Global Warming: Man or Myth?

Scientists can also wear their citizen hats

Global Warming isn’t Tomorrow – It is Now

with 6 comments

“Extreme summer climate anomalies in Texas in 2011, in Moscow in 2010, and in France in 2003 almost certainly would not have occurred in the absence of global warming with its resulting shift of the anomaly distribution. In other words, we can say with high confidence that such extreme anomalies would not have occurred in the absence of global warming.”

This quote is from a new scientific paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper will be freely available online Monday August 6 as article #12-05276: Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., “Perception of climate change”, Hansen, J., Mki. Sato, and R. Ruedy. A draft copy can be downloaded here.

I often hear people state that we need to reduce our emissions of heat trapping carbon dioxide for our children and grandchildren’s sake. Unfortunately, human-caused global warming has already caused large increases in extreme heat waves. Global warming-caused extremes are happening now.

The figure below shows June-July-August temperature anomalies for three years within the base period  1951-1980 as compared to the temperature anomalies for the previous six years 2006-2011. (Anomalies measure how much warmer or cooler a value is from normal. For example, body T is normally 98.6 degrees. If you had a fever and your body T was 101.6 degrees, your T anomaly would be +3 degrees.) Colors toward the right such as yellow, red, and brown represent above normal temperatures while colors toward the left such as aqua and blue represent below normal temperatures.

Global T Anomalies for Jun-Jul-Aug

In 1955, 1965, and 1975 the warmer vs. cooler regions were mostly equal which is what one would expect due to natural weather patterns. However, one can quickly see that the most recent years reveal many more locations with well above normal temperatures. Notice the large brown region of very hot T in Europe in 2010 (Russian Heat Wave) and the brown region of very hot T in the US in 2011 (Texas/Oklahoma drought). Extreme hot T is winning out and the pattern does not match that of “normal weather”.

The authors then determined just how extreme the past six years were by using a mathematical term called standard deviation denoted by the symbol sigma. A three sigma value means one should expect to see that temperature only 0.1 to 0.2% of the time (1 or 2 times per thousand chances).

Standard Deviations (Wiki)

The figure below shows that the previous six years had these rare three sigma events covering between 4% and 13% of the world. In the absence of human caused global warming, one would expect the brown areas to cover only 0.1–0.2% of the planet.

Global T Expressed as Standard Deviations

So what we can expect in the future?

If humans keep dumping billions and billions of tons of heat-trapping CO2 into the year each year the extreme heat appearing now will appear mild to what is coming. The two figures below (IPCC, 2007) show what is expected to happen to global air T depending on which carbon emission scenario the world chooses to follow. Unfortunately, we are following the worst-case scenario right now with no sign that we will choose to exit the carbon highway to hell.

IPCC Projected T Changes for Various Emission Scenarios

IPCC Projected T Changes for Various Emission Scenarios

IPCC Projected T Changes for Various Emission Scenarios

IPCC Projected T Changes for Various Emission Scenarios

 According to Synthesis Report from the Climate Change Congress – University of Copenhagen (Richardson et al., 2009):

“Recent observations show that societies and ecosystems are highly vulnerable to even modest levels of climate change, with poor nations and communities, ecosystem services and biodiversity particularly at risk. Temperature rises above 2oC will be difficult for contemporary societies to cope with, and are likely to cause major societal and environmental disruptions through the rest of the century and beyond.”

Look where we are by the end of the century if we do not take action now to reduce our carbon emissions. The US is covered by values that have blown past the safe level of 2C. A simple way to think about climate change is this: Human body T is very sensitive to even small changes in T. If your body T rises three degrees you know you are very sick and you need to do something. Climate change is no different. The values appearing in the moderate to high growth scenarios are killers. The planet has a fever and we must act to avoid it getting too high.

In my blog post It is Easy to Save Money and Our Planet at the Same Time I showed how I was able to reduce my energy bill by more than half. Energy efficiency is something you can do right now to avoid Mother Nature from getting a really high fever and it pays you $$$.

