Year 4, Month 1, Day 9: Maui Wowee?

The Honolulu Weekly notes that climate change has arrived in Hawaii:

For years we’ve been hearing ominous rumblings about climate change and its many implications for the planet, especially Hawaii and other islands in the Western Pacific. The scenarios fueled by a rapidly expanding body of science are sobering: rising temperatures and prolonged droughts, dying coral reefs and dwindling fish stocks. Rising sea levels will eventually, for some atolls and low-lying areas of Hawaii, bring total inundation.

“We have lots and lots of science,” says Jesse Souki, director of the Office of State Planning (OSP). “We have a pretty good idea of what the problem is, and what’s going to happen. The hard part is figuring out what to do about it.”

The islands make a good hook for a standard screed on GOP idiocy. Sent January 4:

Hawaii isn’t alone. Every day, nations, states, regions and communities around the world are find that climate change is no longer an abstraction but a difficult and sometimes dangerous reality. When the weather goes haywire, farmers can’t plan. When out-of-season storms start happening more and more often, the whole notion of “season” goes out the window — along with vulnerable infrastructure. When mountaintop ice vanishes, people in the valleys who’ve depended on glacial melt for their water are forced from the land they’ve occupied for millennia. And when islands are under threat from rising sea levels, tourism may take a back seat to simple survival.

But while people everywhere on Earth are waking up to the threat of climate chaos, there is still one place where the rapidly metastasizing greenhouse effect has failed to make an impact. In the offices and caucus rooms of Congressional Republicans, global warming is still a liberal hoax, not a potentially devastating reality. While these conservative lawmakers may answer to different constituencies, they all represent, ultimately, the same state of denial.

Warren Senders


Year 3, Month 12, Day 24: Give Peace A Chance

The Vancouver Star anticipates problems:

METRO VANCOUVER – The combination of a king tide and a surging storm that pummelled parts of Vancouver’s iconic seawall Monday are symptomatic of what climate change and rising sea levels could mean for the region, according to an expert.

Oceanographer Susan Allen said that in coming years, the flooding seen in parts of Metro Vancouver’s waterfront could occur outside a “coincidence” like Monday’s heavy wind and rain that combined with the so-called king tides, which are nearing the end of their month-long peak in British Columbia.

“In the future we won’t have to have quite so high a tide at the time of a storm surge to get exactly what we had today because the water will be a little higher,” Allen said. “The important thing is “and.”

“If you get global warming and a big tide and a storm surge then we (have) problems.”

No argument there. Sent December 18:

As Arctic ice continues to melt, the world’s coastlines are going to be dramatically transformed. And with these changes will come a new assortment of dangers, exemplified in such recent weather disasters as Superstorm Sandy and Typhoon Bopha. Cities up and down the coastline of North America will need to start planning for such events with the certainty of “when,” not the ambiguity of “if.”

This means that a great many things will have to change. Urban planners can no longer assume a business-as-usual model when it comes to the impact of a transformed climate on major population centers. To avoid tragedies of Brobdingnagian proportions during the coming centuries, the world’s nations must prepare carefully and cooperatively. Infrastructure must be strengthened, emergency response mechanisms augmented, and worst-case scenarios prepared for; all these are expensive propositions, until you consider the alternative: gigadeaths on a scale dwarfing all of humanity’s wars combined.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 11, Day 26: Casey Jones, You’d Better Watch Your Speed.

The Delmarva News (VA) hears some of them expert-ish types predictin’ mighty big troubles comin’ down the pike:

WALLOPS — Coastal communities including the Eastern Shore of Virginia need to begin to prepare for changes in the climate, according to two experts who spoke at the NASA Visitor’s Center at Wallops about adapting to climate change.

The climate is changing at “an increasingly rapid rate,” so much that scientists can no longer use the past to predict the future, said Joel D. Scheraga, Senior Advisor for Climate Adaptation at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Policy. Scheraga in addition to his role at the EPA has worked with the World Health Organization and the 2007 Nobel Prize-winning United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“The bottom line is, climate change is making it more difficult for our communities to attain the goals that they want to get to in their communities. We have to begin to adapt,” he said.

