Showing posts with label climate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label climate. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma Despises Retired Military Officers

“There is no one in more pursuit of publicity than a retired military officer,” Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma said about last Tuesday's climate report by a leading government-funded military research organization.

For an elected official to complain that retired military officers "pursue publicity" is a bit bizarre.

Inhofe's complaint was that the CNA Corporation Military Advisory Board found that climate change-induced drought in the Middle East and Africa is leading to conflicts over food and water and escalating longstanding regional and ethnic tensions into violent clashes. The report also found that rising sea levels are putting people and food supplies in vulnerable coastal regions like eastern India, Bangladesh and the Mekong Delta in Vietnam at risk and could lead to a new wave of refugees.

Inhofe, whose political campaigns are funded primarily by wealthy petroleum industry patrons, said of the report’s authors: “I look back wistfully at the days of the Cold War. Now you have people who are mentally imbalanced, with the ability to deploy a nuclear weapon. For anyone to say that any type of global warming is anywhere close to the threat that we have with crazy people running around with nuclear weapons, it shows how desperate they are to get the public to buy this.”

The problem for Inhofe is, that the Board does not support his view that climate change is a hoax. Inhofe knows that, because the truth has been revealed to him. We don't need no stinkin' facts!

The CNA Corporation has evolved from the Center for Naval Analysis, a group formed during World War II to develop more effective methods of countering submarines and aircraft in war at sea. The Center pioneered the application of Operations Analysis to naval warfare and achieved extraordinary results. The Center continued to apply these methods to naval problems and has accumulated nearly seventy-five years experience in the methodology. CNA's analysis is founded on data. And on facts.
Inhofe has no interest in either facts or analysis.

Rear Adm. David Titley, a co-author of the report and a meteorologist who is retired from the Navy, said political opposition would not extinguish what he called the indisputable data in the report.
“The ice doesn’t care about politics or who’s caucusing with whom, or Democrats or Republicans,” said Admiral Titley, who now directs the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Pennsylvania State University.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Have You Ever Visited Beringia?

I have never quite bought the conjecture that North America was populated by people walking along the "land bridge" from Asia and bringing their Clovis points with them.

Why could they not have come by Sea? In fact, that's the way the aborigines reached Australia 30,000 years ago.  My surmise is that the land bridge theory is written by landsmen. Seamen know that the most efficient way to get from one place to the other is by water.

Now, though, we have new tools for investigating our ancient past. We have, for example, DNA studies that have been able to trace the migration of certain populations across the globe as they came out of Africa and dispersed.

We have been able to trace particular DNA mutations from place to place. We also know, to a fair degree, how often mutations happen.

Another improving tool is that of linguistic analysis. Linguists can also track evolution of languages and language families as they spread, mutate, interact and evolve.

A powerful new marriage of DNA research and linguistics postulates that, instead of a bridge connecting Asia and North America, there was an area of shrub tundra between Alaska and Siberia where ancestors of both Native Americans and Siberian peoples lived in isolation for 15,000 years before migrating both Eastward and Westward as the sea level began to rise.

Here is a summary of the research that tends to support this view.

I still like the hypothesis that Native Americans came by sea.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Are We Boiling The World's Oceans

Our local curmudgeon has a few things to say about those in Pamlico County who deny climate change science. Early last week, Tony Tharp, whose sailboat Yoknapatawpha II has just moved to a mooring ball at Stewart, Florida, took on Pamlico County's membership in NC-20.

First asking how much the county pays for its membership, he observes: . ."..our county shouldn't even be a member of this off-the-rails collection of climate-change deniers and sea-level-rise naysayers." The group, he observes, "boasts on its website that it has provided state regulatory officials with, "numerous scientific studies showing that despite 80 years of manmade CO2 increase, there is no acceleration in Sea Level Rise."

That's nonsense, of course. 

The science is quite clear. The world is getting warmer. Fast. And humans are the cause.

Here is the data and the explanation. 

Thirty years ago when I was reading early reports on global warming that seemed puzzled that atmospheric temperatures weren't rising as fast as CO2 levels suggested they should, it occurred to me the scientists were looking in the wrong place. They should, I thought, look at ocean temperature. It turns out they were looking in the oceans, but not deep enough. Now they are looking in the deep ocean and that's where much of the heat energy has been going. How much heat? The amount of heat energy absorbed by the oceans each year is alarming. In 2013 the oceans absorbed the heat equivalent of 378 million Hiroshima size atomic bombs.  Over the past 16 years the rate of heat absorption has ballooned from the heat of two atomic bombs per second to twelve per second. Not good for fish and other ocean life. Not to mention acidification of the oceans because of atmospheric carbon. And not good for agriculture and other human activities, as this heat energy enters the atmosphere.

Residents of East North Carolina - and for that matter, anyone in the real estate industry - should be raising the roof in protest at the inaction. If there is any dispute about global warming, it is different estimates among climate scientists about how quickly our ice fields on land will melt, and therefore how high the sea will rise.

