_AM_Expert_130799443.html

  5. John Tucker says:

    I believe it: N Florida and SE Ga is taking down all kinds of records for heat and duration. Tks to my friend Rich for tracking it, as of yesterday:

    ¨For Jacksonville, FL, 114 days of 90 or more as of September 29th. Normal is 80, and the record is 116 in 1955.

    For Gainesville, FL 137 days of 90 or more as of September 29th. 130 days was the record in 1977. Gainesville has broken their record. Normal for the year is 85 days.

    For St. Simons Island, GA 74 days of 90 or higher as of September 29th, breaking the record of 70 days in 1998. Normal for the year is 42 days.

    For Alma, GA, 14 days of 100 or more, tying the record. 135 days of 90 or more as of September 28th, smashing the record of 116 days set in 2010. Normal for the whole year is 86 days.¨

    Its rather astounding when you think about it.

    • Norton says:

      Like your site. I’m sure you are aware of IFAS FAWN wx reporting in more rural areas as a comaprison to ‘urban’ influence on temp trends. It’s all realtive though.

  6. Leif says:

    Joe, in looking at NW drought, you might look at fall and spring rain fall patterns as well.

  7. Leif says:

    Texas has been wanting to succeed from the Union. I say we give it to them with the prevision that any person that has shown a propensity for denial of global warming disruption, not be allowed to relocate out.

    Powerful reports Joe, and Steve

    Two Palms Up,
    Leif

  8. Bill Walker says:

    If Hansen’s intended audience for that paper is the general population, then his communication broke down as soon as he included a chart showing temperature anomaly in standard deviations. I think that for most Americans nowadays, “deviation” is a term used only in a sexual context.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      One of the Right’s pet projects is the destruction of public education, and the dumbing down of the rabble. It serves their purposes wonderfully. The Tea Party phenomenon has been long in the gestation.

  9. Sasparilla says:

    Thanks for putting this up Joe. Dr. Hansen telling it like it is.

    The silent summer, that really captures it pretty well.

  10. Mike Roddy says:

    Thanks, Jim Hansen.

    The Los Angeles Times over the years has had much better than average coverage of environmental and global warming issues.
    Last month, they followed CNN’s lead and fired their excellent climate reporter, Margot Roosevelt.

    The point is that the mainstream media is completely hopeless. They are not going to connect wild weather to GHG concentration, and have been trained (like Andy Revkin) to use lawyers’ arguments: Don’t ever make a connection, because it can’t be proved.

    This is like saying that you can’t prove that someone died from smoking if he contracts lung cancer- true logically and possibly individually, but irrelevant. the Kochs and Murdochs are gaming the public this way- and we should be angry about it, as Hansen says. I’ll have my own say in my new list in a couple of months.

    • Steve Bloom says:

      Ironically Revkin was trained to think that way by… the climate scientists themselves! Unfortunately the scientists seem much more able than journalists to adapt their thinking to changing circumstances. Revkin’s view of things seems to date back about a decade.

      In this context, it’s astonishing to consider as Hansen notes that it was only 16 years ago that it was possible for Ben Santer to be pilloried for saying “Taken together, these results point towards a human influence on climate.” How time flies. As is often pointed out, I’m afraid our evolutionary history has not adapted us well to these circumstances.

      A thought I just had is that a lot of people probably feel a considerable degree of personal resentment when faced with change like this. The denial then flows easily.

    • Ron Taylor says:

      Doesn’t Ruppert Murdoch now own the LA Times? Why should it be any surprise that they fired their climate reporter. Murdoch is one of the most dangerous men in the world, because of his power to shape public perception in potentially disasterous ways. It is not even about money for him, but personal power.

      • Dennis Tomlinson says:

        The LA Times is a (Chicago) Tribune Company, privately owned by Sam Zell. They’re currently going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

      • Calamity Jean says:

        You are right about Rupert Murdoch being one of the most dangerous people to the future of the world. Real progress against global warming may only be possible after he dies.

  11. Lou Grinzo says:

    Peter Mizla mentioned a reversal of migration direction. I agree completely. It’s not just a matter of running away from heat, but toward something else we have up here on the Fourth Coast. (Hint: Great Lakes.)

