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Occasional Thoughts on Climate Change


donsutherland1
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On 9/6/2020 at 11:59 PM, donsutherland1 said:

In its coverage of the extreme heat, the Los Angeles Times had a fairly lengthy discussion of climate change.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-09-05/heat-health-risks

This linkage to climate change provides important context for the newspaper’s readers and the general public. The Washington Post also provide climate change-related context when discussing California’s fires and extreme heat. The New York Times did not, depriving its readers of important insight into the events.

I'm surprised the NY Times didn't, they're pretty progressive on these topics!

I saw an analysis that shows that climate change has caused more pollution over the LA region (more smog), and that was a few years ago, before these fires became so common.

 

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I might be a bit pessimistic, but I suspect that it will take either the Millennial Generation or Generation Z to bring about the big changes needed. By that time, the societal commitment to even greater warming will already have been made by current policy choices. Tragically, the status quo has too much momentum at present. Generations preceding the Millenial Generation are, by and large, overly committed to the status quo. We are exceptions to that condition. These earlier generations see fossil fuels as an immutable part of the energy landscape. In contrast, at least the early opinion polling shows that the Millennials reject notions of a fossil fuel constraint. They don't see the industry as "untouchable." But for now, their political influence is limited.

Historic experience reveals that societies can make great technological leaps over very short periods of time. Development of the atomic bomb, the technologies needed to reach and return from the moon safely, and the rapid emergence and development of the Internet and related technologies provide some examples.

The energy sector, with some modest exceptions, has been relatively stagnant when compared against the above examples. Advances have been incremental e.g., how to extract hard-to-reach fossil fuels via fracking, etc., as opposed to the development of carbon free sources despite the companies' possessing enormous financial resources and engineering talent.

Absent sustained and growing pressure for big and rapid change e.g., the kind of pressure present during the Manhattan Project, large parts of the energy sector could well remain a relative backwater. The Millennials and Generation Z will likely place increasing pressure for big breakthroughs through their societal choices. Both see addressing climate change as the biggest and most urgent issue confronting their generation.  As their political clout grows, they will likely favor policy changes that require fossil fuel companies to pay for externalities associated with carbon pollution--and yes, pollution is the correct term, as excessive dumping of even naturally-occurring compounds can be hazardous to the environment.  Once that happens, the balance of incentives will shift toward carbon-free energy.  Ensuring that fossil fuel producers pay the full costs of their carbon pollution would probably accomplish far more than simply eliminating tax expenditures that help incentivize such production.

One complicating factor is that certain countries such as Russia and Saudi Arabia, even if the U.S. changes its policy course, may stubbornly persist in producing and marketing fossil fuels. They may even subsidize them to a greater extent than exists today to keep such energy sources viable.

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In a paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research on August 20, 1988, Dr. James Hansen and seven co-authors wrote, "Our model results suggest that global greenhouse warming will soon rise above the level of natural climate variability." They explained that if the temperature "rises and remains for a few years above an appropriate significance level, which we have argued is about 0.4°C for 99% confidence (3σ), it will constitute convincing evidence of a cause and effect relationship i.e., a 'smoking gun,' in current vernacular.” Today, global temperatures are routinely more than 0.4°C above what they were in 1988. That forecast for greenhouse gas warming was arguably the greatest long-range weather or climate forecast ever made.

In the research that built upon that work and new findings that followed, the world's climate scientists warned that adding heat to the global climate system would lead to more weather extremes (temperature, precipitation, drought, and storms). They warned that the consequences of such extremes would be severe.

Last year, Europe experienced its worst heat waves in history. At the height of the extreme heat, Paris saw the temperature soar to a previously unthinkable 109°. Anchorage reached 90° for the first time on record in a summer that saw June, July, and August all set monthly records for warmth. This year, Siberia was gripped by exceptional warmth that saw the temperature soar to 100° within the Arctic Circle. Phoenix experienced its warmest summer on record. Death Valley registered a 130° temperature, which is likely the highest reliably recorded temperature in world history during the instrument record. Greater heat, more prolonged heat waves, and more frequent  compound high minimum and maximum temperature extremes were forecast by the climate scientists. Those forecasts proved accurate.