More hippies. Sent November 21:

Given that scientific language is usually conservative and understated, climatologists’ use of phrases like “an increasingly rapid rate” when discussing climate change should be a warning to us all: big troubles ahead. Between rising sea levels brought on by melting Arctic ice and the rising probability of extreme weather events like superstorm Sandy, the twenty-first century is going to be a dangerous one for the Eastern US coastline, which is going to change shape dramatically in the blink of a geological eye.

While an ounce of planning in 2012 will be worth a pound of FEMA in 2030, the grim fact is that the proper time to start preparing for runaway climate change was around 1970. The last forty years of inaction (sponsored by fossil fuel lobbyists in Congress and the White House, along with the increasingly powerful anti-science wing of the GOP) is going to have painful consequences n the decades to come. Any further procrastination may make the difference between serious inconvenience and utter catastrophe.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 11, Day 8: When You Need Advice On Running An Army, Be Sure To Ask A Hippie

Well, it looks like Wall Street got wet. Forbes Magazine asks, “What If Mike Bloomberg Is Right And A Climate Change Nightmare Is Here?”

Lower Manhattan was almost entirely without power, probably until tomorrow. Staten Island was devastated. At least 38 New Yorkers are dead. The devastation in the nearby Jersey Shore is even worse. Nobody knows when the subway system will be running between Manhattan and other boroughs again. It’s true, as ProPublica pointed out, that the hospital evacuations are part of an epidemic of hospital generators failing during natural disasters, and that the generators were, in the words of NYU Langone trustee Gary Cohn, “not state-of-the art and not in the most state-of-the art location.” We couldn’t come to emotional terms with the destruction a fourteen foot wall of water could do to this city. Now we don’t have any choice.

“In just 14 months, two hurricanes have forced us to evacuate neighborhoods — something our city government had never done before. If this is a trend, it is simply not sustainable,” wrote New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his endorsement of President Barack Obama. “Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be — given this week’s devastation — should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”

Why not ask some climatologists for advice on your investment strategies? That’d probably work as well or better than asking an apologist for capitalism for his opinion on climate. Sheesh. Better late than never, I suppose. Sent November 2:

What if Mike Bloomberg is right on climate change? A very good question indeed, but not the one that really needs asking.

If it takes an extreme weather event of Sandy’s magnitude to get him to recognize that climate scientists knew what they’ve been talking about all along, what does that say about the ability of the private sector to recognize and acknowledge expertise in any area? If environmentalists’ predictions are coming true, can the business community even realize that it’s been on the wrong side of both science and history?

If business leaders finally acknowledge that climate change is real, human-caused and dangerous to humanity, can they take the next step, and recognize that our planet’s resources and resilience are finite, and cannot support an economic model predicated on continuous growth? Can market capitalism transform itself into an agent of long-term sustainability rather than accelerating consumption and waste?

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 11, Day 5: Turn Off Your Mind, Relax And Float Downstream…

The San Jose Mercury News wonders:

The debate over global warming has often turned at key points after major weather events. After a presidential campaign in which neither candidate said much on the issue, could Hurricane Sandy put it back in the spotlight?

Sure. News at 11. Sent October 30:

Hurricane Sandy could well do for climate-change awareness what a major celebrity death did for AIDS or Alzheimer’s disease. That is, make the accelerating greenhouse effect and its consequences a focus of the kind of media attention normally reserved for celebrity scandals or TV season premieres.

That’s good news and bad news. It’s good news because climate change is overwhelmingly the single most significant issue affecting our country’s future and the lives of our descendants. Our collective lack of attention has set us back several decades when it comes to addressing the threat — so any coverage is better than none.

It’s bad news because what we need from the media is an intelligent discussion of a complex subject. If climate change is treated with the breathless superficiality that characterizes contemporary news coverage, our citizenry, and our politicians, will never fully understand why action is essential. Let’s get serious. Now.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 10, Day 19: Shut Up He Explained

The Naples Daily News (FL) wonders about something:

NAPLES — A national organization of scientists wants President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney to turn their attention to the sea during the final presidential debate in Florida later this month.

The Union of Concerned Scientists on Thursday sent a letter to the candidates, urging them to address rising sea levels during campaign stops across the state. The letter, which was signed by more than 120 Florida city and county government officials and scientists, also asks the candidates to address the issue during their last presidential debate on Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton.

Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah was the only Southwest Florida elected official who signed the letter. Judah declined to comment about his decision to sign the letter.

According to the letter, Florida already is feeling the effects of sea level rise, and it “jeopardizes the health, safety and economic well-being of our communities.” The letter points to increased flooding, salt water intrusion of inland water storage and failing flood control structures as signs that rising sea levels need to be addressed at all levels of government.

Not gonna happen. Because FREEDOM, bitches! Sent October 12:

It would be wonderful to see the candidates asked substantial questions about climate change in their upcoming debates. Given the undeniable threat posed by the runaway greenhouse effect (to say nothing of oceanic acidification and thawing Arctic methane, two other nightmares emerging from our past century of CO2 emissions), it would seem absurd to ignore the problem.

And yet this is all too likely what will happen. The sad fact of the matter is that America’s economy is more like an overloaded Hummer than a nimble Prius, with multinational fossil fuel corporations in the driver’s seat. These organizations are loath to relinquish even a tiny bit of their extraordinary profit margins, even if it means denying the existence of a problem far greater in scope, and graver in consequences, than any of the issues currently occupying the attention of our media and political establishments.

This is irresponsibility of unprecedented magnitude.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 7, Day 12: The Snooze Button Lasts For Twenty Thousand Years

The local “Metro-West” paper runs a piece by Rick Holmes, who’s clearly just another DFH:

Mountain pine beetles are tiny critters, the size of a grain of rice. They bore under the bark of Western pine trees, infecting them with a fatal fungus that turns their trunks blue, dries their needles to a rusty red, and then they fall.

Cold winters kill off the beetle larvae and keep populations in check, but over the last 20 years, cold winters have become fewer and farther between. The beetles have taken full advantage of changes in the climate. They are thriving at higher altitudes and have expanded their range. They now reproduce twice a year instead of once.

In the last few years, the beetles have ravaged Rocky Mountain forests from upper Canada to New Mexico. The blight has deadened 3.3 million acres of forest in Colorado alone.

A long-running drought has left those dead pines extra crispy, and Colorado has been seeing record heat. Denver hit 105 degrees this week, and Colorado Springs has had a string of 100 degree days.

Add a spark and what to you get? Colorado is in flames. The Waldo Canyon fire near Colorado Springs, having burned thousands of acres and destroyed hundreds of homes, is the most destructive fire in state history. It broke the record set the week before by the High Park fire outside Fort Collins.

It’s still early in the wildfire season, but everything seems to be coming early this year. Hurricane season is young, but we’re already up to E for named storms. It was a warm winter here in New England as well, and the flowers seem to be blooming about three weeks ahead of schedule.

Watch the mockery begin! Sent July 1:

For a long time, the word “alarmist” appeared regularly in the arsenal of right-wing pejoratives. Anyone pointing out some of the consequences of a runaway greenhouse effect would be labeled a “climate alarmist” and mocked for presumed fealty to Al Gore (or, in Rush Limbaugh’s vernacular, “algore”). Watch what happens to Rick Holmes, who has the temerity to continue talking about the slow-motion emergency that is global climate change.

Climate scientists are the diagnostic physicians of our planet, and their increasingly urgent emergency signals have been ignored for decades by politicians and the media. Fortunately, more Americans are gradually accepting reality (even Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, who acknowledged climate change recently while blithely asserting that humanity will “adapt” to its new environment).

As the world sets high-temperature records, as Colorado burns, and the seas rise far faster than experts had anticipated, “climate alarmism” is looking increasingly like simple common sense.

Warren Senders


Year 3, Month 7, Day 7: History Is A Bunk Bed

More on rising East coast seas, from the Andover (MA) Eagle-Tribune:

If you think there are flooding problems in the region now, just wait — it’s going to get a whole lot worse, according to a study released Sunday by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Scientists have found that our coastline is part of a unique, 600-mile-long “hot spot” along the Atlantic Coast where sea levels are rising at a significantly faster rate than the world as a whole — three to four times faster. The hot spot stretches down the Atlantic Coast from north of Boston to North Carolina.

“Flooding right now is an annoyance, but it will be more of an annoyance and bad enough that you’ll think twice about parking your car in the driveway if there’s a storm coming and it’s the spring tide,” said Peter Howd, a co-author on the study and a contracted oceanographer with the U.S. Geological Survey.

