Ah, New Zealand, home of kiwis, the filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and blunt climate science reporting:
Disastrous floods, heatwaves, storms and droughts are becoming more frequent because of climate change, and will continue to do so.
Scientists say the world can no longer ignore the link between climate change and extreme weather events, and they are urging countries to face up to the growing risks ahead.
New Zealander Kevin Trenberth [of] the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, said events of the past 18 months had been extraordinary. “It’s as clear a warning as we’re going to get about prospects for the future.”
Last year was the warmest on record and that warming was directly related to increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, he said.
Yes, New Zealand is the birthplace of Trenberth, who himself has been one of the blunter climate scientists (see Trenberth: “It’s not the right question to ask if this storm or that storm is due to global warming, or is it natural variability. Nowadays, there’s always an element of both”).
But New Zealand is also home to many other blunt climate scientists:
Professor Lionel Carter, of Victoria University’s Antarctic Research Centre, said the effects were being seen on New Zealand’s doorstep, with the Tasman Sea getting warmer, and that warming shifting south.
Antarctica was losing mass, and the West Antarctic ice sheet in particular was causing concern as much of it was below sea level. A change to its mass could see the ice sheet lift off and raise the sea level by three to five metres.
This year was likely to be significant for extreme events such as floods, tornadoes and droughts, he said….
Professor Martin Manning, of Victoria’s Climate Change Research Institute, said humans were a primary driver for climate change, and the question now was how we dealt with the problem.
Insurance companies were beginning to recognise the trends in extreme weather and pay attention. “They’re getting extraordinarily concerned. They don’t really think what we’re doing at the moment is risk management.”
The world had “pushed way past” the point where local adaptations to climate change were going to be enough, as patterns of extreme events were too widespread.
But, then, climate scientists are becoming increasingly blunt everywhere you look — see Lonnie Thompson on why climatologists are speaking out: “Virtually all of us are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization.”
It’s just that some places, like New Zealand, seem more willing to report what climate scientists themselves are saying without the false balance of the fringe deniers. And so we get stories like these in the country:
- Global warming ‘influencing weather extremes’
- Insurance industry facing a climate of fear: Floods, hurricanes, droughts – will climate change mean more wild weather ahead? That’s a risk the insurance industry is taking very seriously, reports Peter Huck.
Here’s more from Trenberth:
It brought with it devastating floods in Pakistan and a heatwave in Russia, which resulted in riots around the world because of increased food prices.Subsequent floods in Sri Lanka, Brazil and Queensland also brought deaths on a huge scale, and Dr Trenberth said scientists were now considering how such extreme events were linked.
Although some aspects of extreme weather were due to natural variation, global warming was now contributing too, with disastrous consequences. “There’s this 5-10 per cent contribution that may be thought of as the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”
The world would experience less snow and more rain, more floods, more heatwaves and consequent wildfires, and more storms….
Dr Trenberth said increased temperatures had led to more water staying in the atmosphere. “What we are seeing throughout the world is when it rains, it pours.”
Over the oceans there was now 4 per cent more water vapour than in the 1970s, and sea surface temperatures had increased by about 0.55 degrees Celsius.
“The environment in which all storms form now is different to 30 or 40 years ago because of climate change.”
Below are old comments from the previous Facebook commenting system:
So, should we be worried?
No. Don’t worry. Don’t look into the abyss. You might soil your pants. Or you might get severely depressed or compensate with cynism. Wait till you are old enough to let things go.
July 25 at 5:23pm
Every precipitation event now in Connecticut seems amplified. Weather events everywhere are different. Its when the public begins to notice, change will slowly begin.
Isn’t ‘slowly’ too slow to save us?
July 25 at 12:47pm
Yes it is- sadly. By the time the brain numb American public begins to see their way of life threatened- not in downsizing from their SUV’s- but coping with ever extreme weather events that are beginning to shatter their every day lives It is over . By then a low carbon lifestyle will not be enough. We will be near 450ppm C02- and its lights out.
July 25 at 2:39pm
I have several hundred these reports now, anything near an ocean is is in big trouble, but so is Minn. but it’s on some big lakes ain’t it ?
Montreal just did 11.81 inches in an hour.
The Kiwi is right, ” When it rains, it pours now “.
It snowed 32 inches on the driest place on earth 2 weeks ago.