    • Peter Mizla says:

      Lou

      yes- the very upper Great Lakes- another region that will be spared the inferno that will envelop most of the interior USA starting in the 2020′s-

  12. Sasparilla says:

    Off topic, but that graph of the Texas drought reminded me that the entire Monarch butterfly population is currently migrating through Texas.

    They need water and nectar from flowers – how much of that is in Texas after a year of no rain (for the most part)? It was a small population this year (winter habitat destruction over the years).

    I’m sure enough will make it through, but this is how an extinction happens – get a couple of years like this in a row on top of bad winter or two and it’ll be no more Monarchs, ever.

    • Steve Bloom says:

      Well, there’s the West Coast population that winters on the California central coast, but IIRC it’s a lot smaller.

    • horse dave says:

      Yesterday (9/29/11) I saw a monarch here in Maryland. It seemed odd to see one this late in the year.

  13. Susan Anderson says:

    This cannot be said often enough or strongly enough.

    Consider, those are degrees C: hence we are talking about likely increasing of well over 10 degrees F. And the point about recent discoveries of new sources of fossil fuels and ever less effidient extreme fuels along with world adoption of our planet-exploiting conveniences is well made. The world is joining us in our addiction to passive entertainment that gets every more unreal and fantastic with heavy tie-ins to industry and image.

  14. Roger Shamel says:

    Jim Hansen says, and I totally agree:

    “In any case, there is abundant evidence that the attacks on the science and the scientists have contributed to a pullback in public support for national and international efforts to find a path forward that would lead to the large reductions in emissions that are needed to stabilize climate and provide young people with a promising future.”

    He then explains:

    “This is important, because the actions that are required can only be achieved through the political process. That will not happen UNTIL THE PUBLIC UNDERSTANDS and supports what is needed.” (Emphasis added.)

    Dr. Hansen has an excellent track record of being right most of the time–as if such an obvious statement needed more support. So, we need “public understanding.” And, as Dr. Hansen points out, the media has been AWOL. Also, despite heroic efforts, the climate movement hasn’t been able to move public understanding near to where it needs to be.

    So, how can the word be gotten out re an issue that severely threatens American lives?
    Why not ask our leader to speak out? This is what leaders were invented to do: to focus on protecting the community!

    This novel idea, of having leadership from our leader, is the focus of a new Facebook group, here: http://www.facebook.com/climateaddress.

    Obama is being asked by activists to veto the KeystoneXL pipeline before year end.

    Might it not be easier for the president to justify his KXL veto if he first explained briefly that climate change is real, serious and urgent? Wouldn’t we also be a million miles further down the road towards dealing with the entire problem if Obama just spoke?

    So go to the link above, ‘like’ the FB page, then please tell your friends to do the same.

    Once we have enough people to reach our goal, we will ask everyone to help make it happen, focusing our attention on Obama.

    Warm regards,

    Roger

  15. Colorado Bob says:

    ” Monsoon floods that sunk Pakistan’s arable belt for a second year running have piled economic woes on top of a humanitarian catastrophe facing up to eight million people in the south.

    Crops of grain, cotton, sugarcane, fruit and vegetables have been submerged, clocking up nearly $2 billion in farming losses, and experts say the disaster could worsen the country’s already dismal growth and inflation prospects. ”
    http://www.seeddaily.com/reports/Pakistans_flooded_breadbasket_spells_economic_misery_999.html

  16. Colorado Bob says:

    Researchers led by MIT professor Daniel Nocera have produced something they’re calling an “artificial leaf”: Like living leaves, the device can turn the energy of sunlight directly into a chemical fuel that can be stored and used later as an energy source.

    The artificial leaf — a silicon solar cell with different catalytic materials bonded onto its two sides — needs no external wires or control circuits to operate. Simply placed in a container of water and exposed to sunlight, it quickly begins to generate streams of bubbles: oxygen bubbles from one side and hydrogen bubbles from the other. If placed in a container that has a barrier to separate the two sides, the two streams of bubbles can be collected and stored, and used later to deliver power: for example, by feeding them into a fuel cell that combines them once again into water while delivering an electric current.

    The creation of the device is described in a paper published Sept. 30 in the journal Science. Nocera,
    http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/artificial-leaf-0930.html

  17. Spike says:

    But the reporting and comment leaves much to be desired

    A Met Office spokeswoman told Channel 4 News the baking weather was not down to climate change.

    “It’s just normal variability… the normal wacky British weather,” she said.

    DUH!

