Climate change compendium: tracking our planetary calamity
This post is a continuously updated compilation of news and opinion on our ever-worsening climate calamity. Items are posted chronologically:
The climate crisis of the 21st century has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age, new research suggests.
NASA released global temperature data showing that this September tied with 2005 for the warmest September on record.
Climate change will pose sharp risks to the world’s food supply in coming decades, potentially undermining crop production and driving up prices at a time when the demand for food is expected to soar, scientists have found.
If greenhouse emissions continue their steady escalation, temperatures across most of the earth will rise to levels with no recorded precedent by the middle of this century.
Climate scientists are 95% confident — that is to say, surer than ever — that humans are responsible for at least “half of the observed increase in global average surface temperatures since the 1950s.” …weather events that have previously been classified as “storms of the century” could become the storm of “every 20 years or less.”
Sea ice cover in the Arctic has shrunk to the sixth lowest extent on record, according to figures from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).
Every climate scientist I’ve spoken to has said we will blow past 550 ppm [carbon dioxide concentrations] if we continue to put off action. Indeed, we’re on track for well past 800 ppm. Continued inaction on climate change risks the end of modern civilization as we know it.
Northeast Asia is on fire. Yesterday temperatures in Shanghai hit an all-time high of 105.4ºF (40.8ºC), the hottest day in the coastal megacity since Chinese officials began keeping records some 140 years ago — during the Qing dynasty.
Shifts in climate are strongly linked to increases in violence around the world, a study suggests. US scientists found that even small changes in temperature or rainfall correlated with a rise in assaults, rapes and murders, as well as group conflicts and war.
There is no longer any credible scientific debate about the basic facts: our world continues to warm, with the last decade the hottest in modern records, and the deep ocean warming faster than the earth’s atmosphere. Sea level is rising. Arctic Sea ice is melting years faster than projected. The costs of inaction are undeniable.
In an analysis published in 2012, Munich Re, global insurance giant, reported that disasters tied to extreme weather events have more than doubled worldwide since 1980.
The nation’s entire energy system is vulnerable to increasingly severe and costly weather events driven by climate change, according to a report from the Department of Energy.
As if climate change weren’t enough of a huge jerk, now we find out that it’s racist, too … according to the research, blacks, Asians, and Latinos are all significantly more likely to live in high-risk heat-island conditions than white people.
CO2 levels in the atmosphere topped 400 parts per million on May 19, for the first time since the Pleistocene era, over 2.5 million years ago. One step beyond, and it would be virtually impossible to put the brake on human-generated climate change.
Obama expressed concerns about the political pain involved [in addressing climate change], saying that “dial testing” of his State of the Union speech showed that the favorability ratings “plummeted” when he vowed to act on climate change if Congress refused to do so.
Global emissions of carbon dioxide from energy use rose 1.4 percent to 31.6 gigatons in 2012, setting a record and putting the planet on course for temperature increases well above international climate goals.”
Climate science keeps getting stronger — as does our warming-driven extreme weather — but Obama’s rhetoric and moral urgency appears to be getting weaker and weaker.
We are now four months into Mr. Obama’s second term, and there is no visible sign of a coherent strategy.
“We are in the midst of dramatic assault on the security of the food supply” … The primary culprit of all this menu mayhem is climate change, which is choking off certain crops already weakened by both genetic tinkering and chemically based farming, some experts contend.
“The 400 is a reminder that our emissions are not only continuing, but they’re accelerating; that’s a scary thing … we’re stuck. We’re going to keep going up.”
The last time the carbon dioxide level was this high was at least three million years ago … and the sea level might have been as much as 60 or 80 feet higher. “It takes a long time to melt ice, but we’re doing it,” Dr. Keeling said. “It’s scary.”
The world is likely days away from a “sobering milestone” in our planetary history. Concentrations of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide will likely reach 400 parts per million (ppm) for first time in human history … The last time the greenhouse gases were at 400 ppm was likely the Pliocene epoch, between 3.2 million and 5 million years ago.
The rate of heat building up on Earth over the past decade is equivalent to detonating about 4 Hiroshima atomic bombs per second.