July 25 at 11:33pm
The common wisdom in the scientific community going all the way back to the late 1980s was that when we began to experience the effects of climate change — when the weather patterns had truly shifted — it would be too late. That we are now heavily burdened with a more hostile climate and will be forced to deal with it, almost no matter what we do to cut emissions going forward, is a fait accomplis. It’s now only a matter of degree. We made our beds (coffins?) — now it’s time to sleep in them. And, perhaps, be very sad that we are doing much too little, much too late.
Anne, we are fast approaching the moment of truth; it is too late to avert what is coming at us…..death and suffering by thousands of weather/climate-driven events. We had our chance back when Presidnet Carter warned us in his Global 2000 report.
July 25 at 1:56pm
Anne, agreed. I’ve long felt sad knowing that much of what may already be occurring was at least theoretically preventable. And angry with those who even to this day obfuscate. Still: though we can’t ignore the facts or trends, we must not give in to the cynicism that would be easily understandable; but instead more intently hone our ways of doing the best we can to change the direction. Though obviously from your work you already know that.
July 26 at 1:59pm
I’ve dedicated my life to this — not just as a career choice or a hobby — but as a way of expressing my deepest beliefs, day to day. Sad doesn’t even begin to express it. Despair is the appropriate term of art for our current condition. Nothing short of a miracle will save us – good thing so many of us are running around representing God. I take comfort in that.
July 26 at 5:39pm
The MRCS official said 29.1 inches (739 millimetres) fell at Taungup in Rakhine State in the 24 hours to 9:30 am on July 21, breaking the previous 24-hour July record and causing flooding throughout most of the town.
On the same day, 13.32 inches (333mm) was recorded at Kyauktaw, breaking the record of 10.12 inches (257 millimeters) set two days earlier.
what about recent volcanic activity that released more CO2 into the atmosphere than the entire history of mankind? I think these volcanoes are more to do with it than anything…When Pinotubo erupted it was said that that eruption put more Co2 into the atmosphere than the entire history of humankind…there has been bigger eruptions since and more of them…I want to know what we can do to stop Volcanoes? We cant. we are pawns in nature.
Sadly, No. No doubt “it was said,” but it is not true. C02 emissions from volcanoes are utterly trivial compared to burning fossil fuels. You have been lied to.
July 25 at 12:44pm
“Volcanoes emit around 0.3 billion tonnes of CO2 per year. This is about 1% of human CO2 emissions which is around 29 billion tonnes per year.”
July 25 at 12:46pm
I’m glad to see you accept that climate is changing and that CO2 is the cause of climate change. As you can see from the links above, it is clear that human CO2 emissions dwarf volcanos. I hope now that you know the truth, you’ll be willing to join those of us who advocate for polices to limit human emissions to preserve a livable climate.
July 25 at 1:01pm
Erik Lyneborg said :
” When Pinotubo erupted it was said that that eruption put more Co2 into the atmosphere than the entire history of humankind…there has been bigger eruptions since and more of them… ”
” The effects of the eruption were felt worldwide. It ejected roughly 10 billion metric tonnes (10 cubic kilometres) of magma, and 20 million tons of SO2, bringing vast quantities of minerals and metals to the surface environment. It injected large amounts of aerosol into the stratosphere – more than any eruption since that of Krakatoa in 1883. Over the following months, the aerosols formed a global layer of sulfuric acid haze. Global temperatures dropped by about 0.5 °C (0.9 °F),
July 25 at 1:23pm
It would take approximately 700 Mount Pinatubo-level eruptions each year to equal the amount of CO2 injected into the environment by our burning of fossil fuels. Or another way to look at it: it only takes about 2.7 days of manmade CO2 to equal to equal an average year’s worth of global volcanism. Just so you know. (http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hazards/gas/climate.php)
July 25 at 6:58pm
A Myth is Born.
The truth is, for a short period in the mid-1970s, the idea of global cooling was somewhat trendy–as measured in newspaper and magazine stories, but not scientific evidence.
In 1975, both Newsweek and Time ran articles about the coming Ice Age. The next year, National Geographic published a more detailed story about climate science, in general. It touched on global cooling as one of several possibilities for the future of climate.
But all of these stories were based on the same small handful of peer-reviewed papers. In fact, Peterson, Connolley, and Fleck found that, between 1965 and 1979, only 7 peer-reviewed papers were published supporting the idea of global cooling. (In contrast, during that same time period, 44 published peer-reviewed papers found that the Earth was getting warmer. And 20 were neutral on the subject.)
Yes but its going to be tough moving to where we need to be even after most accept the dangers…
UK faces green agenda backlash as energy prices rise | Energy & Oil | Reuters.