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      In Australia weather forecasts feature lots of ‘La Nina’, ritually recited, an occasional ‘ENSO’, and, recently, some Delphic allusions to ‘long-term changes’ but always hedged about as ‘cycles’ of wet and dry. Anthropogenic climate destabilisation is verboten, unmentionable, at least in polite company. It is amazing how the ‘Free Press’ in the wonderful West thinks with one mind, and changes direction as one, like a flock of bird-brains. Perhaps they are all being manipulated by an ‘Invisible Hand’?

  18. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Very good post Joe Romm.

    Yes. There is Link Between Extreme Weather and Human-Caused Climate Change. Everybody should act to reduce the climate change effect. Indeed US can take lead.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India
    E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.comm

  19. Gnobuddy says:

    @#8: Bill Walker says:

    If Hansen’s intended audience for that paper is the general population, then his communication broke down as soon as he included a chart showing temperature anomaly in standard deviations. I think that for most Americans nowadays, “deviation” is a term used only in a sexual context.
    =============================================
    I agree with you about the catastrophic ignorance of the American population at large when it comes to basic science or math competency. It’s one more sign of the ongoing collapse of the American Empire from within. We are now a nation that ignores and puts down science and knowledge, while giving increasing importance to primitive fundamentalist religious beliefs and superstitions. Ghosts, devils, and gods are more popular than ever, while evolution, climate change, and basic physics and math have been thrown out of the window.

    So most people are now too ignorant to know what a standard deviation is. But what is a scientist to do? Try to put a precise, scientific message in unscientific, purely emotional terms like the rabid deniers do? Go around singing “If you drive that truck, you’ll burn us all up”? If you do that, you immediately lose scientific credibility, lose the opportunity (however small) to educate the public, and stoop to the level of the deniers and religious fanatics.

    And if you don’t do that, the ignorant American public will have no hope of understanding what you mean. Many of them have had their minds reduced to the nursery-rhyme imbecility of “if the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit” by too many years of poor education and bad TV.

    So scientists, educators, and anyone who has put in the time and effort to educate themselves is now caught between the proverbial Scylla and Charybdis, or “a rock and a hard place” if you prefer current American vernacular. There is no longer a way to effectively communicate a scientific truth to a general audience in this country. The general populace has swung back to a level of ignorance and primitivism more often associated with remote regions of the Amazon jungle than with a supposedly first-world nation like the USA. Many are incapable of distinguishing between the truth-value of one of Dr. James Hansen’s accurate, precise scientific statements, and some half-witted Tea Party nitwit’s babbling pronouncements about ongoing global cooling.

    The oil company magnates and big-money propaganda machine may be part of the reason why the USA does not recognise the urgency of the climate change situation, but the other half of the story is that much of the US population is now intellectually incapable of realising which story matters more, the latest Kardashian sister exploit du jour, or the disastrous increase in extreme weather events around the globe. And even if somehow one could shut down the denier mill, what can you do about the mush-brained proletariat?

    The often-used cliche “We have met the enemy, and (s)he is us” is, unfortunately, true yet once again.

    -Gnobuddy

  20. Colorado Bob says:

    TORONTO (AP) — Two ice shelves that existed before Canada was settled by Europeans diminished significantly this summer, one nearly disappearing altogether, Canadian scientists say in newly published research.

    Luke Copland is an associate professor in the geography department at the University of Ottawa who co-authored the research published on Carleton University’s website. He said the Serson Ice Shelf shrank from 79.15 square miles (205 square kilometres) to two remnant sections five years ago, and was further diminished this past summer.

    Copland said the shelf went from a 16-square-mile (42-square-kilometre) floating glacier tongue to 9.65 square miles (25 square kilometres), and the second section from 13.51 square miles (35 square kilometres) to 2 square miles (7 square kilometres), off Ellesmere Island’s northern coastline.
    This past summer, Ward Hunt Ice Shelf’s central area disintegrated into drifting ice masses, leaving two separate ice shelves measuring 87.65 and 28.75 square miles (227 and 74 square kilometres) respectively, reduced from 131.7 square miles (340 square kilometres) the previous year.