Unfortunately, we need to do much more than just being energy efficient. We need to begin shifting away from dirty, expensive fossil fuels such as coal and oil, and begin to add cleaner, cheaper technologies such as solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal to the grid. I also think we need to have an intelligent, adult conversation about using more nuclear power. Think these are too difficult? Think again. I invite you to watch three excellent videos that show how people around the world, including in the US, are tackling their energy needs by going green and how they are prospering. See Earth: The Operator’s Manual where Dr. Richard Alley explains climate change and energy choices. View Episode #1, Episode #2, and Episode #3.

Finally, being an election year, we must decide if addressing climate change is an issue that will determine how we vote. Only through government support will the US be able to shift to clean green technologies thus securing better health, improved national security, economic competitiveness, and energy independence from the Middle East.

As a group, the Republican Party of the United States of America does not accept the overwhelming scientific understanding that humans are causing climate change. Make your voice count. Vote this November.

Written by Scott Mandia

August 5, 2012 at 11:39 am

6 Responses

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  1. Great article and truly terrifying. One error, however. This is not a problem caused or exacerbated by the Republican Party alone. The entire Congress (except for a few brave leaders) and The President of the US are all silent on climate change and continue to actively support the fossil fuel industry to the detriment of the alternative energy strategy we need to survive. The President in particular campaigned on a smarter, non-fossil fuel energy future, which he has totally abandoned. Our current administration and congress are corrupted and owned by oil and banking interests as evidenced by the overwhelming actions they take to protect and support these interests. Make your voice REALLY count in November by voting for the Green Party or the Justice Party. Check out their views.

    • I agree, mostly. However, at least Obama accepts the scientific reality.I voted for Obama in 2008 but will vote against Romney this time by casting my ballot for Obama.

      Scott Mandia

      August 6, 2012 at 4:27 pm

      • I, too voted for Obama and campaigned for him by knocking on doors in a swing state, which Obama won. I respectfully ask you what evidence you see that suggests Obama will do anything differently in the next 4 years compared to his first term? I suggest there is zero difference in energy policy between Romney and Obama. The Democratic party is corrupt. We have to build an alternative political movement if we are to take effective action in response to our scientific understanding of the unfolding catastrophe. Thank you for posting this important report from James Hansen,

        Mandia: See this comparison by Rebecca Leber at Climate Progress

  2. Whether we like it or not, there is a 99% chance that we will have either a Republican or a Democratic President after the November elections are over. To vote for any 3rd candidate is to throw away your vote.

    Secondly, there is an enormous difference between the two candidates. Yes, the Obama record on climate change is nothing to cheer about, but, he has had to deal with Republican obstructionism on a major scale. The U.S. Constitution allows an organized minority to block effective political action unless there is a strong national consensus that can be mobilized. If the Democrats win the Presidency and the Senate, there is hope for building such a consensus. If the Republicans gain the Presidency and the Senate, there will be little to prevent the opening of the floodgates against a surging tide of fossil fuel development that will surely worsen climate change.

    Mandia: I agree. The Republican Party will not properly address the climate issue and that threatens America’s health, national security, and economic competitiveness while also causing the rest of the world to view Americans with disdain as they did during the Bush years. The house is burning down and we need leaders who, at a minimum, agree there is a problem. Only then can solutions be sought. Although I have voted for third party candidates several times in the past, I cannot do so now. The risk of helping Romney by doing so is far too great.

    Norman West

    August 8, 2012 at 12:23 am

  3. […] 2012/08/05: SMandia: Global Warming isn’t Tomorrow — It is Now […]

  4. […] of tons of heat-trapping carbon that is rapidly warming the oceans, air, and ice. As I blogged in Global Warming isn’t Tomorrow – It is Now, humans have already caused heat extremes to become more common and more intense. We are stressing […]

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