Hard to Deny Climate Change Right Now

With much of the US experiencing searing heat, parching drought and catastrophic wildfires, a survey released today shows that Americans are accepting the reality of climate change.

The poll shows that 70% of Americans believe climate change is occurring – 87% of Democrats, 72% of Independents and 53% of Republicans.

Indeed, worldwide greenhouse gas emissions rose another 3.2% in 2011 after rising 5% in 2010, hitting their highest levels ever.

Those increases come squarely from China now, where emissions rose a startling 9.3% last year. They’ve been dropping in the US since 2006, but not enough to counteract China’s rise.

China is now responsible for 29% of global emissions versus 16% for the US, reports Reuters, followed by the EU (11%), India (6%), Russia (5%) and Japan (4%).

In fact, the average Chinese citizen now has a carbon footprint almost equal to that of the average person living in Europe, reports The Guardian.

Meanwhile, a massive iceberg twice the size of Manhattan (46 square miles) broke off one of Greenlands’ major glaciers last week. Two years ago, an iceberg twice that size slid into the ocean.

"It’s dramatic. It’s disturbing," says University of Delaware professor Andreas Muenchow, one of the first researchers to notice the break. "We have data for 150 years and we see changes that we have not seen before. It’s one of the manifestations that Greenland is changing very fast."

"This is not part of natural variations anymore," says NASA glaciologist Eric Rignot.

Sea levels on the US east and west coasts are rising much faster than expected.

Weather Offers Convincing Climate Change Argument

The US is broiling in the worst drought since the 1950s. Nearly 81% of the nation is "abnormally dry" or in drought and forecasters now warn it could widen and intensify through October.

June 2011-June 2012 is the warmest period since record-keeping began in 1895. North and South Korea are also experiencing the worst drought in a century, and central and eastern Canada are in drought. In contrast, Russia is grappling with terrible floods, and earlier this spring Florida had torrential floods.

The US Dept of Agriculture (USDA) has declared 1,297 counties across 29 states a massive federal disaster zone – accounting for 88% of the nation’s corn supply and 87% of soybean crops.

Rising prices are already affecting livestock and dairy farmers, and are expected to show up in the form of higher food prices within two to three months.

On July 23, the USDA announced measures to support drought-affected farmers, including emergency loans and opening up lands enrolled in environmental conservation programs for agricultural uses.

"As a leading exporter of corn and soy, the U.S. is intricately linked to the global food market," say Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell of the Center for Climate and Security. "Drought and crop failure in the U.S. could spike world food prices and have serious implications for places like Mexico, China, Central America and India, who rely heavily on imports of these crops, as well as animal feed."

This is part of "the globalization of hazards" and could have far reaching consequences, they warn. "What we’ve seen is that spikes in world food prices have increased the likelihood of instability and riots. In some instances, crop failure in one part of the world is associated with instability halfway around the globe, can contribute to serious diplomatic crises between the U.S. and its allies — as occurred with Egypt — and could conceivably result in U.S. military involvement."

Time for the Media to Get Involved

"This is just the beginning," warns Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at the Weather Underground, of what life with the impacts of climate change will look like.

Masters is one of the few meteorologists who have been willing to connect the dots with climate change to the public. He says he will take advantage of the Weather Channel’s recent purchase of Weather Underground to educate Americans. "I think it’s important for the public to hear that what we’re seeing now is the future. We better prepare for heatwaves, fires and storms. We better educate people on what’s going on, give the best science that’s out there on what climate change is doing and where it’s likely to head. I think TV meteorologists are missing a big opportunity to educate and tell the population what is likely to happen."

Only 3% of media mentioned climate change in connection with the wildfires in the US west.

In June, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) gave a major speech on the Senate floor lamenting the failure of the US political system to address the global warming crisis, but the media didn’t cover it.

He says: "In the United States, a calculated campaign of disinformation has steadily beaten back the consensus momentum for action on climate change and replaced it with timidity by proponents in the face of millions of dollars of phony, contrived ‘talking points,’ illogical and wholly unscientific propositions and a general scorn for the truth wrapped in false threats about job loss and taxes."

"The level of dissembling – of outright falsifying of information, of greedy appeal to fear tactics that has stalled meaningful action now for 20 years – is hard to wrap one’s mind around," he says.

Finally, for the first time ever, scientists say they can confidently attribute specific weather events and patterns to man-made global warming, including unusual cold spells, prolonged heat waves and drought, intense storms and extreme floods. They issued the conclusion in the ‘State of the Climate‘ report, produced each year by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the American Meteorological Society.

"2011 will be remembered as a year of extreme events, both in the United States and around the world," says Deputy NOAA Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D. "Every weather event that happens now takes place in the context of a changing global environment."

Another poll shows that a majority of Americans think that much can be done to reduce future global warming and about two-thirds want the US to be a world leader on addressing the problem.

Almost half of those polled say President Obama wants a "great deal" or "quite a bit" of government action on global warming, but only 11% say the same about Mitt Romney.