    “It has dramatically broken apart in two separate areas and there’s nothing in between now but water,” said Copland.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/09/30/canada-arctic-ice-shelf-global-warming-melt_n_988447.html?ref=climate-change&just_reloaded=1

  21. Raul M. says:

    “effectively make the citizen-VS-consumer distinction…” thanks Anna Haynes. Do disasters look at the spending on clean energy sources as discretionary spending while looking at spending on dirty consumerism as mandatory spending?

    • Raul M. says:

      If a utility company does not have a installed capacity for clean energy generation then it’s mandatory spending to make electricity is dirty consumerism? Might be that Pam Bondi for Florida isn’t looking at the citizen part of the equation when speaking for Florida, as she doesn’t have the option for clean energy when she says what the people need for electricity.
      Maybe, multiple hair dos and nail trims and new dresses will prove that Florida’s power is clean after all.

      • Raul M. says:

        Still having clean energy as a truly discretionary source of electricity means having it already installed and being a part of having it installed.

  22. a face in the clouds says:

    They aren’t talking weather in Texas barber shops and church lobbies much anymore because no one can muse about the time it was worse. Denier propaganda worked because people wanted to believe it, and now they are having to face reality. A rainy spell won’t make it all go away this time.

    Don’t ask me what will happen next. What I hope is people will quickly realize that Nature is not waiting around while they wring their hands. I hope they will understand we can’t get back everything we’ve lost, but we have one last, good chance of hanging on to what we’ve got.

    That it all would come to this was predictable. Everyone reading this knows how people are. But they are paying attention now, at least down here. Unfortunately the way out of this mess is only an abstract in their minds. One might take a tip from the old 1950′s magazine ads where aviation and the defense department showed readers how all of the little ideas combined to create the big ideas.

    Perhaps most of all, I hope we have the big engines of the future ready to roll before the herd begins to stir. People are in a bit of shock right now. If no clear plan is ready, the blame game will begin, people will panic, hoard and stampede.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Denial is followed by anger, bargaining and depression before acceptance is attained. There’s an awful lot of anger on the Right, already. I know that in Australia, decades of intensive hate and fearmongering by the MSM, with Murdoch’s Evil Empire leading the way, plus a new style of Rightwing political opportunism and destructive obstructionism (learned from the Republican masters of the dark arts)has led to a very, very, nasty and vicious mood on the Right, particularly amongst the Dunning-Krugerites and various senile and semi-demented elements. Oh, I almost forgot talk-back radio, which would put the utterances of a Streicher or Goebbels to shame. Dark days lie ahead, and the greatest question must be ‘How do you deal with hundreds of thousands of angry imbeciles, driven to rage by professional hatemongers?’.

    • Mike Roddy says:

      The uneducated in Texas- and this includes a lot of their college graduates- can be a scary bunch. When they wake up and realize the extent to which they’ve been bullshitted, maybe they’ll move in the right direction. It will take a lot of courage on their part, since the oil and gas companies are so powerful down there.

      Texans, for all their faults, do have courage, though. It will be interesting to see if it includes moral courage and cognitive awakening this time.

  23. Colorado Bob says:

    HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — A tropical storm whacked into Vietnam on Friday, forcing 20,000 people to be evacuated, as the Philippines braced for a new typhoon and several Asian countries reeled under floods after some of the wildest weather this summer.

    Prolonged monsoon flooding, typhoons and storms have wreaked untold havoc in the region, leaving more than 600 people dead or missing in India, Thailand, the Philippines, Japan, China, Pakistan and Vietnam in the last four months. In India alone, the damage is estimated to be worth $1 billion, with the worst-hit state of Orissa accounting for $726 million.

    Several studies suggest an intensification of the Asian summer monsoon rainfall with increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, the state-run Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology said. Still, it is not clear that this is entirely because of climate change, especially in India, it said.
    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jVZodG_7DVBIIAgA0f9Sxx1ZzpWg?docId=6c39858ea53c448981a499ceda155e5e

  24. Mike Roddy says:

    I sense a shift in the last few months, just as Republican politicians are looking more like circus acts.

    The public is starting to get it. Deniers like Watts and Bastardi are starting to look completely ridiculous, and they will disappear from public sight soon. Other oil company strategies will be put forth- geoengineering, etc- but the truth is making itself felt. The sharp people caught on a while ago, and they are, after all, somewhat influential, even now.

    Joe Romm and Jim Hansen- you two deserve more credit than anyone, by far. Your direct language, buttressed by vast knowledge, is wearing down the dark side, more than we could have realized a year or so ago. And your obsessive commitment has been appropriate, and is bearing fruit.