Major changes to the food chain, weather and landscape of Antarctica have provided stark evidence of the impact of global warming, a report on a polar expedition has revealed.
37% of voters believe global warming is a hoax, 51% do not. Republicans say global warming is a hoax by a 58-25 margin, Democrats disagree 11-77, and Independents are more split at 41-51.
Half the world’s population is now too young to have lived through the last colder-than-average month, February 1985.
The rate of warming since 1900 is 50 times greater than the rate of cooling in the previous 5000 years.
America’s top military officer in charge of monitoring hostile actions by North Korea, escalating tensions between China and Japan, and a spike in computer attacks traced to China provides an unexpected answer when asked what is the biggest long-term security threat in the Pacific region: climate change.
If emissions continue as currently predicted until then, global temperatures will rise “well above anything we’ve ever seen in the last 11,000 years.”
A new study looking at 11,000 years of climate temperatures shows the world in the middle of a dramatic U-turn, lurching from near-record cooling to a heat spike.
The Earth should be nearing the bottom of a several-thousand year cool-off … Instead, temperatures are rising rapidly.
Global temperatures are warmer than at any time in at least 4,000 years, and over the coming decades are likely to surpass levels not seen on the planet since before the last ice age.
Public concern about environmental issues including climate change has slumped to a 20-year low since the financial crisis, a global study reveals. Despite years of studies showing the impact of global warming on the planet, only 49 per cent of people now consider climate change a very serious issue.
Climate change could have a drastic and harmful effect on U.S. agriculture, forcing farmers and ranchers to alter where they grow crops and costing them millions of dollars in additional costs to tackle weeds, pests and diseases that threaten their operations, a sweeping government report said Tuesday.
A secretive funding organization in the United States that guarantees anonymity for its billionaire donors has emerged as a major operator in the climate “counter movement” to undermine the science of global warming.
President Obama made addressing climate change the most prominent policy vow of his second Inaugural Address … He devoted scant attention to it in the campaign and has delivered a mixed message about its importance since the election.
Media Matters reports that for the past four years, not once was a scientist on a Sunday morning news show to talk climate change. Those discussions were dominated by politicians or a media people. Sauce for the goose: Media Matters found that every politician interviewed was a Republican.
The national climate assessment, written by a team of 240 scientists, is required every four years by US law. … observers have noted that the 2013 version is far more uncompromising in its language. Environmental groups are now hoping that the report will revitalize the debate over climate change in the US and stimulate the administration of Barack Obama into taking action over an issue that has been put on the backburner.
A major draft federal report concludes that climate change is already affecting U.S. residents through heat waves, droughts and other changes, and warns that temperatures could increase as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit if global carbon emissions keep soaring.
The forecast in Australia: Hot, hot, hot—and getting hotter. As a record-breaking heatwave hovers over many regions and territories (which are in their summer months now), the continent’s Bureau of Meteorology has added two new colors to the weather map to reflect the rising mercury.
2012 was the warmest year on record in the contiguous United States … The average temperature for 2012 was 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit, 3.2 degrees above normal and a full degree higher than the previous warmest year recorded — 1998.
It’s not yet official, but 2012 was the hottest year in American history. Recorded history, that is; we’ll allow climate change deniers the possibility that the United States was hotter when it was a still-forming Pangeal mass of semi-solid lava. Beyond that, though: hottest ever.
The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is warming at twice the rate previously thought … Of particular concern is that the warming is partially taking place in the summer months.
When you hear about climate change it’s most often about melting glaciers and sea ice, increasing frequency of heatwaves and powerful storms. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll hear about the acidification of the oceans too. What you don’t hear about is the saltiness of the seas. But that’s changing too, according to a new piece of research just published in Geophysical Research Letters.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said that she’s forming a “climate change caucus,” and argues that Hurricane Sandy “changed a lot of minds” on the topic.
A large, growing body of scientific studies and real-world observations suggest that wheat will be hit especially hard as temperatures rise and storms and drought intensify in the years ahead. Already, a mere 1 degree Fahrenheit of global temperature rise over the past 50 years has caused a 5.5 percent decline in wheat production.
