Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Earth Under Water, Hell On Earth Or Both?

by Michael Handley

Human civilization has pushed atmospheric CO2 levels to near 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in human existence. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) revised its May 9, 2013 reading at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii, saying it remained fractions of a point below the level of 400 ppm, at 399.89 ppm.

The last time concentrations of Earth's main greenhouse gas reached this mark, during the Pliocene era 5.3 to 2.6 million years ago, the planet was about 3.6 to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer. The Arctic was 14°F warmer allowing horses and camels to graze in lush savannas that grew at those ancient high latitudes. The Arctic and West Antarctic ice sheets did not exist and sea levels during the mid-Pliocine were about 82 feet higher than today — levels that today would inundate major cities around the world!

The first decade of the 21st century contained nine of the 10 warmest years on record. A new report from the World Meteorological Organization compares the 2001-2010 decade with the 12 that came before it in a chart that makes it hard to argue that the planet isn’t warming.

Today, with the warming atmosphere, Arctic sea ice is melting much, much faster than even the best climate models had projected. The reason is most likely for faster loss of arctic ice is unmodeled amplifying feed backs in the CO2 cycles, plus recent Paleoclimate research suggests CO2 may have at least twice the effect on global temperatures than currently projected by computer models. “Future warming likely to be on high side of climate projections,” according to a November paper in Science.  On our current emissions path, CO2 levels will continue to rise to as much as 650–970 ppm by the year 2100 -- levels last seen when the Earth was and average 29°F hotter and dinosaurs walked the earth. A 29°F rise in temperature would melt all the ice on earth, even in Antarctica, increasing sea levels by 250 feet over just decades.

More than 97% of 4,000 international scientific papers analyzed in peer-reviewed study, published  in the journal Environmental Research Letters, were found to acknowledge human-caused global warming.  [Full text PDF (501 KB) - Video]  President Obama even tweeted the study to his 31,000,000 followers.
97% global warming consensus meets resistance from scientific denialism - The robust climate change consensus faces resistance from conspiracy theories, cherry picking, and misrepresentations.

Media Still Overlooks 90% Of Global Warming, Washington Post Still Won’t Fact Check Columnists.
A new study led by Clark University and involving the University Colorado Boulder found that all glacial regions lost mass from 2003 to 2009, with the biggest ice losses occurring in Arctic Canada, Alaska, coastal Greenland, the southern Andes and the Himalayas. The glaciers outside of the Greenland and Antarctic sheets lost an average of roughly 260 billion metric tons of ice annually during the study period. "Because the global glacier ice mass is relatively small in comparison with the huge ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica, people tend to not worry about it," said CU-Boulder Professor Tad Pfeffer, a study co-author. But Greenland's inland ice sheet is now beginning to melt, too. Greenland's ice sheet saw melting across nearly all of its surface last summer due to higher than normal temperatures.

Most climate scientists don't think that the Antarctica and Greenland icecaps will thaw yet this century. Many studies since 2007, including by the World Bank, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and a report for the Arctic Council, put the upper limit of sea surface rise at about six feet by the year 2100. However, when 97 percent of Greenland’s ice experienced at least some melting in July 2012, scientists began wondering if it was a one-time phenomenon. Now a new study in Geophysical Research Letters indicates it is a sign of things to come and by 2025, there is a 50-50 chance of it happening annually. Some climate scientists have started to wonder whether Widespread Greenland Melting Is To Become The Norm In Next Two Decades.   Miami, As We Know It Today, Is Doomed by Sea Rise; It’s Not A Question Of If. It’s A Question Of When.

Imagine sea levels rising 82 feet higher, and more, than today... Eminent climatologists think a "Great Flood" is inevitable if current CO2 emission rates continue.

Based on research by NASA astro-biologist and paleontologist Professor Peter Ward and a group of respected American climatologists, the Earth Under Water video is an eye-opening documentary.

This BBC documentary uses scientific evidence past and present, archive footage, location photography and CGI to explore the terrifying consequences should the atmosphere's CO2 levels treble over the next 100 to 300 years, as predicted.

Step by step, the BBC documentary paints a chilling picture of the world as the sea levels rise, unraveling the science behind this cataclysm, revealing when it could strike and what its impact would be on humanity. The film also questions experts and politicians about what measures can be taken now to stop the current rise of CO2 emissions, and explores how extreme engineering will buy us time. But the message of this film is stark, spelling out in graphic detail the Earth's apocalyptic future that we have been avoiding.

President Barack Obama’s said in his second inaugural address, "We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries — we must claim its promise"

Scientists reported earlier this years that 2012 was the hottest year on record for the contiguous United States, the hottest year in U.S. history and 333 months of higher-than-average global temperatures. In response, Rep. Lamar Smith’s (R-San Antonio, TX), who chairs the U.S. House Science and Technology Committee, said climate science is still uncertain. ~Dallas News.

Smith has blasted the media as “lap dogs” for not devoting enough airtime to climate change deniers and has implored networks to not “hide the facts” that many deny there is climate change and human activity can have any impact climate. Those climate change deniers are largely lawyers, public relations consultants and lobbyists, without scientific credentials, who receive funding from the oil and gas industry. Rep Smith has taken $500,000 from oil and gas over his political career and $10,000 from Koch industries last year.

Republican members of the science committee are climate deniers, themselves. “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell,” House Science Subcommittee Chair Paul Broun (R-GA) said. Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) has quoted scripture to deny that climate change will destroy the earth. But the list of deniers also includes former Chair Ralph Hall (R-TX), Vice Chairman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and subcommittee chairs Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Larry Bucshon (R-IN)
[Ralph Hall's 4th Congressional District encompasses counties in the north east region of Texas, including parts of Collin Co. Lamar Smith’s 21st Congressional District includes parts of Bexar, Travis, Comal, and Hays counties and all of Bandera, Blanco, Gillespie, Kendall, Kerr, and Real and Counties.]
If climate-denying Republicans want the facts, rather than their lobbyist paid-for agenda, they should read the new draft National Climate Assessment, which dives into the consequences of a hotter, drier, disaster-prone climate:
Climate change is already affecting the American people. Certain types of weather events have become more frequent and/or intense, including heat waves , heavy downpours , and , in some  regions , floods and droughts . Sea level is rising, oceans are becoming more acidic, and glaciers and arctic sea ice are melting. These changes are part of the pattern of global climate change, which is primarily driven by human activity. Many impacts associated with these changes are important to Americans’ health and livelihoods and the ecosystems that sustain us.

Evidence for climate change abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans. This evidence has been compiled by scientists and engineers from around the world, using satellites, weather balloons, thermometers, buoys, and other observing systems. The sum total of this evidence tells an unambiguous story: the planet is warming.
Bill Maher perhaps sums it up as well as anyone.
Hell on Earth by By Bill Maher, from his HBO Blog, January 23, 2013

It's been said that there are two sides to every issue. And in between the two sides there's a lot of what's called nuance. But, in our Congress, there's one party that doesn't believe in nuance because the word "nuance" sounds French. What used to happen is that the parties on each side of an issue -- especially the critical issues that require action -- would reach a compromise. A compromise is usually a shitty solution but at least it's something and doing something is generally better than doing nothing. But now, we have one party that consistently opts for doing nothing.

The National Climatic Data Center recently announced that, in 2012, America experienced its hottest year ever, by far. Usually these records are set by a tenth of a degree, but this past year's average temperature was 55.32 degrees, an alarming full degree hotter than our hottest year ever and 3.2 full degrees hotter than our average for the 20th century. Crops and livestock were decimated, rivers and lakes dried up, wildfires consumed millions of acres and scientists, even after allowing for natural weather variations, say there is zero doubt -- zero -- that fossil-fuel-induced global warming is accelerating our climate change at a rate even faster than they had predicted. Plus, simple arithmetic bears out that global warming's resulting weather events are costing us way more than the suggested solutions.

We're frying the planet, we know it, we know how to arrest it and one side's solution is to privatize Medicare and close Planned Parenthood. In other words, do nothing.

It's just another case of not being able to craft a solution or even begin a discussion because one side is dealing in science and facts and reality and the other is stuck in a state of uninformed, ideologically-based paranoia. It's like a city council trying to debate whether or not to put up a stop sign at a certain intersection to keep the kids safe, when some of the council members deny the existence of cars.
A lengthy story published in the March issue of The Economist tries to argue that the climate sensitivity to CO2 may be lower than previously estimated. See Skeptical Science’s take on this story here.

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