Daily Scoop Xtra: Is Climate Change Hitting Home?


After a year of freakish and destructive weather, Americans are finally waking up to the dangers of climate change

By

The Williams River was so languid and lovely last Saturday morning that it was almost impossible to imagine the violence with which it must have been running on August 28, 2011. And yet the evidence was all around: sand piled high on its banks, trees still scattered as if by a giant’s fist, and most obvious of all, a utilitarian temporary bridge where for 140 years a graceful covered bridge had spanned the water.

The YouTube video of that bridge crashing into the raging river was Vermont’s iconic image from its worst disaster in memory, the record flooding that followed Hurricane Irene’s rampage through the state in August 2011.  It claimed dozens of lives, as it cut more than a billion-dollar swath of destruction across the eastern United States.

New data released last month by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities show that a lot of Americans are growing far more concerned about climate change, precisely because they’re drawing the links between freaky weather, a climate kicked off-kilter by a fossil-fuel guzzling civilization and their own lives. After a year with a record number of multi-billion dollar weather disasters, seven in ten Americans now believe that “global warming is affecting the weather.” No less striking, 35 percent of the respondents reported that extreme weather had affected them personally in 2011.  As Yale’s Anthony Laiserowitz told the New York Times, “People are starting to connect the dots.”

Which is what we must do…

Read more…

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17 Comments to “Daily Scoop Xtra: Is Climate Change Hitting Home?”

  1. According to the science community, there have been many rapid and dramatic warming and cooling trends long before man was even present on earth. I despise the RIght and Republicans right now. I want to disagree with them on everything. I want to move away from fossil fuels. But after considering science’s own geologic temperature record, I don’t see definitive proof man is causing climate change. It’s possible, but there are holes in the argument.

    • I am not sure who or what you mean by “the scientific community” but, although palaeoclimatology tells us that the Earth’s climate has been very different in the past, all life is adapted to the way things are now. Therefore, the important lesson you should draw from past changes is that they have generally been very slow; whereas what is now happening is (in geological terms) happening very fast. Also, it is fundamentally important to appreciate that the Earth regulates its temperature by moving CO2 between the oceans and the atmosphere. Therefore, because we have now added a whole load of fossilised carbon to the atmosphere, the Earth must either remove it or warm up. Clue: It is doing the latter.

      If you don’t see definitive proof man is causing climate change, can I suggest you open your eyes and start looking in the right places? Clue: Those who have a vested interest in the maintenance of our fossil-fuel based economy cannot help you.

    • Tea Party Slayer> I think the take away point from the research is that the rate of change is the indicator of human induced climate change due to the associated atmospheric CO2 increases.

      • Correct me if I’m wrong, I believe there’s been a 1 degree global surface temperature change over the last 100 years. Meanwhile, I recall reading of evidence of numerous “abrupt and rapid” climate changes in earth’s 4 billion year history, including 10 degree changes in a decade.

        I want fossil fuels out of the way as much as anyone. While I appreciate the environmental movement, human-induced climate change is not the argument I choose when railing against big oil.
        On the other hand, if it is making inroads against big oil, that’s perfectly fine with me.

      • Right, the global temps have risen a little over 1 degree (1.33 or so I believe) over the last 100 years BUT most of that change apparently has occurred since the 1970’s. Land temps have risen faster since oceans warm or cool slower. That is why we’re noticing the warmer ocean temps now which will also cause continued increases in land temps because a decent amount of those temps are influenced by ocean temp trends and currents.

        Yes, there have been some sudden decadal oscillations in global temp which are believed to have been caused by changes in the solar activity or in generally changes in the solar radiation reaching the Earth or changes in ocean currents. But this doesn’t appear to be the causes this time. Atmospheric CO2 increase and now other naturally stored (previously frozen) greenhouse gases like methane are the current culprits. Some say the Sun is the reason for the changes but new research has shown a 2% decrease in solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface each decade from the 1950’s to 1990.

        And to put the degree changes into perspective, a 1-2 degree global temp change is enough to trigger an ice age or to end one. We’ve seen a fairly rapid change associated with our significant increase in fossil fuel use but in the warming direction. Researchers aren’t predicting any sudden shifts of 10 degrees but warming at the rate we’re seeing will really kick our butts, so to speak. The Little Ice Age was a 1 to 2 degree change and that really impacted human populations. We’ve already seen changes within that range in the warming direction….it’s going to have significant influence on us.

        But as you say, when you’re arguing for an end to fossil fuel use there are many other reasons. Climate change is too controversial and so much misinformation out there provided by the Heartland Institute has convinced many it’s a massive hoax.

      • Thanks for the info. I’m not sure what the Heartland Institute is. I collect my data from the EPA site. And just being a fan of science, picking up stuff from resources about the history of earth. I don’t think climate change is a hoax, Understand I’m looking at this from a PR perspective. I see holes in the argument even for more reasonable people. Just from a PR perspective, it seems climate change advocates screwed up a bit. In my view, desperately pointing to large apex predators in naturally precarious habitats and tornadoes and hurricanes as proof of man-induced climate change seems a bit hysterical, and may distract from some good data. It reminds me of when the Right says, “where’s the global warming now” every time it snows.

