Climate Fact of the Week:
on August 2, 2012, Oklahoma City had its hottest day in history, hitting 113°, tying the city's all-time heat record set on August 11, 1936. The low bottomed out at 84°, the warmest low temperature ever recorded in the city (previous record: a low of 83° on August 13, 1936.) Oklahoma City had three consecutive days with a high of 112° or higher, which has never occurred since record keeping began in 1891. Source: Dr. Jeff Master’s Wonderblog
Climate Quote of the Week:
"Climate change is here — and worse than we thought”, Dr. James Hansen, Aug 2, 2012.
Post No. 6 in this 13 part series on climate change will explain why climate change is our problem to solve – and why we need to solve it now.
Previous and upcoming posts are listed below for reference. Past post titles will link to back to the original post.
- Why I Write: How I became interested in the climate issue
- “Global Warming” or “Climate Change”? What do these mean, and what’s the diff?
- A Brief Guide to the Climate Debate: The debate that isn’t
- Conversation with Dr. Michael Mann: Summary of my talk with renowned climatologist Dr. Michael Mann
- The Arguments: The most common arguments and responses
- On Our Watch: Science tells us that climate change is happening now
- Yep, We Did It: Science tells us that this climate change is from OUR activities
- What It Means to Missouri: How climate change will likely impact our region
- Save Money, Save the Climate!: Simple ideas that save money while reducing CO2 emissions
- Our Choice: What we can do to limit further harm while adapting to the changes to come
- Lead! Climate Change is happening. The United States can lead, or get left behind
- If We Don’t? Geo-engineering the climate. What is it and why we don’t want to go there
- Final Thoughts: Ethical considerations
“On Our Watch”
I used to think that climate change was some far off problem that my distant ancestors would be able to easily solve with some advanced technology that we don’t know about yet. I was wrong, very wrong.
Unfortunately, human-caused global warming has already caused large increases in extreme heat waves. Global warming-caused extremes are happening now.
“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.
This summary of the paper by Earth Sciences professor Scott Mandia is also helpful
There are three facts that Dr. Hansen does not mention in his article that should be considered.
- There is a 30 to 40 year lag between CO2 levels and temperature. This means that we are currently experiencing the weather of CO2 levels from when Ford, Carter and Reagan were Presidents. It also means that the temperature is going to increase even if we stopped all emissions tomorrow.
- The temperature is likely to increase at an increasing rate. It’s like a freight train. Slow to start, but once it gets going, it can really move.
- Tipping points. The warmer it gets, the more likely that natural factors can increase the warming even more, and these factors, once “tipped” are virtually impossible to stop.
It’s not our fault, but it is our responsibility.
We used to have the excuse that we didn’t know that we were causing harm. We no longer have that excuse.
When I was a kid in the late 60’s and early 70’s my brothers and I never wore seat belts when our parents took us somewhere in the old Ford station wagon. I recall plenty of brotherly love wrestling matches in the back of that wagon, with my older, bigger brothers nearly always giving me a whooping.
Fortunately, my dad was a super safe, and very slow, driver and we never had any type of car accident during that era of “freedom” or I might not be here to write this blog.
If something had happened to us in that old Ford, it wouldn’t have been my parents “fault”. They didn’t know any better because there wasn’t any information to show us what happens to an unrestrained body when it is subjected to the laws of physics – laws that become very evident when a moving object (car) meets a stationary one (tree).
Now, however, we know that our kids are at high risk if they are unrestrained in a moving vehicle and it is our responsibility as parents to make sure they buckle up.
Solving climate change is similarly our responsibility as parents and citizens of a global community.
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.
We also need to hold our politicians, government, religious and industry leaders accountable for developing plans to adapt to the increased temperatures that are coming and to prevent further damage to the climate system.
To close, I’m reminded of the simple wisdom of a Joplin high school student after last year’s tornado:
"The tornado really taught me how to appreciate what matters. All the things accumulated in a lifetime can be strewn across counties in a matter of seconds, but what matters in life are the loved ones that walked out of that basement with me and being strong, even when you have nothing but the clothes on your back."
Here are a few other quotes to ponder:
“The only certainty is that we have to act. How could I look my grandchildren in the eye and say I knew about this and I did nothing?” David Attenborough
“The biggest challenge is how to get people to wake up and realize this is a one-shot deal. If we fail, we are witting participants in the biggest experiment humans have ever done: moving CO2 levels to twice their value in the past 670.000 years and hoping it turns out okay for generations to come.” Chemistry professor Nathan S. Lewis
Note: The next post “Yep, We Did It” discusses how we know man’s activities are changing the climate.
Author's note to commenters:
This is sure to be a controversial topic and I’m OK with that. I only ask that you keep your comments civil, respectful, informed and related to the particular subject matter discussed. As you can see from the topic list at the beginning of this post, there are plenty to topics to be talked about over the summer.
I also ask that if you dispute a claim, that you provide a link to a reputable source supporting your claim.
Disclaimer: I am not a climate scientist, nor do I claim to have scientific expertise in this subject. Scientific claims made in these posts will be sourced only from highly respected scientific organizations.