Arctic sea ice reached its smallest coverage, or extent, on record, 18 percent smaller than the previous record low set only five years ago and 49 percent below the 1979-2000 average. As the ice pack shrinks the ocean absorbs more sunlight and warming accelerates causing even more ice loss.
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore sharply criticized President Barack Obama, a fellow Democrat, for failing to make global warming a priority issue, saying action was more urgent than ever after the devastation in the Northeast from Superstorm Sandy.
Carbon dioxide emissions from industry rose an estimated 2.6% this year, according to a study of global carbon emissions. The research by the Global Carbon Project, an annual report card on mankind’s CO2 pollution, also says emissions grew 3.1% in 2011, placing the world on a near-certain path towards dangerous climate change, such as more heat waves, droughts and storms.
Last year, all the world’s nations combined pumped nearly 38.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air from the burning of fossil fuels … That’s about a billion tons more than the previous year. The total amounts to more than 2.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide released into the air every second.
Senate Democrats used an emotionally charged hearing on the effects of Hurricane Sandy to make an aggressive attack on climate change deniers in and out of Congress. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse criticized “a rear-guard action in this building led by polluters” against taking action on climate change.
Loss and damage caused by climate change has become unavoidable due to inadequate efforts to curb global warming and scant support for poorer nations to cope with impacts such as worsening droughts and rising seas, environment and development groups said.
Projections for sea level rise in coming decades could be too conservative, experts warned, saying they found that the rise over the last two decades is much more than predicted by the U.N. scientific body tracking climate signals. … satellite data show sea levels rose 60 percent faster than the 2 mm annual rise projected by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for that period.
Permafrost covering almost a quarter of the northern hemisphere contains 1,700 gigatonnes of carbon, twice that currently in the atmosphere, and could significantly amplify global warming should thawing accelerate as expected.
Hurricane Sandy’s $50 billion damage demonstrated the vulnerability of America’s largest cities to the effects of global warming. Christiana Figueres, the top United Nations diplomat for international climate negotiations, said Sandy serves as “yet another wake-up call” for the U.S. to cut carbon pollution.
The world is straying further away from commitments to combat climate change, bringing the prospect of catastrophic global warming a step closer, a UN report said on Wednesday. The warning of increasing emissions came as fresh evidence was published showing the last decade was the warmest on record for Europe.
The CIA is one of multiple federal agencies to explore the nexus between climate change and security — sometimes drawing GOP criticism in the process.
The World Bank warned that global temperatures could rise by four degrees this century without immediate action, with potentially devastating consequences for coastal cities and the poor. “The time is very, very short. The world has to tackle the problem of climate change more aggressively,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said.
In 2010, the Pentagon declared, in its Quadrennial Defense Review, that changes in the global climate are increasing the frequency and the intensity of cyclones, droughts, floods, and other radical weather events, and that the effects may destabilize governments. Although Obama, unlike his predecessor, recognized the dimensions of the problem, he never pursued measures remotely equal to it.
If you were born in or after April 1985, if you are right now 27 years old or younger, you have never lived through a month that was colder than average. That’s beyond astonishing.
How much will Earth warm this century? The best answer to this killer question remains broad, but a study has narrowed the range of likely temperatures – and comes down on the warmer side.
In his first substantive comments about climate change in months, President Barack Obama on Wednesday vowed to do more in his second term — just not at the expense of jobs and economic growth.
What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increasing faster than was predicted even 10 years ago. We do know that the Arctic ice cap is melting faster than was predicted even five years ago. And I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions. And as a consequence, I think we’ve got an obligation to future generations to do something about it. So what I’m going to be doing over the next several weeks, next several months, is having a conversation … [U]nderstandably, I think the American people right now have been so focused and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth that, you know, if the message is somehow we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anybody’s going to go for that. I won’t go for that.
Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2011 rose 2.5 percent to 34 billion metric tons (37.48 billion tons) , a new record, Germany’s renewable energy institute said on Tuesday. Global CO2 emissions are 50 percent above those in 1990, the basis year for the Kyoto Climate Protocol.
