November 17 News: Defense Science Board Warns of “Failure to Anticipate and Mitigate” Climate Change

Other stories below: Anti-Science Republicans Cut Top Science Office by 1/3; Global Temperature Extremes “Virtually Certain” to Rise, says UN

Defense Scientists Want Climate Change Intel

The United States’ Department of Defense needs to know more about how climate change affects global security, recommends a report by the the department’s science advisers, the Defense Science Board (DSB).

“Changes in climate patterns and their impact on the physical environment can create profound effects on populations in parts of the world and present new challenges to global security and stability,” wrote Defense Science Board co-chairs, Larry Welch and Willian Howard in a letter preceding the DSB report, Trends and Implications of Climate Change for National and International Security.

Failure to anticipate and mitigate these changes increases the threat of more failed states with the instabilities and potential for conflict inherent in such failures,” the DSB co-chairs warned.


Africa was of particular concern to the DSB.

“Climate change is already intensifying environmental and resource problems that communities are facing. In recent decades, social conflict has been particularly prevalent in Africa,” said the report.

Republicans Cut Top Science Office by 1/3

Scientists are regarding it as yet another attack on science by a political party that has, in the words of GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, become “the antiscience party.”

A 2012 spending bill expected to be approved this week slashes the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) budget by a whopping 32 percent. The cuts “will have real consequences on OSTP’s operations,” said spokesperson Rick Weiss.

The OSTP is the White House’s overall coordinating agency for federal science initiatives ranging from clean energy research to economic competitiveness to space exploration to climate change to education.

Cutting the top office responsible for insuring scientific integrity in government is the latest action by a Republican party whose leadership seems to be prosecuting an assault on science at almost every level, including House Speaker John Boehner’s attempts to have creationism taught in science classes and his false assertion that climate scientists are arguing carbon dioxide is a carcinogen.

Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA), who chairs the House appropriations panel that oversees NASA and the OSTP, is a fierce opponent of the Chinese government and doesn’t want any cooperation between the US and China. “Frankly, it boils down to a moral issue,” said Wolf. “Would you have a bilateral program with Stalin?” Wolf inserted two sentences into the April 2011 spending bill that prohibit any joint scientific activity between the two nations that involves NASA or is coordinated by the OSTP.

Wind Rush: Europeans Take The Credit

European wind companies have played a major role in the development of the US wind energy sector, even as shadows loom over the industry and the global economy.

Vestas, the world’s largest turbine manufacturer, clearly has high hopes for its US business, with a market share of 18.7% and room for growth. In recent years Vestas had invested in two blade factories, a nacelle facility and a tower facility in Colorado. It also has R&D hubs in Texas, Massachusetts and Colorado.

It is not yet clear whether these facilities will feel the impact of a radical reorganization at Vestas to be announced in February 2012 to reduce annual costs by at least €150 million.

Siemens, Acciona, Clipper and Gamesa are just some of the other companies from Europe that entered the US market because of its potential for growth and incentives such as the Production Tax Credit and the Section 48C program for advanced energy manufacturing facilities.

Euro zone crisis to widen climate fund gap – report

A worsening of the euro zone debt crisis could increase a climate funding gap to $45 billion by 2015 as governments struggle to maintain levels of climate change investment due to austerity measures, Ernst & Young said on Thursday.

Even under current cost-cutting measures, it is likely a gap of $22.5 billion in investment in renewable energy, clean technology, pollution-cutting measures and subsidies will emerge by 2015 across 10 of the world’s major economies, the accounting and consultancy firm said in a report.

Those countries are Germany, France, Britain, Spain, Italy, Japan, the United States, Australia, South Africa and South Korea.

The report comes ahead of a U.N. climate summit starting on Nov. 28 in Durban, South Africa, where negotiators will work on a new global climate deal.

Expectations are low for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which limits greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries, to emerge in Durban. There are also concerns that governments will not be able to commit the full $100 billion a year pledged to help the most vulnerable countries tackle climate change.