        Also regarding CO2, it obviously makes sense that we’re causing that atmospheric increase. But then I get from friendly sources like AMS, GSA, Science Channel that there have been big natural releases of CO2 into the atmosphere in earth’s long history. I need to “feel” the data to make the PR argument, and instead I get some confusion.

        So I always begin with the economic argument, which is more tangible to me, and end with “we could be damaging our planet.” But if the climate change argument is gaining traction, more power to it. I just want fossil fuels diminished.

      • Tea Party Slayer> Sure, I can see your point from the PR perspective. Pointing to the extremes as, essentially scare tactics, may well have been a mistake as they try to relate the overall impacts of climate change to the general public. But those extreme, regional weather fluctuations (warm, wet, west coast winters or severely, cold, freaky, east coast winters, more intense hurricanes and tornadoes) are all symptoms of the changes.

        Pointing to the economic impacts is usually a more relatable tact to take. People can grasp those concepts easier, because it brings the large, abstract behemoth of global climate change down to a scale individuals or groups can better comprehend. It’s tailoring the message to the appropriate audience, as long as the same goal is reached it doesn’t always have to follow the most direct route.

        Also, here’s an article about the Heartland Institute and what the leaked documents reveal about their attempts to discredit climate change research;
        http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/feb/21/heartland-institute-leak-climate-attack
        It wasn’t given as much press as I would have anticipated seeing how everytime some piece of climate research is questioned it becomes big news.

        ***By the way, did you know your site is set to “private”? Just thought I’d let ya know in case that’s unintended***

      • Thanks for the feedback and the Heartland article. Given their tactics, it makes me a little self-conscious that I may have been influenced. But seriously, my work doesn’t revolve around the climate debate, so I’m largely ignorant to it. Again, I’ve just picked up bits of information over time from a layman interest in science. I’m pretty sure the sources I’ve used weren’t influenced by Heartland. From the bits I’ve picked up, It’s been hard for me to embrace man-induced climate change as something I can effectively advocate. Having said that, my work does involve knowing there are economic interests on both sides of this debate, with the fossil fuel side being more obvious. I just believe the country’s economic and environmental interests would be better served by our government and private sector moving us away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy. I can argue the economic side easier.

        Regarding my site, you can’t access teapartyslayer?

      • Dear Tea Party Slayer, please forgive me if my sarcasm was off-putting (i.e. you have not responded). The consensus view of climate sensitivity is that a doubling of CO2 will eventually cause a rise in temperature of at least 2.5 Celsius. This is consistent with the fact that a 40% increase in CO2 has so far caused a 1 Celsius rise. However, all of this ignores the non-linear nature of the changes now occurring (i.e. all the positive feedback mechanisms that mean a doubling of CO2 is likely to result in 4 to 6 Celsius rise and, if we continue to burn all the Earth fossil fuels, the temperature may never reach a new equilibrium. (Clue: Global warming did not stop in 1998).

      • Tea Party Slayer> It comes up as “private” when I click your name from the comments here but if I link through from some other are like the list of site subscribers it works. Not sure what’s going on with that.

      • Thanks. I’ll see if I can fix that.

  2. Reblogged this on GoodOleWoody's Blog and Website and commented:
    Global Warming Is real! (I’ve seen it on TV!)

  3. It is a great shame therefore that the Heartland Institute want to keep everyone in a coma (and/or deny that anyone has emerged from their catatonic state of disbelief).
    http://climatecrocks.com/2012/05/04/heartland-institute-poster-fail/

  4. Tea Party Slayer, Not only am I astonished you could say you have not heard of the Heartland Institute, you also disappoint me by confusing weather and climate; and by ignoring my earlier response to your erroneous understanding of what we should learn from palaeoclimatology.

    • Martin, I certainly didn’t ignore your posts. I meant for my post to be directed at the entire discussion. I’m following your blog now, so I’ll see if I can look around and enlighten myself this evening.

      Regarding the lesson to be learned from palaeoclimatology, you mention “the important lesson you should draw from past changes is that they have generally been very slow; whereas what is now happening is (in geological terms) happening very fast.” As a layman who tries to read a bit, I addressed this above by pointing to science’s belief that Earth has had numerous temperature changes in the past that seemed surprisingly fast to me.

      I appreciate the CO2 data you provide in your prior post. But again, I’ve read in friendly scientific resources and seen programs that talk about big natural releases of CO2 into the atmosphere throughout the Earth’s history. Is there anything different this time around compared to the past?

      Finally, I’m not confusing climate and weather. I think amateur advocates on both sides of the debate do though.

      But again, most importantly, in the big picture, we’re on the same side.

    • Martin, the Heartland Insitute wasn’t known to many who are were not entrenched in climate research or its defense before the leaked documents came to light and even then it didn’t make as much news as it should have. I hadn’t heard of it before by name until the document news broke. I knew there was a central strategy center that handed out material to those who didn’t buy into the research but I didn’t know their name. And as you know, this is coming from an environmental scientist. I don’t think it’s all that surprising that the general public hasn’t heard of the place.

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