Like her formal name Cassandra, Hurricane Sandy brought to American consciousness what science has been yelling at us for years: climate change is real, it’s happening now, and it’s likely worse than models predict. The global economy fiddles away $500 billion each year – the cost of inaction on climate. The dirty hippies at Pricewaterhouse Cooper warn that the previous goal of two degrees Celsius is virtually unattainable (pdf). Yet consensus for climate action in the United States in President Obama’s second term seems limited to Environmental Protection Agency actions nibbling around the edges of what power plants can burn.
Rising carbon dioxide levels at the edge of space are apparently reducing the pull that Earth’s atmosphere has on satellites and space junk, researchers say. The findings suggest that manmade increases in carbon dioxide might be having effects on the Earth that are larger than expected, scientists added.
There is a real irony here. Republicans and conservatives had ridiculed scientists who expressed concern about the destruction of the ozone layer. How did Ronald Reagan, of all people, come to favor aggressive regulatory steps and lead the world toward a strong and historic international agreement?
Climate change is accelerating, and it will place unparalleled strains on American military and intelligence agencies in coming years by causing ever more disruptive events around the globe, the nation’s top scientific research group said in a report issued Friday.
Climate change is likely to be worse than many computer models have projected, according to a new analysis. If the new results are correct, that means warming will come on faster, and be more intense, than many current predictions. Moreover, the impacts of that warming, including sea level rise, drought, floods and other extreme weather, could hit earlier and harder than many models project
July was the hottest month in the lower 48 states since the government began keeping temperature records in 1895. The average temperature was 77.6 degrees — 3.3 degrees above the average 20th-century temperature.
When I testified before the Senate in the hot summer of 1988 , I warned of the kind of future that climate change would bring to us and our planet. I painted a grim picture of the consequences of steadily increasing temperatures, driven by mankind’s use of fossil fuels. But I have a confession to make: I was too optimistic…. analysis shows that it is no longer enough to say that global warming will increase the likelihood of extreme weather and to repeat the caveat that no individual weather event can be directly linked to climate change. To the contrary, our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change.
The Earth’s land has warmed by 1.5C over the past 250 years and “humans are almost entirely the cause”, according to a scientific study set up to address climate-sceptic concerns about whether human-induced global warming is occurring. Prof Richard Muller, a climate-sceptic physicist who founded the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (Best) project, said he was “surprised” by the findings. “We were not expecting this, but as scientists, it is our duty to let the evidence change our minds.” He added that he now considers himself a “converted sceptic” and his views had undergone a “total turnaround” in a short space of time.
So far, dealing forthrightly with the world’s rising temperatures has been far down the list of priorities in Washington, and the president has shown little willingness to stick his political neck out on the issue. … The president didn’t even see fit to mention the words “climate change” or “global warming” in his 2011 State of the Union address.
A sobering study released by Florida Atlantic University contemplated the effects of global warming in specific terms, particularly for South Florida, considered one of the more vulnerable metropolitan areas in the world, with six million residents clustered by the ocean, living barely above sea level. The study from FAU’s Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions, adding to an overwhelming scientific consensus about the disastrous effects of global warming, and along with growing hard evidence that temperature changes are already altering the environment, ought to have sent tremors through the halls of government. Except it didn’t. Perhaps the most peculiar phenomenon associated with global warming has been a burgeoning disdain for climate science even as scientific consensus grows more urgent.
A new analysis of the temperature record leaves little room for the doubters. The world is warming. … The Berkeley Earth study promises to be valuable. It is due to be published online with a vast trove of supporting data, merged from 15 separate sources, with duplications and other errors clearly signaled. At a time of exaggerated doubts about the instrumental temperature record, this should help promulgate its main conclusion: that the existing mean estimates are in the right ballpark. That means the world is warming fast.
Here in Washington we feel the dark hand of the polluters tapping so many shoulders. And where there is power and money behind that dark hand, therefore, a lot of attention is paid to that little tap on the shoulder. What we overlook is that nature — God’s Earth — is also tapping us all on the shoulder, with messages we ignore at our peril. We ignore the messages of nature of God’s Earthand we ignore the laws of nature of God’s Earth at our very grave peril.