“The enormous projected funding gap revealed by this report suggests continuing economic uncertainty is pushing a low carbon economy further out of reach,” said Juan Costa Climent, the firm’s global climate change and sustainability services leader.

Global Temps `Virtually Certain’ to Rise: UN

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change whirrs into action this week with a significant assessment of extreme events and disasters. The final report is due on Nov. 18. A draft summary for policymakers obtained by Bloomberg shows the caution and rigor with which scientists approach attributing observed trends to man-made climate change.

The panel says it’s “virtually certain” that warm daily temperature extremes will increase in this century. It’s “likely” that human influences have led to a warming of extreme daily minimum and maximum temperatures across the globe, and that instances of heavy rainfall will increase. The report finds the average maximum wind speed of hurricanes is likely to increase, though storm frequency is likely to drop or remain the same.

“Likely” or “virtually certain” imply precision in science that’s generally absent from everyday speech. So when they say “virtually certain,” they’re using a definition of 99 to 100 percent probability. “Very likely” is 90 to 100 percent, and “likely” is 66 to 100 percent.

The values assigned in this week’s report are meant to inform and constrain public policy discussions, and will be fodder for delegates to chew on at the UN’s annual climate treaty talks which start Nov. 28 in Durban, South Africa. NASA climatologist and IPCC contributor Gavin Schmidt explains how nonscientists might interpret these assessments: “If it is likely to rain, will you take an umbrella with you? If people answer yes, then that is your answer — responses to likely events are sensible. If they answer ‘no,’ then there isn’t much point in continuing the conversation.”

Climate change: Sea rise could kill vital marshes

The critical tidal marshes of San Francisco Bay – habitat for tens of thousands of birds and other animals – will virtually disappear within a century if the sea rises as high as some scientists predict it will as a result of global warming.

The sea would inundate the coastline and eliminate 93 percent of the bay’s tidal wetlands if carbon emissions continue unchecked and the ocean rises 5.4 feet, as predicted by scientists under a worst-case scenario, according to a new study by PRBO Conservation Science.

The tidal areas closest to the Golden Gate, including Richardson Bay in Marin County and much of the East Bay coastline, were identified as most vulnerable to sea level rise.

“Marshes cannot keep up with the high-end sea level rise predictions,” said Diana Stralberg, a research associate with PRBO, also known as the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, and the lead author of the study, which was published Wednesday in the online science journal PLoS One.

“If we can’t slow down sea level rise,” said Stralberg, who is working on a doctorate degree at the University of Alberta, “we will need to identify and protect areas where marshes can migrate to.”

The researchers measured the depth of mud, sediment and plant material in the existing marshes along the San Francisco Bay coastline and analyzed the impact on the wetlands under a variety of different scenarios.

25 Responses to November 17 News: Defense Science Board Warns of “Failure to Anticipate and Mitigate” Climate Change

  1. mark says:

    It should be emphasized that this report explicitly states that it does not address causes of, or recommends means to mitigate, climate change, but rather discusses “the need to manage consequences.” It also clearly states that observable impacts are occurring now and will continue, and consequences to US national security are and will continue to be significant.

    It is not just an exercise in preparedness for hypothetical, unlikely scenarios, as some denialists would insist.

  2. prokaryotes says:

    Think small variations in temperature and precipitation levels don’t have much of an impact? Guess again.

    Temperature and precipitation levels have influenced many major events in history.
    The degree of climate change occurring now is unprecedented in the last 2,500 years.
    Studying interactions between climate and society in the past may help us plan for the future.

  3. wili says:

    There doesn’t seem to be a way to comment on the Chu/Solyndra article above, so I’ll leave this here. It puts the whole thing in perspective in a humorous way. Apologies if it has already been posted:

  4. prokaryotes says:

    Melting Arctic ice is to blame for the change in weather patterns, scientists say.

