Monday, November 16, 2015

Climate Change Deniers Still Don't Get Its Connections to National Security

Picture of Syrian refugees caught in a dust storm
 Kurds caught in sand tornado after streaming into Dikmetas, Turkey from Syria. Severe climate change -driven events in recent years, have also forced rural residents into Syrian cities helping to spark the civil war there. (Photo from National Geographic)

It boggles the mind how assorted right wingers, encapsulated in their assorted mental bubbles,  still can't process aspects of climate change, including: 1) the direct connection to national security matters (including terrorism), and 2) the nature of climate science itself, i.e. that it is not contingent merely on computer models but on actual observations.

In an ordinary, fully educated nation with a minimum of "low information voters" there wouldn't be controversy on either aspect. Citizens would be knowledgeable enough to have read and understood that climate change is a vastly more dramatic and catastrophic threat to humanity as a whole than a gaggle of half assed terrorists, or even 50,000 of them. Also, that climate science isn't simply based on computer models, or whether a powerful hurricane veers off its forecast computer track. (Which is actually in the domain of weather predictions, i.e. by meteorologists, not climatologists!)

In respect to the last no truly intelligent person who grasps the science would make such lame remarks as "there is no empirical evidence for it" or "there is no established science". (In fact, over 15,000 peer reviewed papers, many of which I've cited on this blog, show the extent of the established science in premier journals. That these critics are unable to read the papers or understand them doesn't make them any less established science with empirical evidence (see also (2) below)

If they make any such statements, in the course of recklessly popping off on their blogs,  they don't know the first thing about climate science and probably need a crash course or to spend a lot less time doing blogging in a vacuum and instead visiting:

Thus it is well for us to consider the Right's hollow, propaganda-based challenges to each of these in turn. (At the end is a thermal physics test to ascertain if they're qualified to spout on or comment on climate change at all!)

1) Sanders' claim that climate change is a foremost security threat:

I had noted two posts ago how Bernie Sanders correctly tagged climate change as the number one national security issue. This isn't exaggeration nor is it in any way daft or "dumb" as the dumbo denier contingent would have us believe. They clearly are unable to fathom how the destruction of crops, arising from warming climate and accompanied by drought - could also drive a Syrian civil war. They instead drag in red herrings like "there's been no mass starvation" - well, DUH - because the residents fled those affected regions into the urban areas so they wouldn't starve!  Nor does it occur that repeated monster sand storms - such as shown in the image above - would have eradicated whatever topsoil was left for agriculture- hastening the migrations.

In a published report appearing in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the authors compiled detailed statistics showing that water shortages in the Fertile Crescent in Syria, Iraq and Turkey, killed livestock, drove up food prices, sickened children and forced 1.5 million rural residents to the outskirts of Syria's jam-packed cities - just as the country was exploding with immigrants from the Iraq War. The stage was literally set for a human tinderbox.

NO one, obviously, is saying the mass migrations from rural areas was the sole or exclusive cause. But it was what we call the primary and immediate trigger, in what is a disjunctive plurality of causes - owing to the fact hard core Assad supporters were then brought into close contact with opponents (the ones mainly coming from the rural regions).

But the Syrian mass migration is merely the tip. It is estimated that as temperatures and droughts ramp up over the next thirty-odd years up to 200 million will be forced to flee -most from the African Sahel region and the Middle East. How will this mass be contained? Where will they go?  

Meanwhile, few ordinary citizens are aware that on April 24 this year the 'Defense, National Security And Climate Change Symposium' was held in Washington, D.C.  At the Symposium Brigadier General Stephen Cheney stepped up to the podium to discuss 'Conflict and Climate Change'. Cheney, like some other speakers- zeroed in on climate-driven migration, asserting:

"We know for a fact that climate change is already driving internal and cross border migration"

Referencing here, for example, that in Bangladesh - the 'ground zero' of global warming- rising sea levels could displace 15 million by 2050. Oxford University's Norman Myers has projected there could be as many as 200 million climate refugees by mid-century.

Cheney's presentation tagged a number of conflict climate triggers, including the desertification in the borderlands between Chad and Nigeria which "has caused a lot of migration". He also indicated that the terror organization Boko Haram "is simply taking advantage of that".

Other aspects of Cheney's talk cited beefing up military infrastructure at home and abroad to be resistant to harsher climate. The army, in fact, has adopted a 'Net Zero' initiative to make its U.S. bases water and energy independent.

Less well known is the Dept. of Homeland Security's Climate Action Plan. In effect since 2013, the Plan acknowledges that it may be necessary to prepare U.S. border for "frequent, short term, disaster driven migration".  The Plan anticipates legal and illegal movements across the U.S. border because of "severe drought and tropical storms".

More unsavory, the presence of over 100 military weapons vendors at the 9th annual 'Border Security Expo' in Phoenix in April - all slavering at the potential to make war on climate refugees - which would spell profitable business opportunities.

Climate change - global warming, never mind the seemingly small increments (which delude too many into complacency), is the most serious threat humans face. While terror wars may claim 100,000 - in the worst case scenarios over the next 15 years - look for climate change to claim five to six times that number either in the spread of tropical diseases (like dengue fever) to previous unaffected areas in the north, to heat exhaustion and heat deaths from prolonged heat waves lasting months instead of weeks, to diseases borne from more polluted food and water.