President Obama has thus far failed to use the bully pulpit to make the case for bold action on climate change. After successfully passing his green stimulus package, he did nothing to defend it when Congress decimated its funding. After the House passed cap and trade, he did little to make passage in the Senate a priority. Senate advocates — including one Republican — felt abandoned when the president made concessions to oil and coal companies without asking for anything in return. He has also called for a massive expansion of oil drilling in the United States, apparently in an effort to defuse criticism from those who argue speciously that “drill, baby, drill” is the answer to our growing dependence on foreign oil.
Greenhouse gas emissions increased by a record amount last year, to the highest carbon output in history, putting hopes of holding global warming to safe levels all but out of reach, according to unpublished estimates from the International Energy Agency. The shock rise means the goal of preventing a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius – which scientists say is the threshold for potentially “dangerous climate change” – is likely to be just “a nice Utopia”, according to Fatih Birol, chief economist of the IEA. It also shows the most serious global recession for 80 years has had only a minimal effect on emissions, contrary to some predictions. Last year, a record 30.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide poured into the atmosphere, mainly from burning fossil fuel – a rise of 1.6Gt on 2009, according to estimates from the IEA regarded as the gold standard for emissions data.
Even those who deny the existence of global climate change are having trouble dismissing the evidence of the last year. In the U.S. alone, nearly 1,000 tornadoes have ripped across the heartland, killing more than 500 people and inflicting $9 billion in damage. The Midwest suffered the wettest April in 116 years, forcing the Mississippi to flood thousands of square miles, even as drought-plagued Texas suffered the driest month in a century. Worldwide, the litany of weather’s extremes has reached biblical proportions. The 2010 heat wave in Russia killed an estimated 15,000 people. Floods in Australia and Pakistan killed 2,000 and left large swaths of each country under water. A months-long drought in China has devastated millions of acres of farmland. And the temperature keeps rising: 2010 was the hottest year on earth since weather records began. From these and other extreme-weather events, one lesson is sinking in with terrifying certainty. The stable climate of the last 12,000 years is gone. Which means you haven’t seen anything yet. And we are not prepared.
The nation’s pre-eminent scientific advisory group, the National Research Council arm of the National Academy of Sciences, issued a report called “America’s Climate Choices.” As scientific reports go, its key findings were straightforward and unequivocal: “Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by human activities, and poses significant risks to humans and the environment.” Coincidentally, USA TODAY’s Dan Vergano reported that a statistics journal retracted a federally funded study that had become a touchstone among climate-change deniers. The retraction followed complaints of plagiarism and use of unreliable sources, such as Wikipedia. Taken together, these developments ought to leave the deniers in the same position as the “birthers.”
On what is quite possibly the single biggest issue the planet has faced, American conservatism has reached a near-unanimous position, and that position is: pay no attention to all those scientists. One crude answer is money. The fossil fuel industry has deep wells of it—no business in history has been as profitable as finding, refining, and combusting coal, oil, and gas. Six of the ten largest companies on earth are in the fossil-fuel business. Those companies have spent some small part of their wealth in recent years to underwrite climate change denialism: Jane Mayer’s excellent New Yorker piece on the Koch brothers is just the latest and best of a string of such exposés dating back to Ross Gelbspan’s 1997 book The Heat Is On.
Climate denialism is part of something much broader and scarier on the right. The core idea is most clearly expressed by Rush Limbaugh: “We really live, folks, in two worlds. There are two worlds. We live in two universes. One universe is a lie. One universe is an entire lie. Everything run, dominated, and controlled by the left here and around the world is a lie. The other universe is where we are, and that’s where reality reigns supreme and we deal with it.” The conservative movement in America has created a self-contained, hermetically sealed epistemological reality — a closed-loop system of cable news, talk radio, and email forwards — designed not just as a source of alternative facts but as an identity. That’s why conservatives catch hell when they’re skeptical of climate skepticism. They’re messing with tribal cohesion and morale.