  5. Leif says:

    I am tired of hearing, “I do not believe the science of…” One does not “believe” science, one either accepts science, or rejects science, and counters with facts. One “fact” can change a whole paradigm. That is how science works. You do not build a bridge on a belief that gravity does not exist. On the moon your bridge can look a lot different than on earth and science dictates even there what it will look like. These deniers have had a half a century to present a single fact that the science of global warming in total is not viable. As with any emerging discipline, false trails emerge, are given a hearing, assimilated or dismissed, but the basics are unequivocal. Gravity works every day, all day. People unable to navigate a piss pot around a bed post have no business navigating the ship of state through troubled waters.

  6. Paul magnus says:

    “If it is likely to rain, will you take an umbrella with you? If people answer yes, then that is your answer — responses to likely events are sensible. If they answer ‘no,’ then there isn’t much point in continuing the conversation”

    I would say mony people woul say probably.

  7. prokaryotes says:

    Climate Change Health Costs Add Up to One Big Bill

    C. gattii is a tropical and subtropical organism. “How did a nice tropical fungus get to a cool place like Vancouver?”

    The answer could be as simple as the disease hitching a ride on a tropical vacationer, but a more alarming possibility has emerged over the past decade: that changes in climate are allowing disease-causing organisms to expand their range well out of the tropics. The initial outbreak that killed the porpoise, says Stephen, eventually hit dogs, cats, a house ferret, pet birds, horses, squirrels — but by the following March, 50 people had been infected. The fungus causes respiratory illness and can be deadly: by 2007, there had been 218 C. gattii cases in humans and 19 deaths. By 2005 it had reached the United States, where by last year it had caused six fatalities in 21 cases, an early example of a larger phenomenon. “This could be a signal event telling us that things had changed in our environment in a way that can harm health,” says Stephen.

    Since at least 1989 physicians and public health officials have warned that global warming could threaten human health (see “The New Diseases on Our Doorstep,” Fall 2009), but unlike the costs of building higher sea walls or calculating crop losses from floods, they haven’t been able to put a price tag on the health effects of climate change — until now. As more people are felled by heat stroke, injured by stronger hurricanes, and stricken by C. gattii and other once-tropical diseases, what is likely to be the economic hit?

    In the first study of its kind, Kim Knowlton, an assistant clinical professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and an NRDC senior scientist, and Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, a public health and environmental scientist in NRDC’s San Francisco office, have analyzed six events of the kind projected to become more frequent or more extreme as a result of climate change and calculated their financial costs due to premature deaths, injuries, and illness. Using a case-study approach, Knowlton and Rotkin-Ellman gathered cost data from both peer-reviewed scientific papers and reports from state and federal agencies. The bottom line, they report in a paper released online today and appearing in the November issue of the journal Health Affairs: $14 billion for just six climate-related disasters since 2000.

  8. prokaryotes says:

    Classic Maya collapse

    From climate change to deforestation to lack of action by Mayan kings, there is no universally accepted collapse theory, although drought is gaining momentum as the leading explanation.

  9. prokaryotes says:

    Last Incas

    The effects of smallpox on the Inca empire were even more devastating. Beginning in Colombia, smallpox spread rapidly before the Spanish invaders first arrived in the empire. The spread was probably aided by the efficient Inca road system. Within a few years smallpox claimed between 60% and 94% of the Inca population, with other waves of European disease weakening them further. Smallpox was only the first epidemic.[20] Typhus (probably) in 1546, influenza and smallpox together in 1558, smallpox again in 1589, diphtheria in 1614, measles in 1618 – all ravaged the remains of Inca culture.

  10. Leif says:

    Right now there is an 8 minute wait to speak to a White House call operator and leave a message. 202 456 1111 Or press an option # and tell whoever answers that you apologize for the intrusion but you help pay their wages as well and tell them you support the OWS protesters. A US Pass Port is not good enough to allow an 80 year old woman on Wall Street. The press are not allowed passage.
    Only Corporate ID will work. If you can not be on Wall Street, Occupy the White House.

  11. Susan Anderson says:

    They’re tired of science except when they drive a car, use a computer, use plumbing, watch TV, etc. etc.

    I’d love to see them put in a zoo to display what a life without science is like.

