Friday, April 22, 2016

An Earth Day Memo To Climate Change Deniers: Time To Give It Up

As most of the news media appears to be obsessed with the untimely death of a rock star, the death of a planet still goes mostly unnoticed on this Earth Day, 2016. Despite three of the past four years being the hottest on record, tropical diseases such as West Nile and dengue fever killing ever more in temperate zones, and 330 million now adversely affected by drought in India, the media deems the death of Prince more important than attending to the latest climate convulsions.

Oh, this also includes the latest reports that only 7 percent of Australia's Great Barrier Reef has escaped 'bleaching' a result of being exposed to ever higher sea temperatures. In respect of this phenomenon, Prof. Terry Hughes - member of the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce- recently informed a BBC audience that the link between global warming and coral bleaching was "very well established". Indeed, it has been, just as the ramping up of El Nino events with enhanced global warming has been well documented by S. George Philander of the American Geophysical Union.

As Prof. Hughes noted, the rising water temperatures cause corals to drive out color-giving algae and the coral dies if conditions don't return to normal.  The task force's survey shows the extent of damage is most severe in the northern section of 2,300 km reef off of Queensland.  More than 900 reefs were surveyed using a light plane and helicopter and the accuracy was checked by scuba teams.

Bleached coral off Australian coast.

The bleaching, of course, is not merely an aesthetic negative. It signifies rapid death of coral and that climate change is (already) irreversibly affecting the world, even as slothful policy makers treat it as a future threat. As Ocean scientist Steve Palumbi of Stanford has put it:

"Climate change may be slow creeping sometimes, but other times it takes great leaps forward. This is one of those leaps with the coral reefs."

Meanwhile, in India, a ferocious drought is taking a toll even as a heat wave extends across much of the country with temperatures having reached 40 C (104F) four days now. Schools have been shut down in the eastern state of Orissa and more than 100 deaths from heatstroke have been reported from across the country. These include the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh which saw over 2,000 heat deaths last summer.  The Indian government has reported nearly 256 districts affected across India, home to nearly a fourth of the country's population - or 330m.

Most Indian climate specialists attribute these heat waves to a ramped up El Nino and global warming which they agree is fueled by humans generating CO2, increasing the planet's CO2 concentrations now to over 400 parts per million. Let's recall that the late Carl Sagan, who did the original research tying the conditions on Venus to an incipient Greenhouse Effect via CO2 buildup, also pointed out that prolonged heat waves would occur as a result of the later stages of global warming - before the runaway greenhouse sets in.

All of this has transpired even as revised temperature increases are for 4C- 6C by the end of the century, and sea level increases up to 0.5 m higher. (See attached U.S. Geological Survey map of consequences to Florida by 2035.)

In the midst of all this, climate deniers and also quasi deniers (like Bjorn Lomborg) continue to make light of the situation, either dismissing it entirely (namely the human CO2 factor), or averring that "cold kills more than heat" - as Lomborg did in a recent WSJ op-ed (April 7, p. A15).  In that piece, Lomborg actually wrote:

"In the U.S. about 9,000 die from heat every year but 144,000 die from cold."

Failing to take note that it is actually social conditions that precipitated those cold deaths, not the cold per se. (Or to put it another way, the cold only caused the deaths after the victims were denied affordable heating in their. homes.) The victims then were primarily from the huge homeless population, and also millions unable to afford adequate heating owing to the high cost of energy. To fix ideas, some eight years ago tens of thousands in New England faced a bleak winter with little heating oil - because subsidies were cut - when Venezuela came to the rescue, compliments of their national company Citgo.

The U.S. was shamed in the Left press at the time for letting a foreign nation tend to our needy elderly (mainly) while the wealthiest roasted chestnuts in their own fireplaces with abandon.

Every October, in fact, I receive notices from the Colorado Springs Utilities asking for energy donations to help one or more of the 24,000 people in need in our area. Even for us, the cost of the natural gas has increased so much that if we are faced with an especially cold month (most days 10F or lower) the utility bill can come in at over $250 with nearly $125 for gas heating alone. Many in our area cannot afford this. It's either lower the thermostat (often to 60F or less) or don't eat. Note this is above all an ECONOMIC issue, not a climate issue, so it is specious of Lomborg to compare cold deaths to heat deaths without reckoning in that it is much more costly to remain warm in colder temperatures than to remain cool in hotter ones. (Though this is increasingly changing here in Colorado as the warming temperatures over the past ten years have forced more and more home owners to install air conditioning).

Lomborg's emphasis on cold vs. heat deaths also greatly oversimplifies the issue, given that is only one aspect of the increased mortality from enhanced global warming. Left out is the spread of once tropical diseases, as well as parasitical ones, not to mention extreme droughts and flooding attributed to global warming linked events. Again, while one can't pin a specific event to global warming it is possible to arrive at a statistical limit of probability given that any high school physics student knows that a warmer atmosphere (air) holds more water and under the right conditions that moisture can be unleashed - to torrential levels as we've recently seen in the case of Houston, and earlier Louisiana.

Lomborg does at least admit: 'Climate change is a genuine problem that will eventually be a net detriment to society".

But my take and the take of others is that it is already a net detriment now, even as the African-originating Zika virus now stands to spread to the U.S. this summer.

Those who want to access the 'Climate Deception Dossiers' , showing how the denier gestalt has been fabricated and funded, can go here:

See also:

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