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Deniers take note: "IT'S GLOBAL WARMING, STUPID" is from Business Week, not Al Gore

Dan Lashof

Posted November 1, 2012 in Solving Global Warming

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With more than 90 lives lost, thousands of people still stranded, and millions still without power due to Superstorm Sandy our immediate focus as a nation is, as it should be, rescue, relief, and recovery.

But in the weeks and months ahead we must also turn our attention to learning the painful lessons Sandy should teach us. Business Week put it most bluntly.

Beyond the headline you will find a useful lesson plan:

businessweek coverIn an Oct. 30 blog post, Mark Fischetti of Scientific American took a spin through Ph.D.-land and found more and more credentialed experts willing to shrug off the climate caveats. The broadening consensus: “Climate change amps up other basic factors that contribute to big storms. For example, the oceans have warmed, providing more energy for storms. And the Earth’s atmosphere has warmed, so it retains more moisture, which is drawn into storms and is then dumped on us.” Even those of us who are science-phobic can get the gist of that.

Sandy featured a scary extra twist implicating climate change. An Atlantic hurricane moving up the East Coast crashed into cold air dipping south from Canada. The collision supercharged the storm’s energy level and extended its geographical reach. Pushing that cold air south was an atmospheric pattern, known as a blocking high, above the Arctic Ocean. Climate scientists Charles Greene and Bruce Monger of Cornell University, writing earlier this year in Oceanography, provided evidence that Arctic icemelts linked to global warming contribute to the very atmospheric pattern that sent the frigid burst down across Canada and the eastern U.S.

If all that doesn’t impress, forget the scientists ostensibly devoted to advancing knowledge and saving lives. Listen instead to corporate insurers committed to compiling statistics for profit.

On Oct. 17 the giant German reinsurance company Munich Re issued a prescient report titled Severe Weather in North America. Globally, the rate of extreme weather events is rising, and “nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America.” From 1980 through 2011, weather disasters caused losses totaling $1.06 trillion. Munich Re found “a nearly quintupled number of weather-related loss events in North America for the past three decades.” By contrast, there was “an increase factor of 4 in Asia, 2.5 in Africa, 2 in Europe, and 1.5 in South America.” Human-caused climate change “is believed to contribute to this trend,” the report said, “though it influences various perils in different ways.”

So once we learn the lesson that we need to take climate change seriously, what can we learn to do about it?

One irony of Sandy is that it hit perhaps the best prepared city in America. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has long recognized that climate change poses a serious threat and put in place plans to “increase the resilience of our communities, natural systems, and infrastructure to climate risks.” But Sandy taught us that the city wasn’t prepared for anything like this. Now there is a serious debate about spending billions on storm surge protection.

Ultimately though, the lesson from Sandy is that climate change preparedness can only take us so far. We also have to get serious about reducing the carbon pollution that’s fueling climate change. Hopefully that lesson won’t be lost on our political leaders.

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Comments

john warnerNov 2 2012 01:02 PM

In the late 1970's I wrote the Economic Contentions for the Environmental Impact Statement for Atlantic County against a Floating Nuclear Power to be sited 3 miles of off the Coast of Brigantine New Jersey. The Marine Hydrologist told me that a Barrier Island like Brigantine would be washed away by a 100 year storm. He said that it was insane for anybody to build a house there. Yet houses were built and rebuilt after storms because they could buy Federal Flood Insurance for $80 a year. This is an example of how costly perverse government public policies can be. The addition of carbon dioxide in the air because of human activity had nothing to do with Sandy Period! Every day seven thousand people die in America. That only 84 people died in a storm as extensive as Sandy is a testament to the advantages of living in an Advanced Economically Developed Civilization. And make no mistake about it the Sine Qua Non of that Level of Development is Cheap Abundant Energy. How anybody can twist the message of how well the North East Region of America Emerged from the Natural Disaster Sandy to We Need Much Less Energy at Much Higher Prices from Alternative Sources is logically impossible. We have lived with Radical Environmental De-Development Government Policy since Earth Day in 1970. They are terrorizing Americans with predictions of future air temperatures that are exaggerated 13 to 15 times. Between 1994 and 2012 the life expectancy in South Africa has fallen from 62 years old to 50 years old. I hope that Americans do not have to live through a similar tragedy before the Credibility of the Perpetrators of the Scientific Based Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming Lie are Exposed. I want you to think about how much Constitutionally Guaranteed Liberty we have lost since 1919. It required a Constitutional Amendment for the Federal Government to outlaw alcohol. The Supreme Court has already ruled that Carbon Dioxide is a toxic substance that the Federal Government can regulate by completely banning the burning of any fossil fuel including coal, oil, gasoline, wood, biomass, alcohol, natural gas, diesel, jet fuel, propane, etc.... And this is based upon a mere regulation not a Federal Statute passed by Congress and signed into Law. In 2012 alone EPA Regulations Forced 14% of Americas Coal Fired Electrical Generating Capacity Off Line with Nothing to Replace It. In order for America to Survive as we know it we have to vote any politician, (Federal, State or Local) out of office who plans to use the present regulatory scheme, (this includes taxes and subsidies to alternatives) to legally limit the production or consumption of fossil fuels. Once we find out that the free market can provide all of the Fossil Fuel Energy we could possibly ever want at the ten dollar a barrel equivalent price, the American Public will see how Economically Unattractive the Alternative Energy Sources really are. During Carter the price of gasoline was $1.50 per gallon. There were shortages and rationing. Under President Reagan in 1986 the price was $0.65 a gallon and $0.30 of that was Federal and State Tax. I am not exaggerating the damage that the heavy hand of government has done to America since 1970. I have been studying Economics for 50 years and there certainly are essential roles for governments. But every shortcoming that has ever been blamed on free-market capitalism was actually a failure of the governments to perform their legitimate roles. Let us start listening to Public Opinion Makers and Voting for Politicians who know what those legitimate roles are. Economics is a Moral Science. Once you start thinking morally and Constitutionally everything starts to fall into place. I will give just one example of how the Federal Government can morally withdraw from the Social Security Ponzi Scheme. Pay back over a few years in inflation adjusted dollars everything somebody has paid in. Just because I paid in one dollar does not give me a 10 dollar moral claim on somebody else's wealth. And if we don't, as Abraham Lincoln said in his Second Inaugural Address, "Woe unto the world because of offenses...." "It may seem strange that any man should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces." A lot of Americans are already experiencing that woe but it is going to get a lot worse unless we become better stewards of the Legacy Our Founding Fathers Left us in The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and The Bill of Rights. For some background read my comments on Dan's two previous Posts.

Jim C.Nov 3 2012 01:20 PM

John Warner wrote: "The addition of carbon dioxide in the air because of human activity had nothing to do with Sandy Period! Every day seven thousand people die in America. That only 84 people died in a storm as extensive as Sandy is a testament to the advantages of living in an Advanced Economically Developed Civilization."

Those are ridiculously obtuse comments. CO2 is a well known heat-trapping gas (see Fourier and Tyndall in the 1800s) and more CO2 logically traps more heat. To deny the logic of AGW is to deny the whole CO2 "greenhouse effect." How can you casually rule that out as a factor in storm size and persistence?

Also, comparing the Sandy death toll to other death tolls in random time-frames is specious. Countless people die of natural causes each day; where does the comparison end?! You have to compare any given storm/event to the scale of its predecessors and put it all in context.

Climate deniers are constantly ignoring context and cherry-picking data. True seekers of knowledge know that context is critical to understanding anything.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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