  12. Joan Savage says:

    Jared Diamond pointed out interrelationships of five strands in the collapse of the Mayan civilization. He made a good case for not taking any one of them in isolation.
    The five strands he identified are overpopulation, deforestation, war, drought, and failure of the Mayan kings and nobles to act.

    Jared Diamond. Collapse, How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005)

    Another Diamond insight: “Globalization makes it impossible for modern societies to collapse in isolation,..”

  13. Belgrave says:

    The first smallpox epidemic was probably in 1527 as it spread ahead of the conquistadores. Inca Huayna Capac and also his son and heir died and 2 rival claimants arose. Civil war and epidemic probably made the Spanish victory easier as Atahuallpa had scarcely defeated his rival before he was confronted by Pizarro and his men.

  14. Colorado Bob says:

    collapse of the Mayan civilization ….

    Several years ago, someone did an experiment on fuel consumption to make plaster for the Maya buildings. It became quickly apparent that the harvesting of wood for just this one item was industrial in scale.

  15. Colorado Bob says:

    This extinction killed off more than three-quarters of life on the planet in an event scientists have called the Great Dying. The Chinese dig sites provide new dates and details of the event, which occurred at the end of the Permian Era. It happened 252 million years ago and may have lasted less than 100,000 years, far shorter than scientists had thought, according to the study published Thursday in the journal Science.

    The study also bolsters the prevailing scientific concept that the giant die-off was caused by a massive shift in climate — global warming, prehistoric style — triggered by volcanic activity that is far beyond modern levels. The research also makes the case that the burst of carbon dioxide and methane thrown into the atmosphere that triggered the die-off took only about 20,000 years, less than previously thought, though the ecological damage lasted longer.

  16. Colorado Bob says:

    And devastating fires raged worldwide, not just where the volcanoes exploded, the paper said.

    “Imagine drying out the Amazon and burning it up,” said study co-author Douglas Erwin, a paleobiology curator at the Smithsonian Institution. “It certainly was a very uncomfortable time. You’re killing off 75 to 90 percent of everything on the planet. It’s not going to be terribly pleasant.”

    The air at times could be like the thick smog outside an old Eastern European power plant, Erwin said.

  17. Colorado Bob says:

    “This is also a lesson for the modern times,” Shen said. “We don’t know what will happen or when it will happen.”

    This climate change “happened naturally, and it killed everything,” Erwin said. But he said that if critics of global warming science think it shows that climate change is nothing to worry about because it has happened naturally in the past, that’s the wrong conclusion.

    “I think the lesson you take away from this is that you don’t want to get anywhere close to a mass extinction,” Erwin said. “It took 5 million years before life got better again.”

  18. prokaryotes says:

    The point is, we change the atmosphere at a rate today, 10.000 times faster than the natural processes. Hence the speed of “feedbacks” is likely in the same realm of speed.

    James Hansen explains it here.

  19. Colorado Bob says:

    The flooding in Thailand has a new price tag.

    The estimated $9.8 billion in damage to Thailand from the 2011 flood is nearly 4% of the country’s GDP. Hurricane Katrina cost the U.S. about 0.7% of its GDP, so the Thailand floods can be thought of as a disaster five times worse than Katrina for that country.

  20. Colorado Bob says:

    The flooding in Taiwan continues –
    “Generated from a southern low, the system has caused torrential rain since the start of the week, with certain areas recording more than 130 millimeters of precipitation from midnight Wednesday to 8 a.m. Thursday. These regions include the eastern Taiwan townships of Shoufong and Sioulin in Hualien County, and Mudan township in Pingtung County, southern Taiwan.”

  21. Colorado Bob says:

    Acid Pollution in Rain Decreased With Emissions, Long-Term Study Shows

    ScienceDaily (Nov. 16, 2011) — Emissions regulations do have an environmental impact, according to a long-term study of acidic rainfall by researchers at the University of Illinois.

  22. prokaryotes says:

    Just started watching “The Planet” (2006)

    It has a small interview with Jared Diamond, and is an interesting movie!

  23. Speedy says:

    The stupidity of Germany’s decicion to abandon their by far largest source of clean energy continues to show: