The future of global warming — a world of extreme storms, floods, droughts, rising seas, catastrophic change, species loss — is upon us today. The Wonk Room looks at the startling new scientific evidence that has come out this week, as well as how top environmental organizations — the Environmental Defense Fund and the National Wildlife Federation — have responded.
Each day brings new, troubling headlines: the drought in Australia has deepened; coral reefs are dissolving as the oceans acidify; global warming threatens giant sequoias with extinction; and the U.S. Climate Change Science Program reported that soot and smog pollutants from Asia could cause extreme heatwaves and drought in the United States by 2050. Further, September represents the height of the Atlantic hurricane season and the end of the Arctic summer — both of which are being catastrophically changed by global warming:
EXTREME STORMS BUILDING
As the Wonk Room reported yesterday, top hurricane scientist Kerry Emanuel found that Hurricane Katrina would have been significantly weaker twenty-five years earlier. With storms Hanna, Ike, and Josephine following in Gustav‘s wake, Nature published a stark new study that shows hurricanes are getting fiercer:
As this year’s Atlantic hurricane season becomes ever more violent, scientists have come up with the firmest evidence so far that global warming will significantly increase the intensity of the most extreme storms worldwide. . . . Rising ocean temperatures are thought to be the main cause of the observed shift. The team calculates that a 1 ºC increase in sea-surface temperatures would result in a 31% increase in the global frequency of category 4 and 5 storms per year: from 13 of those storms to 17. Since 1970, the tropical oceans have warmed on average by around 0.5 ºC. Computer models suggest they may warm by a further 2 ºC by 2100.
At Climate Progress, Joe Romm responds:
Actually, if we don’t sharply reverse our current emissions path soon, SSTs are likely to rise far more than 2°C by 2100. Indeed, we could easily see a 1°C increase in SSTs by 2050, and that means four more potential city-destroying super-hurricanes per year by mid-century.