Australia's record-breaking fire season of summer 2019-20 was no fluke. The West Coast's current fire season, its worst fire season on record, which has already seen 2.3 million acres burned in California, is no random occurrence either. A growing body of scientific literature revealed the growing risk of a hellish trinity of heat, drought, and fire. In an act of responsible journalism, The Washington Post linked the raging West Coast wildfires to climate change explaining, "The wildfires come after a record-shattering heat wave and amid human-caused climate change that is heightening fire risks, along with temperatures, in the West." Such context is the lowest common denominator of sound journalism in the era of climate change.

Imagine, for a second that seasonal forecasts for the winter ahead or summer ahead calling for one's preferred weather verified over and over and over again. One would hail those making the forecasts.

Such acclaim has not been showered on the world's climate scientists. Yet, the level of skill described above in the hypothetical seasonal forecasts has actually been demonstrated by the world's climate scientists, at least as far as the cause of climate change and its big picture implications are concerned. They have been right over and over again. That public policy has been frozen does not detract from the outstanding results they have demonstrated from their work.

The enormous body of evidence built by the world's climate scientists coupled with the lack of a body of evidence for alternative explanations of even a fraction of this evidence demonstrates that there is no reasonable explanation for the observed warming since the mid-20th century except for anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Human activities and the greenhouse gases emitted from those activities--not the sun, not the oceans, and not "hail Mary" appeals to cosmic rays--are the principal driver of the observed warming. The case for AGW has been proved in the scientific literature. AGW has been experienced by people in real life in the now annual or more frequent return of "once-in-a generation" or even "hundred-year" events.  Human greenhouse gas emissions are now leaving behind the world in which humans first evolved and bestowing on future generations a completely different world in which humans might never have evolved.

The scientific arguments are over. The scientific debate has ended.

Society has a moral obligation to render the correct verdict based solely on the evidence before it. The case for AGW has been proved. It has been proved well beyond the threshold of "beyond a reasonable doubt." Now, concrete action must follow.

 

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42 minutes ago, Fantom X said:

Isn't there  a lag between the CO2 emissions and the effect on temperature? I read somewhere that the effects we are feeling today are the result of emissions from 10-20 years ago, which means if we stop today, we still have 10-20 years of lag.. 

Yes, there’s a lag. That’s why scientists refer to “committed warming.”

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The State of Delaware has filed a lawsuit against 31 fossil fuel organizations seeking compensation for harm caused from greenhouse gas emissions and for harm likely to unfold. The lawsuit notes that the companies being sued knew for 50 years about the adverse consequences of dumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It notes that despite this knowledge, the defendants engaged in a campaign of deception and misleading information to undermine public support for addressing greenhouse gas pollution.

The complaint can be found here:

https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/wdel.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/3/2c/32c98e72-f3aa-11ea-8767-a3c54f1f6015/5f5a9699de2fd.pdf.pdf

 

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On 9/9/2020 at 12:20 PM, donsutherland1 said:

I might be a bit pessimistic, but I suspect that it will take either the Millennial Generation or Generation Z to bring about the big changes needed. By that time, the societal commitment to even greater warming will already have been made by current policy choices. Tragically, the status quo has too much momentum at present. Generations preceding the Millenial Generation are, by and large, overly committed to the status quo. We are exceptions to that condition. These earlier generations see fossil fuels as an immutable part of the energy landscape. In contrast, at least the early opinion polling shows that the Millennials reject notions of a fossil fuel constraint. They don't see the industry as "untouchable." But for now, their political influence is limited.

Historic experience reveals that societies can make great technological leaps over very short periods of time. Development of the atomic bomb, the technologies needed to reach and return from the moon safely, and the rapid emergence and development of the Internet and related technologies provide some examples.

The energy sector, with some modest exceptions, has been relatively stagnant when compared against the above examples. Advances have been incremental e.g., how to extract hard-to-reach fossil fuels via fracking, etc., as opposed to the development of carbon free sources despite the companies' possessing enormous financial resources and engineering talent.

Absent sustained and growing pressure for big and rapid change e.g., the kind of pressure present during the Manhattan Project, large parts of the energy sector could well remain a relative backwater. The Millennials and Generation Z will likely place increasing pressure for big breakthroughs through their societal choices. Both see addressing climate change as the biggest and most urgent issue confronting their generation.  As their political clout grows, they will likely favor policy changes that require fossil fuel companies to pay for externalities associated with carbon pollution--and yes, pollution is the correct term, as excessive dumping of even naturally-occurring compounds can be hazardous to the environment.  Once that happens, the balance of incentives will shift toward carbon-free energy.  Ensuring that fossil fuel producers pay the full costs of their carbon pollution would probably accomplish far more than simply eliminating tax expenditures that help incentivize such production.

One complicating factor is that certain countries such as Russia and Saudi Arabia, even if the U.S. changes its policy course, may stubbornly persist in producing and marketing fossil fuels. They may even subsidize them to a greater extent than exists today to keep such energy sources viable.

Decades from now, should humanity survive, this period will represent a great case study for historians and psychologists on how society can be influenced by a few very powerful people.

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4 hours ago, donsutherland1 said:

The State of Delaware has filed a lawsuit against 31 fossil fuel organizations seeking compensation for harm caused from greenhouse gas emissions and for harm likely to unfold. The lawsuit notes that the companies being sued knew for 50 years about the adverse consequences of dumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It notes that despite this knowledge, the defendants engaged in a campaign of deception and misleading information to undermine public support for addressing greenhouse gas pollution.

The complaint can be found here:

https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/wdel.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/3/2c/32c98e72-f3aa-11ea-8767-a3c54f1f6015/5f5a9699de2fd.pdf.pdf

 

also being sued by NJ and NY and 19 other states to allocate funds to combat climate change induced sea level rise and forest fires.

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3 hours ago, LibertyBell said:

Decades from now, should humanity survive, this period will represent a great case study for historians and psychologists on how society can be influenced by a few very powerful people.

This period will add to the literature. Influence can be skewed by, among other things, personality and capacity for reach. Examples include the numerous demagogic figures in history, the role of certain companies such as the East India Company that impacted British policy or more recently the tobacco companies (and currently fossil fuel companies) and their impact on public policy, and contemporary talk radio hosts who command large audiences despite possessing no expertise in the fields they usually comment on e.g., they all deny climate change. They have built their audiences through a combination of tapping into and festering senses of perceived grievance. Incitement to fear and envy has worked before in fomenting almost tribal divisions and tribal identity, now it is being applied on radio and also select cable TV outlets. 

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1 minute ago, donsutherland1 said:

This period will add to the literature. Influence can be skewed by, among other things, personality and capacity for reach. Examples include the numerous demagogic figures in history, the role of certain companies such as the East India Company that impacted British policy or more recently the tobacco companies (and currently fossil fuel companies) and their impact on public policy, and contemporary talk radio hosts who command large audiences despite possessing no expertise in the fields they usually comment on e.g., they all deny climate change. They have built their audiences through a combination of tapping into and festering senses of perceived grievance. Incitement to fear and envy has worked before in fomenting almost tribal divisions and tribal identity, now it is being applied on radio and also select cable TV outlets. 

You know your history well!  I was recently watching a series on PBS that talked about the undue influence of both the British and Dutch East India Companies, the very first multinational corporations.  Yet another excuse for colonialism.  Colonialism still happens today just differently.

 

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From LiveScience.com:

Now, in a new study published today (Sept. 10) in the journal Science, researchers have analyzed the chemical elements in thousands of foram samples to build the most detailed climate record of Earth ever — and it reveals just how dire our current climate situation is... 

According to the researchers, the current pace of anthropogenic global warming far exceeds the natural climate fluctuations seen at any other point in the Cenozoic era, and has the potential to hyper-drive our planet out of a long icehouse phase into a searing hothouse state.

"Now that we have succeeded in capturing the natural climate variability, we can see that the projected anthropogenic warming will be much greater than that," study co-author James Zachos, professor of Earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said in a statement. "The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections for 2300 in the 'business-as-usual' scenario will potentially bring global temperature to a level the planet has not seen in 50 million years."

https://www.livescience.com/oldest-climate-record-ever-cenozoic-era.html

 

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From LiveScience.com:

Now, in a new study published today (Sept. 10) in the journal Science, researchers have analyzed the chemical elements in thousands of foram samples to build the most detailed climate record of Earth ever — and it reveals just how dire our current climate situation is... 

According to the researchers, the current pace of anthropogenic global warming far exceeds the natural climate fluctuations seen at any other point in the Cenozoic era, and has the potential to hyper-drive our planet out of a long icehouse phase into a searing hothouse state.

