Sunday, February 12, 2017

The warming poles of Climate Change

Feeling a compulsion to continually acknowledge the fact that human-caused Climate Change is happening? It’s understandable. Our last US election has resurrected the pathetic chimera of climate denial. It’s a tragedy. Our attention to the problem at hand, that our climate is warming quickly, has been hijacked.

Now we worry for our latest immigrants. For we are all are immigrants. I’m Famine Irish, myself, and only differ from those misaligned today by the trumped-up Travel Ban but for the vagaries of time. At a recent rally in Rochester against the so-called ban, I felt compelled to read before a gathering of hundreds the entire poem, "The New Colossus", whose lines "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” everyone knows.  

Now we worry for indigenous peoples whose temporary victory at the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), following fire-hosing of our fellow Americans in freezing weather, captured the nation’s and world’s attention. We worry for those who have worked all their lives to qualify for Medicare and Social Security. We worry for our youth whose understanding of science is in jeopardy. We worry for the common decency we expect towards our fellow citizens and allies around the world because all that now hangs on the irrational behavior of our so-called leader.

Bizarre money-drunk politics has reinvigorated hate, prejudice, xenophobia, and a great distain for environmental regulations, dragging along with it all this climate denial BS. Science had put a lid on this immoral and anti-science ideology years ago. But this scourge has reared its ugly head, fueled, in part, by fossil-fuel money.  

While this tempest steals our attention, both geological poles of our planet are undergoing extreme changes due to warming. It’s quite possible that celestial beings far away, even if they didn’t know anything about our precious blue orb, would probably notice our polar ice caps changing. “Hey look over there at that little planet in the Local Group, its polar caps are dwindling instead of increasing as we would expect from its present orbit. Something must be causing its greenhouse gasses to increase. Hmmmm.”   

First, the Artic, where we know Climate Change is the cause:

The Winter of Blazing Discontent Continues in the Arctic Weird. Strange. Extreme. Unprecedented. These are some of the words that describe what’s been happening in the Arctic over the past year as surge after surge of warm air have stalled, and at times reversed, sea ice pack growth. And the unfortunate string of superlatives is set to continue this week. Arctic sea ice is already sitting at a record low for this time of year and a powerful North Atlantic storm is expected to open the flood gates and send more warmth pouring into the region from the lower latitudes. By Thursday, it could reach up to 50°F above normal. In absolute temperature, that’s near the freezing point and could further spur a decline in sea ice. (February 6, 2017) Climate Central [more on Climate Change in our area]

Next, the big crack in an Antarctica ice shelf, which may not be caused by Climate Change, but it is still expected to greatly threaten the stability of the ice shelf, which “… could also significantly change the landscape of the Antarctic peninsula.”

A Crack in an Antarctic Ice Shelf Grew 17 Miles in the Last Two Months A rapidly advancing crack in Antarctica’s fourth-largest ice shelf has scientists concerned that it is getting close to a full break. The rift has accelerated this year in an area already vulnerable to warming temperatures. Since December, the crack has grown by the length of about five football fields each day. The crack in Larsen C now reaches over 100 miles in length, and some parts of it are as wide as two miles. The tip of the rift is currently only about 20 miles from reaching the other end of the ice shelf. Once the crack reaches all the way across the ice shelf, the break will create one of the largest icebergs ever recorded, according to Project Midas, a research team that has been monitoring the rift since 2014. Because of the amount of stress the crack is placing on the remaining 20 miles of the shelf, the team expects the break soon. (February 7, 2017) New York Times [more on Climate Change in our area]

Even some conservatives are concerned. They’ve marched out their own proposal for taking immediate climate action:

A Conservative Case for Climate Action CRAZY as it may sound, this is the perfect time to enact a sensible policy to address the dangerous threat of climate change. Before you call us nuts, hear us out. During his eight years in office, President Obama regularly warned of the very real dangers of global warming, but he did not sign any meaningful domestic legislation to address the problem, largely because he and Congress did not see eye to eye. Instead, Mr. Obama left us with a grab bag of regulations aimed at reducing carbon emissions, often established by executive order. In comes President Trump, who seems much less concerned about the risks of climate change, and more worried about how excessive regulation impedes economic growth and depresses living standards. As Democrats are learning the hard way, it is all too easy for a new administration to reverse the executive orders of its predecessors. (February 8, 2017) New York Times [more on Climate Change in our area]