A shocking stat that put this into perspective for me was one given in The Economist (Nov. 7-13) noting that the percentage of humans now living in cities or urban areas stands at 54 percent of the global population - up from 40 percent  in the 1950s-60s.

Almost all of this altered population distribution is a result of climate change affecting those regions,  And we know from projections, e.g. from the Hadley UK Center, that those changes will become much more pronounced, even as 2014 broke all standing mean global temperature records, e.g.

2) The notion that climate science is all based on computer models.

We can't say for certain where or how this horse pockey originated, probably in one or more fermented brains, but it's clearly been regurgitated in sundry brain farts or blurtations from conservo dunces like Bret Stephens (or one of his cronies at the WSJ like Holman Jenkins) We refer to this cult of ignoramuses as agnotologists, because their emphasis is not on any science but on preserving the wanton consumption supporting the GDP and the hyper-capitalist state to keep banks, brokers and business making dough while others go into debt.

Stanford historian of science Robert Proctor has correctly tied it to the trend of skeptic science sown deliberately and for political or economic ends . In other words, the supporters of agnotology - whoever they may be- are all committed to one end: destroying the science to enable economic profit and hence planetary ruin. Proctor also notes these special interests are often paid handsomely to sow immense confusion on the issue.

 See e.g.

The nonsense that climate change is all based on "computers" and computer models is disproven on its face by anyone who has been able to travel to climate -affected glaciers such as Janice and I did on visits to Switzerland and Alaska, e.g.

A view of the receding Eigergletscher - seen from our train en route up to Jungfraujoch, Switzerland, in Sept. 2014, is seen above. This was not the only receding glacier we beheld but it unnerved us because it was the one we most recalled - from our previous trip to the same region in 1978. At that time (August, 1978) the glacier had extended all the way to the edge of the hill incline to the lower right.

Also, unlike when we were there in 1978, the powers-that-be had roped off the entire plateau area at Jungfraujoch and posted signs to warn visitors not to jump over the ropes or to go beyond (see image below). The supporting surface was too melted, soft and treacherous. With no such rope boundaries in '78,  we managed to hike far beyond those confines to the top of a steep slope nearly parallel with the Sphinx Observatory (upper far right) :

When we traveled to Alaska, in March, 2005, we saw similar unnerving sights. Many of these while we traveled in a small 'flightseeing' plane from Anchorage to Mount Denali. (Below, about to enter the plane at Anchorage Air Field):

One view from the cockpit of the plane is shown below:

The original deal was that we were supposed to land on a glacier near the peak and be able to walk around and see Denali up close and personal. This was the package promised. However, after several swoops low over the area the pilot warned he wouldn't be able to fulfill it. His 27 years of experience and hawk eyes informed him the supporting snow and ice was much too treacherous to sustain even a small plane landing. Did we really want our "money's worth"? Uh no.  What we saw, however, was enough to show us that those who denied global warming were spouting bollocks. Indeed, when I was at the University of Alaska over 1985-86  on a research sabbatical it was none other than Prof. Gunter Weller who had first shown how the Arctic was warming much more rapidly than the lower continent - and this was part of anthropogenic warming predictions.

This was based on the careful analysis of ice core samples directly extracted from surface and subsurface ice in Alaska, not simply "computer models"

Prof. Gunther Weller at the Geophysical Institute

Prof. Gunther Weller at the University of Alaska- Fairbanks first presented this in his detailed ice core measurements in a 1987  research report and showed that the Arctic temperatures (then) were some 7F warmer than rest of the world. The ice cores available at his Atmospheric Physics lab (part of the Geophysical Institute in Fairbanks) were extracted from Arctic ice at depths corresponding with geological time frames dating back over 80,000 years. His results showed that the greatest ambient temperatures corresponded to the highest CO2 concentrations in the ice cores. Also the largest increases in ambient temperatures have occurred over the past 50-60 years, during which the CO2 increases have been largest. Since then this relationship has only been further corroborated.

For example, Prof. Gale Christianson notes for example (in 'Greenhouse', Penguin, 1999, pp. 171):

"Never has the Earth remained cool when the CO2 concentration was high. Conversely there is no record of an ice age except when CO2 levels dropped below some 200 ppm."

The evidence is there, and before us - staring us in the face- at least for those of us who've gone to Alaska and Switzerland and seen first hand the negative effect anthropogenic warming is having on key attractions, events and even buildings. Those unable to travel to such places can still see the current rapid melting of glaciers world wide at this link:

In other words, there really is no excuse not to be aware.

Assorted dunderheads and climate know- nothings can attack Sanders all they want but only reveal their own level of undiluted ignorance. Especially when most have never taken a physics course in their lives so wouldn't know the difference between objects in thermal contact and diffusive contact.

Lastly, no one should be bloviating on climate change - a branch of thermal physics - at all, unless he or she can first pass a test (with at least aa 70 percent) on basic thermal physics!

If you think you're able, go for it here:

If you're not able you need to put a cap on climate change blather and stick to what you know.

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