Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Our Three Bombs

Published: October 6, 2009

I am a 56-year-old baby boomer, and looking around today it’s very clear that my generation had it easy: We grew up in the shadow of just one bomb — the nuclear bomb. That is, in our day, it seemed as if there was just one big threat that could trigger a nonlinear, 180-degree change in the trajectory of our lives: the Soviets hitting us with a nuke. My girls are not so lucky.

Today’s youth are growing up in the shadow of three bombs — any one of which could go off at any time and set in motion a truly nonlinear, radical change in the trajectory of their lives.

The first, of course, is still the nuclear threat, which, for my generation, basically came from just one seemingly rational enemy, the Soviet Union, with which we shared a doctrine of mutual assured destruction. Today, the nuclear threat can be delivered by all kinds of states or terrorists, including suicidal jihadists for whom mutual assured destruction is a delight, not a deterrent.

But there are now two other bombs our children have hanging over them: the debt bomb and the climate bomb.

As we continue to build up carbon in the atmosphere to unprecedented levels, we never know when the next emitted carbon molecule will tip over some ecosystem and trigger a nonlinear climate event — like melting the Siberian tundra and releasing all of its methane, or drying up the Amazon or melting all the sea ice in the North Pole in summer. And when one ecosystem collapses, it can trigger unpredictable changes in others that could alter our whole world.

To read the rest of the Op-Ed in the New York Times click here.

Climate change threaten's America's National Parks

Yellowstone is losing its white-bark pines (whose nuts are an important food source for the park's grizzlies). Rocky Mountain National Park is losing most, if not all, of its mature lodgepole pines. Mesa Verde has already lost most of its pinon pine trees. And more than trees are suffering from climate change: We might pack it in and pack it out, but human-generated greenhouse gas emissions have put our national parks in big trouble.

National Parks in Peril: The Threats of Climate Disruption, a report released by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization in collaboration with the National Resources Defense Council on October 1, identified the 25 national parks most adversely affected by climate change. Though the report stresses that all 391 parks are threatened, the report’s authors established 11 different types of risk to assess which parks were in the greatest danger. Whether it be due to loss of ice and snow, higher seas and coastal storms, intolerable heat or other factors, these parks are feeling the affects of a warming climate, now:

-Acadia National Park
-Assateague Island National Seashore
-Bandelier National Monument
-Biscayne National Park
-Cape Hatteras National Seashore
-Colonial National Historic Park
-Denali National Park
-Dry Tortugas National Park
-Ellis Island National Monument
-Everglades National Park
-Glacier National Park
-Great Smokey Mountains National Park
-Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
-Joshua Tree National Park
-Lake Mead National Recreation Area
-Mesa Verde National Park
-Mount Rainier National Park
-Padre Island National Seashore
-Rocky Mountain National Park
-Saguaro National Park
-Theodore Roosevelt National Park
-Virgin Islands National Park/Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument
-Yellowstone National Park
-Yosemite National Park
-Zion National Park

The report appealed to the Obama administration, Congress, and the National Park Services Department to accept that human disruption of the climate is the greatest threat ever to our national parks. It urges them to consider and implement 32 actions specific to national parks, including setting aside additional national park land, making a national commitment to becoming carbon neutral at all park sites, drastically lowering greenhouse gas emissions (20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050 based on current levels), and accelerating the implementation of clean energy technologies.

The report closes with a quote from Mike Finley, the former superintendent of Everglades, Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks:
The establishment and protection of the National Park System is one of the best ideas that America has institutionalized. Our parks provide inspiration, education, and enjoyment. Moreover, they represent some of our greatest resources of genetic and biological diversity and intact ecosystems. They are our seed banks for restoring the nation’s lands and waters already ravaged by our careless development and the early impacts of climate change. In one sense, they represent a life boat for our biological future. We need to take immediate action to reduce our use of fossil fuels and the resulting climate disruption before we sink our life boat and destroy the values and purposes of our national parks for future generations.
Looking for ways you can keep our parks from sinking under the weight of climate change? Check out:

Save Yellowstone and the Greater Rockies

The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization

National Resources Defense Council

And look for tips to green up your life in BACKPACKER's Green Scene.

-Jessie Lucier

National Parks in Peril

For the complete PDF click here.

Climate Disruption and Its Impacts


The World
The West

Climate Disruption
Climate Action



Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Apple quits the Chamber of Commerce over its "frustrating" global warming denialism

There has recently been a “business backlash” against the Chamber of Commerce over its refusal to accept the science of global warming and lobbying against climate change legislation. The New York Times reports today that the latest company to join this backlash is Apple, which wrote in a letter to the Chamber that it has been “frustrating” that the business federation has been fighting efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions:

We strongly object to the chamber’s recent comments opposing the E.P.A.’s effort to limit greenhouse gases,” wrote Catherine A. Novelli, the vice-president of worldwide government affairs at Apple, in a letter dated today and addressed to Thomas J. Donohue, president and chief executive of the chamber. Click here to read the letter.