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Comments on “Hard to Deny Climate Change Right Now”

  1. organicgirl

    While there are certain parts of this article that I agree with, the wildfire piece isn’t one of them. The bark beetle, emerald ash borer, and Dutch Elm Disease have created plenty of natural fuel for a fire, just add lightening. A few of the wildfires started before the drought conditions even existed. Not every problem can be blamed on global warming and it is reporting like this that makes it easy for skeptics to discredit the legitimate portions.

    Reply
  2. Mikee

    RE: organicgirl I live within 20 miles of dozens of current and former wildfires this season. We have few beetle problems, and the storms didn’t start until long after the fire season started.

    Also, the article mentions that only 3% of media outlets covered what you’re complaining about.

    Reply
  3. steve griffin

    with asphalt and concrete, urban spread, get back to nature but build me a road to nowhere, deforestation to grow profits, gas gluttons that now brazil, china, & india are buying. The scary thing is what will the acceleration rate of global warming be, when the developing countries do what we have been doing for decades:?

    Reply
  4. Rona Fried

    That’s exactly the problem. The media doesn’t connect the dots between the bark beetle and other insects that are devouring forests because of climate change. They don’t die off in the winter anymore because it’s warmer and dryer all around, setting the stage for massive wildfires if lightning strikes. The drought conditions have existed for years now because of climate change – the snow pack melts faster. The huge increase in wildfires in the southwestern US and in many other countries is definitely the result of climate change.

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  5. Nick

    Though I see this as an argument on both sides (believers and deniers), I hope you realize that microscopic weather events are almost entirely unrelated to macroscopic climate events. Even if we were enduring a period of macroscopic cooling, for example, we should expect to see things like droughts, heatwaves, and localized warm periods.

    Using microscopic weather events as “evidence” of climate change is like using a paper cut as “evidence” of depressed or unstable mental health. Obviously, they are related (get enough paper cuts and you’ll probably be depressed), but it is improper to use these events, in and of themselves, as proof of climate change.

    In my opinion, you do the science of climate change a disservice when you use these arguments, as they can just as easily be turned back against climate change as “proof” that it’s a hoax. When we experience (expected) periods of cool weather, extended winters, or excessive rain/snow, those microscopic events have little baring on the actual macroscopic movement of the climate.

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  6. Pollyprissypants

    The earth is and has been warming for the past 50,000 years. No one denies that. The glaciers where all the way down to New Jersey just a few 10,000 years ago. Who’s responsible for that decline? How much is manmade? The earth cycles through ice ages all the time. Can’t we just go back to cutting pollution and conserving natural resources for future generations? Global warming people cannot be trusted. No matter what the weather is it is because of man-made global warming. Too hot, yes. Too cold, yup. Too dry, we got that covered. Too wet, yup that is covered too.

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  7. Bald_eagle

    Its hot this summer, but will the media be reporting just the opposite this winter when its 10 degrees throughout the Midwest and East? This isn’t Global Warming… its a natural cycle the Earth goes through. Of course the scientists want Global Warming (er Climate Change) so that they can get hundreds of millions of dollars in “research” grants. What a scam.

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  8. Noggle

    The science says that we are seeing patterns that are unequivocally not the ‘natural cycle that Earth goes through’. Only human interference can explain the deviations from historical data (which incluides all those cycles). I agree that individual events stretch the attribution models, generally toward breaking point. But that’s not the point here: the point is the pattern of events we are seeing. How many ants do you need to see in your house before you know there’s a nest underneath it? The question is really how wide are we prepared to look when assessing our patterns. I believe in Climate Change (Global Warming is an unhelpful moniker) but I don’t want a grant. I want my son to have a world that’s habitable. Smart media will look at how high the lows are this winter, and report that.

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  9. Joe

    Climate scientists are getting death threats. I wonder why that is? Republican operatives have switched from getting paid by the tobacco industry to getting paid by the fossil fuel industry. I wonder why that is? I’m not so ignorant that I need micro or current events as special indicators that we have been unequivocally polluting ourselves out of the Garden of Eden. But I do need a government with an ethical Fourth Estate and is subject to peer review…an American Government: Resolutely Democratic

    Reply
  10. Rona Fried

    Climate change is the ONLY issue where people think they know more than Scientists. Every scientists that hasn’t been paid off by the oil industry says the research absolutely and conclusively shows we are heading toward catastrophic climate change. Yet, you know more about natural cycles of the earth than they do? The FACTS are that humans are causing in just 100 years what has happened in “natural” cycles over hundreds of thousands if not millions of years. This isn’t about one summer – scientists have been saying this for decades and the trends of growing warming have been evident and growing. We are clearly at the precipice – whether it’s extreme warm weather or extreme cold weather, it is still climate change. If a doctor tells you have cancer, do you believe him or her? S/he comes to that diagnosis because of science, do you say, oh, yes, all those irregular cells really aren’t cancer? No, you act on it.

    Reply

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