    Thank you.

  25. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    I went into Office Depot and asked where the graph paper was, as I wanted to graph some data for a sequence stratigraphy project. A woman in her 20s took me to the appropriate aisle. It was all in inches, so i asked, “Do you have any that’s metric?”

    She looked like I’d punched her in the mouth. She just stood there, then said, “What’s that?”

    OK, the U.S. is on Mars when it comes to measurement units, but to not have any idea what the metric system is?

    I said, “You know, meters, centimeters, all that.”

    Her reply was, “Oh, I thought you meant isometrics, you know, like in exercising.”

    If this is the state of the average American’s education level, Gaia help us all. I’m afraid it is, and it doesn’t speak well for our future. How can people understand basic science when they don’t even know what the metric system is, yet alone some of the complexities of global warming. Fortunately, if we can get the urgency of it through to them, maybe they’ll act without understanding – they seem to be in that mode most of the time anyway.

    • SecularAnimist says:

      Ominous Clouds wrote: “… they don’t even know what the metric system is …”

      I’ll be she doesn’t know what isometric exercises are either.

      • Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

        That would be a Roger. She could have easily knocked me down by doing a hula-hoop motion with her hip. :)

  26. BA says:

    I was listening to npr a while back when Hanson participated in a coal mine protest and the perky npr reporter/political commentator was asking if this meant James Hanson was no longer relevant. That says volumes about how the corporate media approaches these issues. If you step outside the approved parameter of discussion you get your hall pass revoked. Someone needs to tell James Hanson he is no longer relevant.

    People who don’t grasp the meaning of those charts should take a drive through the Maiave Desert in the summer time–or anytime really–and take a look at how stark and severe it is for life to survive in that kind of heat and dryness. Go outside after sunset in the summer and the heat is still radiating off of the earth. You feel like you are standing in a frying pan.

    I’ll be happy if we can drop the expression “global weirding.” This is a dire emergency not a Hunter S. Thompson adventure—or maybe it is.

  27. Vote Reconquista! Send Texas back!

  28. Fire Mountain says:

    Oh, No! Hordes of Southerners moving North. The Bible Belt creeping northward like other species bands! God, no! Already, as the drought empties Texas of cattle, it looks like the Texas cowboy is another species going extinct due to global warming. It is ironic that the region seemingly most in the line of fire is also the heartland of denial. Seriously, I hope the weather down there is starting to put some cracks in the walls.

    • Mike Roddy says:

      Texans invading places like San Francisco and Seattle could be scary indeed. I doubt that their politics would change much. We might see Governor Perrys up there, allied with soulmates from Fresno and Spokane.

  29. Aaron Lewis says:

    If the south is uninhabitable, then we need to find new places for that population to live.

    And, we need to replace the agricultural production that is lost to heat.

    And, we need to replace the industrial production that was located in the south.

    As rational projects, these activities would take generations of planning, capital accumulation, and phased construction. Now, it is likely we will do them in a panic and that will be very expensive.

    The folks that argued for delay on the basis of cost were not very smart.

    • Peter Mizla says:

      You are very right

      but what you are saying adds to the sense of disaster ahead of us. And it is going to be havoc on a human scale never seen- so goes life in the lane of chaos.

  30. Wendy Olson says:

    James Hansen’s is the ‘Best’ paper out on the human climate disrupting weirdness (ie:wyrd{destiny} Old English of Germanic Origin; The Adjective (Late Middle English) originally meant ( having the power to control destiny) as in referring to the Fates.) Best grounded comments as well; refreshing to hear intelligent conversation esp. on this subject. About the Northern Migration ( Great Lakes): Starting in 1998 the winters have been so warm that septic/water lines have been freezing with little snow cover, or freeze/thaw cycles that have not been seen before so that lines have been needed to be covered, insulated or dug deeper. Summers have seen twice blooming spring flowers in fall (sometimes a third if winter was warmer. We have had quite a lot of droughts/ fires, of a different sort, affecting the boreal forest’s ability to adjust to the increased temps. With dramatic increase in invasive bugs/beetles destroying acres at a time, of pine forests/now birch. Also very dry, then torrential down pours more recent years. And lots of wind storms 80 Mile an hour gusts/gales with the extreme temperature shifts and now, more extreme snow falls. Water volume aside ( ie: if we cant keep the Sulfide Minings proposed~and already started~ from destroying the aquifer/waterways feeding the Great Lake), I am not sure how we are going to be able to grow great volumes of food in an area with little top soil, and still, seemingly this summer, an even shorter growing season than used to be normal. The disruption of weather systems makes it very difficult to figure out Where our survival needs may be met, with the least difficulties. Any input on the why/hows of the extreme cold shifts on the northern sphere and elsewhere around the globe?