(Actually, it DOESN’T sound CRAZY that some US conservatives are concerned about Climate Change and urge their party to address this crisis. It doesn’t sound crazy that intelligent people find the science behind Climate Change compelling. It DOES sound CRAZY to think environmental regulations should be rolled back and the free market (which, by the way, was instrumental in causing Climate Change) be allowed to take over. The political parties will disagree about how to address Climate Change, but both political parties should NOT disagree that Climate Change is happening because that is CRAZY! Also, as long as I’ve stolen your attention from this article’s main thesis: Those inclined to pin their hopes on "The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends," for addressing Climate Change, because this is the most we are likely to get from a wrong-headed ideology, should remember that the free market system cannot fix Climate Change. Climate Change is deeply complex and will affect all aspects of our life support system, including our infrastructure, our individual health, our social stability, and our ability to adapt to the heat already built up in our climate system. While a carbon dividend will go far in slowing down human-cause greenhouse gas emissions, it is far short of a complete plan to address Climate Change. Our politics need to get their priorities straight.) #ScienceMatters

(Ok, back to my main point.) Since Trump has taken office, the poles of our political spectrum have deeply widened. A charge from the extreme wing on climate denial in our government suggests that the US and the rest of the nations were duped into signing the Paris Agreement. The facts behind this trumped-up conspiracy have been roundly refuted by folks who actually know what they are talking about. But, still, the specter of another Climategate which attempts to lie our country out of the Paris Agreement and sow more doubt into climate science is chilling.
  • ·         Climate Change, Science, NOAA Falsely Maligned by Tabloid Spin As a result of human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels, the planet is warming. Those who deny this fact have pointed to a supposed “pause” in warming to justify opposition to climate action. In 2015, a study led by NOAA’s Tom Karl was published in Science that flatly refuted the idea of a “pause.” It is one of many. But its high profile made it a target for attack. On Saturday, a feature in the UK’s Mail on Sunday by David Rose makes outrageous claims that were already disproven as the paper version hit stands, and that he has already had to in part correct. Rose, who has a history of inaccurate reporting, spins a scandal out of a letter by a former NOAA employee published on a climate change denial blog. The letter makes accusations of wrongdoing in the methodology and data archiving procedures used in the study. These accusations have already been shown to be faulty. Even if they were true, the implications have been blown out of proportion by Rose. Rebuttals were published in record time, as within minutes there was a tweet describing the story as “so wrong its hard to know where to start”:  (Climate Nexus)
  • ·         Factcheck: Mail on Sunday’s ‘astonishing evidence’ about global temperature rise This is a guest post by Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist and energy systems analyst at Berkeley Earth, an independent temperature analysis project. In an article in today’s Mail on Sunday, David Rose makes the extraordinary claim that “world leaders were duped into investing billions over manipulated global warming data”, accusing the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of manipulating the data to show more warming in a 2015 study by Tom Karl and coauthors. What he fails to mention is that the new NOAA results have been validated by independent data from satellites, buoys and Argo floats and that many other independent groups, including Berkeley Earth and the UK’s Met Office Hadley Centre, get effectively the same results. (February 5, 2017) Carbon Brief [more on Climate Change in our area]
  • ·         Contested NOAA paper had no influence on Paris climate deal Envoys from US, EU, Russia and South Africa reject claims that one piece of research in June 2015 shaped flagship UN climate pact Did a “landmark paper that exaggerated global warming” trick 195 governments into signing the Paris climate deal? That’s the bold claim in a Mail on Sunday article that, at time of writing, had been shared 36,000 times and boasted 1,600 comments. It’s a strong allegation, directed at a study from the reputable National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and one that was pounced upon by climate sceptic lawmakers in the US. “The Obama administration pushed their costly climate agenda at the expense of scientific integrity,” tweeted congressman Lamar Smith, a Republican who says climate science is bunkum. (February 6, 2017) Climate Home [more on Climate Change in our area]

While the US again ties itself up in climate denial, forever grubbing for ‘gotcha points’ in studies, articles, and discussion, the world worries.

These important words about understanding Climate Change by world renowned science communicator Dr. David Suzuki are worth noting. The US public and the media cannot just cherry-pick news and information about the complex issue of Climate Change. Climate Change, as much as possible, needs to be understood and communicated in the fullness of its impact and the exactness of its science.

Science is the most useful tool we have to adapt to climate change and avoid its worst outcomes. But it requires critical thinking and a big-picture perspective to ensure we consider all available evidence. With so many people scrolling through social media feeds for news rather than reading entire articles, facts and clarity can become elusive. It's up to us all -- media and consumers alike -- to dig deeper for the full story. (February 8, 2017, Understanding Climate Change Means Reading Beyond Headlines (Huffington Post)

Of course, physics always wins out. But will our attention have been turned away just long enough to relinquish any control we might have had over our destiny?

Time passes. 

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