“Apple supports regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and it is frustrating to find the chamber at odds with us in this effort,” Ms. Novelli continued.

Apple’s resignation was effective immediately, the letter said. The move comes a few weeks after Apple expanded the environmental disclosures on its products.

Apple joins Pacific Gas & Energy, Public Service Company of New Mexico, and Exelon in an ever-growing list of companies who are leaving the Chamber over its ideological opposition to any serious action over climate change.

Update Progressive Media has produced a video detailing how a parade of U.S. companies are leaving the Chamber because of its radical rejection of climate science. Watch it by clicking here.

Did global warming cause the Atlanta flood?

Stu Ostro, leader of the Weather Channel’s team of tornado, hurricane and climate experts just outside the Perimeter, describes himself as a reformed skeptic when it comes to the topic of man’s impact on climate.

But in a post over the weekend, Ostro raised the ultimate question: “Did global warming ‘cause’ the Atlanta flood?”

The post is long and complex, with charts and graphs as tough to wade through as Pumpkinvine Creek was 10 days ago. But here’s his summary toward the end:

…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.

In other words, the answer is yes.

Off the chain without a 'cane

Stu Ostro, The Weather Channel

That's what the weather was in the Atlanta metro area early last week, and things were wiggy in the U.S. for much of September. Usually during that month when there's wild weather, including precipitation extremes, it's as a result of a hurricane or tropical storm. Not in 2009.

This "ex-skeptic" hasn't blogged about climate change in a while. For that matter, I haven't blogged about anything for a while! Been a bit distracted, but it's time to jump in the water again. Or maybe I should say, time to dust off my Nomex suit and put it on!

Before you fire up the flamethrower, though, let me say what this long entry is NOT about.

It's not about H.R. 2454 (more commonly known as the Waxman-Markey bill).

And I'm not telling you that you can't drive your SUV.

This blog is about the effect of climate change upon day-to-day weather. About physics and thermodynamics not politics.

It was two years ago last week that I first thoroughly laid out the basic premise.

Nothing that's gone on in the atmosphere since then has convinced me otherwise, and I've continued to add gazillions of weather events to this PDF [56MB file, and now up to 529 slides]. My goal has been and continues to be to document and objectively analyze these cases.

There have been anomalies and extremes for as long as there has been weather on the planet; the key is to assess how they are now changing as the climate changes.

To review:

--The global climate is overall warmer than it was in the 1970s. (That shouldn't be too controversial a statement!)

--Technical talk: The atmospheric warming has resulted in an increase in 1000-500 millibar thicknesses. Those increased thicknesses are manifesting themselves primarily by an increase in 500 mb heights (particularly notable in mid-high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere), as there has not been a similar rise in 1000 mb heights. Although there is of course natural year-to-year variability, the overall trend at 500 mb has clearly been upward.

Analogy: It's like bread baking in the oven. As it warms, the dough expands in depth. Although the details of the science involved are different, the analogy works, which is that the depth (thickness) of a given layer of the atmosphere is increasing on average as that layer warms. Furthermore, in this case, the bottom of that atmospheric layer (1000 millibars) is not significantly changing, just as the bottom of the bread isn't (in that case, it's fixed by the bottom of the pan).

The rest of this fascinating post at is here.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New analysis brings dire global forecast of 6.3 degree temperature increase

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 25, 2009

Climate researchers now predict the planet will warm by 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century even if the world's leaders fulfill their most ambitious climate pledges, a much faster and broader scale of change than forecast just two years ago, according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations Environment Program.

The new overview of global warming research, aimed at marshaling political support for a new international climate pact by the end of the year, highlights the extent to which recent scientific assessments have outstripped the predictions issued by the Nobel Prize-winning U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007.

Robert Corell, who chairs the Climate Action Initiative and reviewed the UNEP report's scientific findings, said the significant global temperature rise is likely to occur even if industrialized and developed countries enact every climate policy they have proposed at this point. The increase is nearly double what scientists and world policymakers have identified as the upper limit of warming the world can afford in order to avert catastrophic climate change.

"We don't want to go there," said Corell, who collaborated with climate researchers at the Vermont-based Sustainability Institute, Massachusetts-based Ventana Systems and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to do the analysis. The team has revised its estimates since the U.N. report went to press and has posted the most recent figures at

The rest of the Washington Post article is here.