"Now that we have succeeded in capturing the natural climate variability, we can see that the projected anthropogenic warming will be much greater than that," study co-author James Zachos, professor of Earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said in a statement. "The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections for 2300 in the 'business-as-usual' scenario will potentially bring global temperature to a level the planet has not seen in 50 million years."

https://www.livescience.com/oldest-climate-record-ever-cenozoic-era.html

 

We would never get close to that because civilization would collapse well before that if not in the next decade or two from disaster after disaster.

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On 9/9/2020 at 12:20 PM, donsutherland1 said:

I might be a bit pessimistic, but I suspect that it will take either the Millennial Generation or Generation Z to bring about the big changes needed. By that time, the societal commitment to even greater warming will already have been made by current policy choices. Tragically, the status quo has too much momentum at present. Generations preceding the Millenial Generation are, by and large, overly committed to the status quo. We are exceptions to that condition. These earlier generations see fossil fuels as an immutable part of the energy landscape. In contrast, at least the early opinion polling shows that the Millennials reject notions of a fossil fuel constraint. They don't see the industry as "untouchable." But for now, their political influence is limited.

Historic experience reveals that societies can make great technological leaps over very short periods of time. Development of the atomic bomb, the technologies needed to reach and return from the moon safely, and the rapid emergence and development of the Internet and related technologies provide some examples.

The energy sector, with some modest exceptions, has been relatively stagnant when compared against the above examples. Advances have been incremental e.g., how to extract hard-to-reach fossil fuels via fracking, etc., as opposed to the development of carbon free sources despite the companies' possessing enormous financial resources and engineering talent.

Absent sustained and growing pressure for big and rapid change e.g., the kind of pressure present during the Manhattan Project, large parts of the energy sector could well remain a relative backwater. The Millennials and Generation Z will likely place increasing pressure for big breakthroughs through their societal choices. Both see addressing climate change as the biggest and most urgent issue confronting their generation.  As their political clout grows, they will likely favor policy changes that require fossil fuel companies to pay for externalities associated with carbon pollution--and yes, pollution is the correct term, as excessive dumping of even naturally-occurring compounds can be hazardous to the environment.  Once that happens, the balance of incentives will shift toward carbon-free energy.  Ensuring that fossil fuel producers pay the full costs of their carbon pollution would probably accomplish far more than simply eliminating tax expenditures that help incentivize such production.

One complicating factor is that certain countries such as Russia and Saudi Arabia, even if the U.S. changes its policy course, may stubbornly persist in producing and marketing fossil fuels. They may even subsidize them to a greater extent than exists today to keep such energy sources viable.

We (M and Gen Z) have precious little wealth (~4% of the total according to analysis by American Compass and others) and influence. Getting us to vote is harder partially due to the fact that many feel that they don't have a stake in the economic system and little hope for change. While I do think we'll eventually overcome that, it may take a considerable amount of time. Time we don't really have. We're just trying to hang on to survive economically and in a lot of cases -- emotionally. Case in point: combine_images-24.jpg?auto=compress%2Cformat&q=90&w=1024&h=591
 

Source:

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm#suggestedcitation

 

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6 minutes ago, csnavywx said:

We (M and Gen Z) have precious little wealth (~4% of the total according to analysis by American Compass and others) and influence. Getting us to vote is harder partially due to the fact that many feel that they don't have a stake in the economic system and little hope for change. While I do think we'll eventually overcome that, it may take a considerable amount of time. Time we don't really have. We're just trying to hang on to survive economically and in a lot of cases -- emotionally. Case in point: combine_images-24.jpg?auto=compress%2Cformat&q=90&w=1024&h=591
 

Source:

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm#suggestedcitation

 

Yes. I am aware of the great adversity that has confronted the Millennial Generation (both the financial crisis/great recession and then the pandemic/severe recession). Generation Z, at least the older members, are also facing severe challenges. It would be nice if more from the earlier generations would assist more with climate challenge, but I worry that this won't be the case. Breaking the inertia, despite the overwhelming body of evidence, is frustratingly difficult.

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From NPR:

Legates confirmed to NPR that he was recently hired as NOAA's deputy assistant secretary of commerce for observation and prediction. The position suggests that he reports directly to Neil Jacobs, the acting head of the agency that is in charge of the federal government's sprawling weather and climate prediction work.

Neither Legates nor NOAA representatives responded to questions about Legates' specific responsibilities or why he was hired. The White House also declined to comment.

Legates has a long history of using his position as an academic scientist to publicly cast doubt on climate science. His appointment to NOAA comes as Americans face profound threats stoked by climate change, from the vast, deadly wildfires in the West to an unusually active hurricane season in the South and East.

https://www.npr.org/2020/09/12/912301325/longtime-climate-science-denier-hired-at-noaa

This is a disturbing development. The NOAA has outstanding scientists. Individuals such as Legates (not to mention Jacobs) only undermine the NOAA’s performance and reputation. Hopefully, Congress will weigh in and, if there is a new Administration, Legates would be dismissed.

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41 minutes ago, LibertyBell said:

Did you see the replies, Don?  Looks like FakeBook has been doing this for years!

 

I did read the replies. It's a disconcerting situation. Facebook, in its present state, undermines societal information literacy. It helps deprive the public of useful and important information. That's deeply unfortunate given its large membership.

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6 minutes ago, donsutherland1 said:

I did read the replies. It's a disconcerting situation. Facebook, in its present state, undermines societal information literacy. It helps deprive the public of useful and important information. That's deeply unfortunate given its large membership.

Don, on a more positive note, this is breaking news from the British RAS

 

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8 minutes ago, donsutherland1 said:

I did read the replies. It's a disconcerting situation. Facebook, in its present state, undermines societal information literacy. It helps deprive the public of useful and important information. That's deeply unfortunate given its large membership.

One of the higher execs in FB regularly attends Trump banquets.

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Since this is about sustainability too, I should mention I read a bunch of articles on Bloomberg today that talk about how it's great that people are switching from dairy to plant-based milk.  It's great for the dairy industry too, as milk costs a lot for them to produce and then has a limited storage life, so they've been switching to making more plant-based milk too.  Switching from animal farming to more of a plant-based diet is a win/win both for the environment and for our health.
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A useful op-ed from 2018 on climate change from Gavin Schmidt, Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/24/opinion/climate-change-global-warming-trump.html

Excerpt:

Like forensic detectives, climate scientists have developed a new array of tools in recent decades designed to skillfully calculate what the fingerprints of these changes look like, and more important, how they differ from one another. It turns out that increases in solar activity produce warming throughout the atmosphere, while carbon dioxide increases cooling in the upper atmosphere and warms the surface. Variations in ocean circulation distribute heat, while changes in the sun or in greenhouse gases change the total heat amount in the system. Air pollution, volcanoes and irrigation all cool the climate, while rising greenhouse gases warm it. Ozone depletion has increased the speed of the winds around Antarctica, affecting ocean circulation and sea ice. 

But even taking into account uncertainties in the amount of air pollution in the 19th century or in estimating global temperatures through time, scientists have concluded that the current warmth is impossible to explain without human contributions. It is on a par with the likelihood that a DNA match at a crime scene is purely coincidental.

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In the United States, there is little talk about binding medium-term commitments to 100% renewable energy. Any such commitments, where they exist, lie decades into the future to 2050 or later.

In contrast, tiny New Zealand, which has so far demonstrated world-class leadership in managing the coronavirus pandemic, provides an example of leadership on the climate change policy front. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appears poised to commit to 100% renewable energy by 2030 if she is re-elected.

Australia's SBS News reported:

Looking to deepen her clean, green credentials in the lead-up to October's election, Jacinda Ardern has promised to bring forward New Zealand's renewable energy goal.

If re-elected as prime minister, Ms Ardern says she'll end all non-renewable energy generation in New Zealand by the end of the decade.

"The COVID-19 economic recovery represents a once in a generation opportunity to reshape New Zealand's energy system to be more renewable, faster, affordable and secure," she said on Thursday.

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/jacinda-ardern-pledges-to-end-non-renewable-energy-generation-by-2030-if-she-s-re-elected

As noted previously, the United States would do well to view the climate change crisis with the same urgency and undertake the same effort that was displayed in pursuing the Manhattan Project, Apollo Project, addressing the Ozone hole, and combating acid rain.  All four examples demonstrate that ambitious and effective problem-solving can be achieved within tight time frames with sound leadership, even when new technologies must be invented. The biggest obstacles confronting the U.S. today are defeatist "can't be done" pessimism, outright denial of the climate change problem among a small but still not insignificant share of the public, and entrenched anti-science ideology among a segment of the population and political leaders.

 

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