The British government faces a public backlash against its green energy agenda as consumers are unwilling to spend more on power and gas bills to pay for investment in low-carbon forms of energy, a parliamentary committee warned on Monday.
“Our evidence points to the danger of a backlash against the government’s green agenda if it means rising bills for consumers,” the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee said in a report.
It urged the government and the energy industry to better engage with the public to explain underlying factors that create higher energy prices.
Three of Britain’s six major energy suppliers have announced double-digit increases in power and gas tariffs from this summer, raising fears about consumer price inflation.
July 25 at 1:45pm
An opinion poll published by utility Centrica last month showed only one quarter of respondents thought the government should stick to its plans for a greener economy if it means higher energy price.
July 25 at 1:45pm
This potential cost-driven backlash (if true) illustrates an even broader problem. The so-called “free market” has for so long externalized costs (of pollution, etc.) and failed to account for the real value of such things as clean air, water, and biodiversity, etc. or the very real costs of harms to them, that the marketplace itself has been badly skewed.
In this way the consumers (and citizens generally) have been misled, even programmed into unrealistic expectations and unsustainable behaviors & lifestyles.
I’m not opposed to a free market, by any stretch, but its existence is largely myth anyway. Broadly accepted governmental authorities in the provision of public infrastructure & services alone tend to favor and even subsidize certain behaviors/products (such as automobiles) and discourage others (such as more energy-efficient behaviors).
So perhaps, just as we seek more “fair trade”, we should be emphasizing a “fair market” (or perhaps “informed marketplace”)…one that instead of externalizing costs fully reflects them. That is a role governments, corporations and NGOs alike should be taking on.
Just maybe, if the costs of drastic climate change were expressed in ways meaningful to the average resident of the U.S., UK, etc., such as in the likelyl cost to each family from the treasury payouts for disaster relief, added security costs, insurance bills, etc….. then maybe would citizens be more ready to accept the comparatively smaller costs of paying up-front for better energy and consumption choices.
July 26 at 1:44pm
I am afraid I think its more than free market. After all mostly through history that has been the de-facto.
What is different for our recent centuries is fossil fuels…. coal, oil and gas. The EROI for these are huge and it is for this reason we are able to live so comfortably now. It has also driven inovation which plays a part in this.
So apart from the Climate disaster that has unfolded, we have a peak oil disaster which is competing.
<a href=”https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=146036655476791&id=139434822741700“> new austerity</a>
Which will triumph first? I guess its not a race and both are affecting us equally at the moment. Not sure which would/will be worse….
July 26 at 2:00pm
Well, we do still have some false balance. At the end of the article is a quote from one of our far-right politicians (the ACT party make the tea party look like Sunday school teachers). Why on earth is the opinion of a politician relevant in a piece talking about science?
We do have one or two contrarian scientists in NZ – Chris de Freitas (probably best known to most as the editor who published the awful Soon and Bailunias paper) has been found out teaching garbage to his students: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10738739.
Lot of stuff on the wire tonight –
Flash flooding hits Rocky Mount.
Some homes evacuated. Parts of downtown covered by up to three feet of water. 4+ inches of rain fell in just an hour and a half.
Another real world blow to the happy plant theory –
Winemakers are wringing their hands over the 2011 harvest, branding it absurdly large for a nation still grappling with too much wine. After early estimates suggested a moderate-sized harvest was on the cards (say 1.3 million to 1.4 million tonnes), it’s weighed in at 1.62 million tonnes, a fraction more than 2010.
This, in the worst harvest weather conditions in most winemakers’ memory. Almost every state and region except Western Australia and the Hunter Valley experienced drenching rain throughout the harvest, from late summer to autumn. Those old enough to remember 1974 say they hadn’t seen so much rain and rotten fruit since that annus horribilis, 37 years ago. Even then, old winemakers tell me, there was the occasional break in the rain. Not so this year.
The problem with 2011 is a lot of ordinary- to poor-quality wine – wine no-one will want.
Dr Trenberth says: “The world would experience less snow and more rain, more floods, more heatwaves and consequent wildfires, and more storms….”
Thanks for the bluntness! And thanks for the clarification. Less snow! So the blizzards that led directly to the horrible floods we experienced in the US this year must have been an aberration. But I thought…oh it isn’t really important. I will still maintain that the unusual and severe blizzards we experienced last winter WERE a direct result of global climate disruption and I will still maintain that global climate disruption will result in more percipitaion regardless of its state of matter or season of the year. I don’t mind being called a reactionary ‘warmer’ and I don’t mind being wrong either; that’s how I learn.