The present estimate is as much as a meter (39 inches) sea level rise by end of the 21st century. When the Antarctic ice cap and the Greenland ice cap melt, the sea level rise will exceed 200 feet. Raleigh will be a coastal town.
As Tony Tharp points out, even some in the real estate industry are worried:
Len Berry, director of Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Environmental Studies, reports developers have quietly contacted the university to check out projections of how much sea level will rise in the coming decades as they look for future safe investments . . . Jason King, with the Dover, Kohl urban planning group in Coral Gables, says the firm’s planners are now factoring in changing sea level in work with developers. King reports mortgage lenders “are following the discussions very closely” on sea level rise, as are many others in real estate. (Source)
"And when," as Tharp contends, "NC-20 claims on its website that its goals are, "science-based environmental regulation (and) science-based sea-level rise projections" you can rest assure that's code for denying the science that already exists in both areas.'

Wake up, folks! There's still time to do something. But not much longer.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Getting A Bit Warm Lately?

For those who believe global warming is a hoax invented by Al Gore, it might be worth looking at data collected and published by NOAA.

Then there are those who believe it will cost too much to try to do anything about it. On the other hand, here is some current information about how much it costs to do nothing (from Econbrowser):

"Well, not to panic. We can easily adjust to the temperature changes. Just change what we're planting and where. And crank up the air conditioning. Or will it be so easy? From WSJ:
A year after historic flooding brought the Mississippi River up to record levels, the severe drought hitting the central U.S. has caused water levels along parts of the waterway to plummet, disrupting barge traffic from Cairo, Ill., to Natchez, Miss.
Barge operators have sharply reduced their loads to get through tightening river passages. They say major rain is needed soon or they would have to reduce commerce even more, causing shipment delays and driving up transportation costs. With forecasts showing little prospect of significant rain, hydrologists see no relief in sight for the giant inland waterway that also includes the Ohio River.
Some river ports have been forced to close temporarily or shut down parts of their operations because of the low water levels. At the port of Rosedale in the Mississippi Delta, port director Robert Maxwell Jr. said water levels are about 50 feet below what they were last year, when flooding shut down the port. If the water falls any lower, there was a "high likelihood" he would have to close, he said. One of the port's public loading docks is inoperable, with equipment normally in the water now hanging the air. The Army Corps of Engineers is supposed to come this week to dredge, where heavy equipment is used to dig out sediment from waterways to make them passable for shipping.
"This is absolutely not normal," Mr. Maxwell said.
Crops are also being hit hard [1].
Here is a meta-analysis of the scientific consensus on the reasons why global climate change is happening."

By the way, what will the costs be in our neck of the woods if the sea level rises one meter (39 inches) by the end of the century? Might be time to start planning how to deal with it.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Follow The Money

That was the advice of "Deep Throat" in the movie, "All The President's Men" about Watergate. It's actually good advice most any time. It helps answer the questions "who benefits" and "who pays."

Take energy policy. Discussions in that arena tend to generate more heat than light, but the heat is against exploring alternative "green" or other sources of energy and in favor of relying more on increasingly expensive (and difficult to recover) petroleum.

Most recently, the US Senate rejected a one-year extension of a tax benefit for alternative energy, including wind energy. The ostensible reason: oh, that's a subsidy. And we have to pay for it.

Well, we already subsidize oil to the tune of $4 billion per year. World wide, oil companies are subsidized about $409 billion annually.

One way to cover most of the cost of alternative energy would be to do away with the existing US subsidy of the petroleum industry, which clearly doesn't need it. But every time progressive legislators try to take away that subsidy, we see an outcry from Republicans and the few remaining oil state Democrats.

Could that have anything to do with the fact that the Koch brothers (who got their wealth the old-fashioned way - by inheritance) are the principal funders of conservative Republican candidates, think tanks and movements?

A frequent objection to subsidies for solar, wind and other non-fossil energy sources is that they are more expensive than oil and natural gas. Beside, global warming was made up by Al Gore. Pay no attention to the melting ice caps and resulting sea level rise.

But costs of wind and solar are coming down. Quickly. Partly because China is investing heavily in alternate energy.

Here is an analysis in Scientific American of recent developments in the field of solar energy. In short, we may be within three years of equality between the cost of coal-fired and solar power generation.

But the sun only shines about half the time. Wind, on the other hand, can blow any time of the day or night.

And North Carolina has the best location on the entire East Coast of the United States for offshore wind generation. A serious effort to develop our wind power resources in Pamlico Sound as well as offshore could provide a major economic engine for Eastern North Carolina.

It might also contribute to slowing global warming and sea level rise.

This would be a win, win, win for Eastern North Carolina.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Economics Of Global Warming

Those who want to read a scholarly, dispassionate examination of the alleged controversies over global warming, may wish to read an article by the Yale economist, William D. Nordhaus in the March 22 edition of the New York Review of Books. In his article, "Why The Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong," Nordhaus takes an economist's perspective in analyzing an article in the Wall Street Journal by sixteen scientists.

This isn't as strange as it may seem. GW skeptics often base their opposition to mitigation efforts on the alleged economic effect, as well as on statistical arguments. When you take on statistics, you are playing on an economist's home field.

I won't try to summarize Nordhaus' article, but I strongly recommend you at least take a look at his statistical graphs. Bottom line: the global warming trends of the past century track very closely with mathematical models that include greenhouse gas emissions as well as natural causes. For the past half century, the models that exclude greenhouse gas emissions do not track with actual rises in temperature.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Water, Water Everywhere

Once again at last night's county commissioner meeting, one of the commissioners bragged that NC-20, the lobbying organization funded in part by taxpayers of the 20 coastal counties, had successfully persuaded the Coastal Resources Commission not to adopt the report of the CRC science committee forecasting a sea level rise of as much as one meter (39 inches) by 2100.

She explained that adopting the report might withdraw 1.3 million acres in Eastern North Carolina from future use. She also explained that it might raise insurance rates.

My problem with that is, I am about to raise my house 36 inches. Before doing so, I would like access to the best available scientific assessment of sea level rise. That extra three inches could be crucial, if not to me personally, at least to my heirs.

Is ignorance better than knowledge? I don't think so.

If we build on 1.3 million acres that shouldn't be developed, who pays the damages when the water rises? Is NC-20 going to pick up the tab?

I don't think so. The rest of us will.

Yesterday's New York Times printed a very illuminating article about sea level rise, hurricane damage and the outer banks. Read it here.

Whenever a significant hurricane hits the banks, it makes new channels across the islands, severing roads and destroying bridges.

One sensible suggestion by scientists (who keep telling us that the outer banks aren't stable) is to replace the bridges with ferries.

It would be cheaper and more reliable.

By the way, there is no bridge to Okracoke and the tourist industry there does just fine.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sustainable Policies

I was pretty astounded to read recently that the Wake County Board of Commissioners by a vote of 4-3 rejected a study they themselves had commissioned to balance growth, environment and economics. The Republican majority (one of whom is seeking election as Lieutenant Governor and another of whom is running for the 13th Congressional District) rejected the report. It made no difference that the head of the commission was Republican. Apparently the very idea of wise management of our resources is some kind of Democratic plot. You can read about it here.

This sort of foolishness grabs my attention. It is of a piece with the successful effort to prevent the Science Panel of North Carolina's Coastal Resources Commission from considering sea level rise above 22 inches.

It fits right in with those who deny climate change.

I grew up in tornado country. I don't remember anything quite like last night's tornado blitz across fifteen states. The polar ice cap is plainly melting. Some glaciers I witnessed in my youth in Alaska have disappeared.

Something is plainly happening. We need to foresee and prepare for the consequences.

We cannot dismiss the threat as one of Oriental's commissioners did to me last week by claiming that global warming was "made up" by Al Gore.

One of the things that is happening is population. In my life time, the population of the United States has more than doubled. It is now about 2.4 times what it was when I was born.

The world population is growing even faster. It was about 2.3 billion when I was born and is about 7 billion now.

A decade ago, the best estimate was that the world's population was about three times the number that could sustain a European level consumption. By now, it is probably four times as much.

We are killing the planet, and will eventually kill ourselves.

Can we keep this future from happening? I don't know. But we won't improve our chances by refusing to study and plan. It's what rational humans do. As presidential candidate Ross Perot once observed, "The difference between human beings and rabbits is that we can think and reason." Let's prove him right.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Real Science Of Heads In The Sand

A couple of years ago a graduate student telephoned, wanting to interview me. It turns out she was doing research on planning approaches in North Carolina coastal communities concerning anticipated sea level rise.

I had to tell her that in Oriental we had done no planning at all, save for the decisions by individual homeowners to raise their houses to the standards required by Pamlico County.

I wasn't personally worried, since my house hadn't been flooded during Isabel. Wrong! I should have been. The house was flooded by Irene and suffered significant damage. I will now have to raise it about three feet to meet county standards.

But wait. The Science Panel of North Carolina's Coastal Resources Commission has determined that a rise of 1 meter (39 inches) is the most likely scenario by 2100. I can tell you from experience that three inches in a house (difference between 36 inches and 39 inches) can wreak havoc.

There's more. Other states have concluded a sea level rise between 3 and 4 feet is the minimum expectation by 2100. It depends on how much of the Greenland and Antarctic icecaps melt by then.

But not to worry. Our local lobbying organization for 20 coastal counties, in part supported by tax money from Pamlico County, and aided by our appointed representatives to the Coastal Resources Commission, successfully kept the Emergency Management division from reporting on the effect of a one-meter rise.

Justification: "we insist on REAL science." Presumably "real science" consists of waiting until we get seriously flooded and collecting the data. "We don't need no stinkin' analysis." Read all about it in yesterday's News and Observer in an article by a real scientist with no known connection to real estate developers.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

On Outgrowing Earth

Today's article in the New York Times by Thomas Friedman should be alarming.

But don't worry. Oriental's member of Pamlico County's Board of Commissioners reported at the last Board meeting that she and others have successfully blocked an effort by NC planners to push restrictions on construction based on predicted sea rise. The objection: the plan was based on computer modeling. Presumably, we are supposed to wait until the water actually rises. That would be scientific.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Climate Change Events

Those who think climate change is a hoax might want to check out Dr. Jeff Masters' blog on Weather Underground web site. Something unusual seems to be going on, affecting the entire globe.