  31. Riggsveda says:

    I’d venture an argument that the south has been uninhabitable for years, and not because of climate change.

  32. Turtle says:

    This isn’t about using less fossil fuels.
    Global warming is a symptom of a ignored issue.
    Overpopulation.
    We are living in a finite system, and while we are going to blame global warming on everything including global famine, we never look objectively at what Mother Nature is showing us and the scientific community can prove. This planet can only SUPPORT in balance a human population of approx 3 billion people.
    Take care of the overpopulation issue and global warming will be a non-issue.

    • Dennis Tomlinson says:

      Turtle, I agree with you about overpopulation. Perhaps if we’d heeded Ehrlich’s warnings… But as for whether or not “global warming would be a non-issue”, wouldn’t that depend upon which 3 billion people? And whether or not we cross tipping points on the way to 3 billion?

    • Mike Roddy says:

      Not true. The remaining 3 billion would all want McMansions and SUV’s, and we would be worse off.

  33. Icarus62 says:

    Excellent post overall but I have to agree about Figure 4, if this article from James Hansen is pitched at the ‘average person’.

    I think the issue of whether or not event X is ‘related to global warming’ is a dangerous distraction. We have unarguably changed the climate, so *all* weather, *all the time*, is necessarily related to global warming, because it takes place in a world which is different from what it would have been without anthropogenic warming. We don’t have a world without humans to compare with our existing world, so we can never say “event X would not have happened without anthropogenic warming”, or that it would have been 10% less damaging, or whatever. Since we can never prove any such claim, it’s a pointlessly weak strategy.

    Climate change is, by definition, a change in long-term average weather, and that’s what we *can* quantify and *can* prove, so that’s what we need to focus on. Attribution is only appropriate or possible for climate, not for weather. We need data and straightforward graphs which prove the shifting of probability distribution towards greater heat, more intense precipitation, greater drought, more invasive species, less snow and ice cover, and so on. We can relate these provable changes to our capacity for coping with them – how are they affecting agriculture, civil engineering costs, demand for fuel, demand for water and so on? How will they do so in the future, and how soon, if the trends continue?

  34. George Hannauer says:

    Some thoughts on post #8 (Bill Walker’s comment on the use of the word “deviation” and post #20 (Gnobody’s reply):
    In the late 1950s, as a grad student at Princeton, I encountered the RAND Corporation’s book “A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates.” I read somewhere that a library (not Princeton’s!) had filed its copy under “Abnormal Psychology.” Maybe apocryphal, but a nice story anyway.
    In Richard Feynman’s book “Surely you’re joking, Mr. Feynman,” he recounts his experience being interviewed by a Selective Service shrink. He noted the shrink wrote notations “N” and “D” on his report, which he assumed meant “Normal” and “Deficient.” In defense of the shrink, I have always felt that “D” stood for “Deviant,” which is not a psychological evaluation, but a statistical one. Still, his “deviant” rating exempted him from the draft, so he was free to go back to work at Los Alamos. :-)
    Our of curiosity, I googled the RAND book this morning, and found it’s still available, despite all the random-number algorithms available in computer libraries. In fact, Amazon has over 200 tongue-in-cheek “reviews.” I don’t know whether they’re actually selling any copies (at $81 a pop), or whether the reviews are merely there to show that somebody at Amazon has a sense of humor.

    George Hannauer
    Oberlin, Ohio

  35. greeneyeswideopen says:

    A friend and social working in the far North with the Inuit told me that last December for the first time ever, it rained all month. NO SNOW. RAIN.

    The Inuit are entirely freaked out as am I!

  36. Mark says:

    Another sign that the drought is tied to AGW might be research published last year comparing Arizona cave formations to Greenland ice cores:

    “When it was cold in Greenland, it was wet here, and when it was warm in Greenland, it was dry here.”

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100120161243.htm