This letter was inspired by the comments (q.v.). Sent June 26:

When human society pays attention to time spans larger than an individual lifetime, that’s called “civilization.”

For a quick and dirty education in the problems inherent in short-term thinking, watch climate-change denialists’ reactions to the U.S. Geological Survey’s study showing drastic sea-level rises along the East coast. While a few may stubbornly cling to their repeatedly-debunked conspiracy theories (Al Gore’s gonna confiscate your SUV!), the majority will loudly assert that since the problems are predicted to happen over the next hundred years, it’s pointless to worry about them.

Climate change is a significant threat already, and it’s projected to get a lot worse within our lifetimes. Those who use cheap faux-populist rhetoric against the dedicated work of climate scientists undermine the civility essential to public discourse; those who would bequeath our posterity a ruined and inhospitable planet are choosing to opt out of the multi-millennium project of human civilization.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 7, Day 6: Keep Your Eyes Wide

The Boston Globe:

As temperatures are projected to climb, polar ice to melt, and oceans to swell over the coming decades, Boston is likely to bear a disproportionate impact of rising sea levels, government scientists report in a new study.

The seas along the East Coast from North Carolina to New England are rising three to four times faster than the global average, and coastal cities, utilities, beaches, and wetlands are increasingly vulnerable to flooding, especially from storm surges, according to the US Geological Survey study published Sunday.

“Cities in the hot spot, like Norfolk, New York, and Boston, already experience damaging floods during relatively low-intensity storms,” said Asbury Sallenger, a Geological Survey oceanographer and lead author of the study in the journal Nature Climate Change. “Accelerated sea-level rise,” he said, will add to “the height that storm surges and breaking waves reach on the coast.”

Figured the times were ripe for a little bit of old Prophet Bob. Sent June 25:

The times they are indeed a’changin’. Climate-change denialists must be finding it difficult to cling to their bizarre conspiracy theories in the face of the latest reports from the U.S. Geological Survey, predicting that rising ocean levels will radically alter the East coast of the United States over the next few decades, a forecast entirely congruent with other scientific analyses of the effects from a melting Arctic ice cap.

The insurance industry’s changing its coverage model to account for damages caused by climate change; the American military’s developing new strategic protocols for a post-greenhouse-effect world; US intelligence agencies are trying to anticipate the geopolitical impact of global warming. These bastions of liberalism are all following Bob Dylan’s advice to “…admit that the waters around you have grown, and accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone.”

When will our Senators and Congressmen “please heed the call”?

Warren Senders


Year 3, Month 7, Day 4: Stop Me Before I Strike Again!

California’s gonna get a soaker sometime soon (SF Chronicle):

Global sea-level rise, induced by the warming climate, will hit California’s coastline harder than the other West Coast states over the coming decades and on through the end of the century, according to a new report from the National Research Council.

Oceans around the world are rising, but seas around California will rise even higher – by more than 3 feet before 2100, the report says. Tide gauges and satellites show that the rate of sea-level rise has increased steadily since 1900, and with each passing decade, storm surges and high waves will put low-lying regions like the Bay Area at heightened risk of dangerous flooding.

The forecasts come from the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences, which appointed the 12-member committee to investigate earlier estimates of sea-level rise and factor in all new available evidence. The result was a 260-page report issued Friday.

The report was commissioned primarily by California’s Department of Water Resources, along with state agencies from Oregon and Washington in order to aid their planning efforts.

Another job-killing bureaucracy to kill! Sent June 23:

The next few decades are going to be ones of drastic transition for many Americans. Insulated by our wealth and elaborate consumer lifestyle, we have lost sight of the fact that ultimately our lives entirely depend on our increasingly tenuous control of water.

Now, as rising oceans transform our coastlines, inland states anticipate water shortages. Even as our vulnerable aquifers are overused by an expanding population, climate change makes weather more unpredictable and droughts more extreme. It doesn’t take Nostradamus to see that this future isn’t going to be kind to us, despite the glib pronouncements of denialists in politics and the media.

In a sensible world, the National Research Council’s report on global sea-level rise would be a wake-up call for all of us, everywhere. Since our world is anything but sensible, what are the odds that the next Republican “jobs” bill will also eliminate funding for the NRC?

Warren Senders