The skeptics are sweating

Former Weather Channel “adamant skeptic” says “it’s a case of Weather Gone Wiggy”: The “nature” of extreme weather “is changing along with changing atmospheric moisture, stability, and circulation patterns.”

Stu Ostro, Senior Meteorologist at the Weather Channel, has become quite good at explaining the link between global warming and extreme weather — see “Weather Channel expert on Georgia’s record-smashing global-warming-type deluge”:

… there’s a straightforward connection in the way the changing climate “set the table” for what happened this September in Atlanta and elsewhere. It behooves us to understand not only theoretical expected increases in heavy precipitation (via relatively slow/linear changes in temperatures, evaporation, and atmospheric moisture) but also how changing circulation patterns are already squeezing out that moisture in extreme doses and affecting weather in other ways.

But like many former skeptics, he still doesn’t quite get it, as is clear from a recent post on The Weather Channel blog, which I repost below followed by some brief comments:

If we don’t want to get zapped, we must adapt

I first used that line in an entry in May 2009 and then again in April of this year, and given what’s currently going on in the weather and climate I figure it’s time to use it for a title.

Former skeptics whose primary occupation is not climate science don’t tend to follow the broad scientific literature closely.

The dichotomy between mitigation and adaptation is a false one, as science adviser John Holdren likes to say. The choice is between what mix of mitigation, adaptation, and misery we leave our children and grandchildren and countless future generations.

Considerable adaptation is inevitable, as is considerable misery. But if we don’t focus on mitigation, then future generations will face endless misery — and the word “adaptation” will be rendered meaningless (see The lessons of Katrina: Global warming “adaptation” is a cruel euphemism “” and prevention is far, far cheaper).

Holdren understands, as Ostro does, that we’re already experiencing dangerous impacts from human-caused warming. But because Holdren understands the extensive scientific literature on what we face if we don’t dramatically change our current emissions path, he told the NYT’s Revkin:

John P. Holdren, an energy and environment expert at Harvard and president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, defended the more strident calls for limits on carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.

“I am one of those who believes that any reasonably comprehensive and up-to-date look at the evidence makes clear that civilization has already generated dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system,” Dr. Holdren said. “What keeps me going is my belief that there is still a chance of avoiding catastrophe.”

And that was back in January 2007 when the science was considerably less alarming than it is today — see An introduction to global warming impacts: Hell and High Water. Here is what we now understand we may very well face on our current emissions path:

And that makes massive prevention plus lots of adaptation much, much, much cheaper than not bloody much prevention and incomprehensible amounts of adaptation (and misery):

How exactly do Muscovites “adapt” to the possibility of 20°F Arctic warming? What would a 1000-year heat-wave look like in 2100 if the planet is 9°F warmer? How exactly would the world adapt to see levels 4 to 6 feet high in 2100 and then rising 1 foot a decade?

When I get back from vacation I will do some longer posts on adaptation. For now, I’ll end with Time’s Bryan Walsh’s from his post, “The Asian Floods””Signs of Climate Catastrophes to Come?

It’s all part of what Thomas Friedman has called “global weirding”””the weather gets strange and unpredictable, with the extremes getting more extreme. And unpredictability can kill””cities and countries are forced to deal with natural disasters on a scale they’ve never had to before, no longer able to look to the past for a reasonable expectation of what the future will be. We’ll need to get better at adapting to disasters””even poor countries can provide some protection, as Bangladesh has shown by fortifying itself against sea-level rise. But the heartbreaking Asian floods should be one more reminder of the need to put the world on a path to lower carbon emissions””before the weather reaches extremes that no one can handle.