Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

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Good Climate Language Development

I have commented many times in the past few years that the emissions scenarios underlying IPCC climate projections were archaic and focus needed to shift based on historical (observed) emissions away from the emissions set established more than a decade ago.

It is thus refreshing to see in a new short article, written by some of the most well-known names in climate science, the A2 scenario described as “moderate” instead of “extreme” (if it was used in a scientific report in the first place), as was the case even within the last year.  The authors accurately state that to achieve the A2 trajectory, which results in some of the warmest global conditions by the end of the 21st century, we would have to drastically reduce our emissions now.  I have also written many times that this reduction will not happen any time in the near future.  I keep promising some information to back up that claim and I’ll promise it here again.  A different recent report further reinforced the need I feel to share with readers of this blog.  Hopefully I will have time to write it soon.

I highly recommend reading the article I’ve linked to above.  It’s easy to read, short, yet carries a high impact message for those of us experiencing the destructive and sometimes deadly effects of heat waves in recent years (and right now!).


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Health Insurance Law (ACA) Upheld By Supreme Court

First things first: it’s not a health care bill, it’s a health insurance bill.  Tens of millions of people will be made to buy insurance from private corporations.  Whether those folks actually receive quality health care is another problem altogether, having mostly to do with socio-economic status.  Do you think a child in the poorest part of Alabama will have access to the same level of care as Mitt Romney’s sons or Barack Obama’s daughters?

Onto the main topic this day: the Supreme Court of the US has upheld the Affordable Health Care Act.

This is not the result that I predicted beforehand.  I did not think the anti-consumer, anti-citizen, anti-Constitution right-wingers on the Court would do anything that might help President Obama.  My initial reaction is that Chief Justice Roberts realized the profits the health insurance industry would reap if the law remained in place and that overwhelmed his tendency to stick it to the American people.

Furthermore, I do not think this helps Americans get closer to a universal health care system. in the short to medium term.  I think that is the direction most activists are pushing and therefore we will implement such a system sometime in the more distant future.  I would like to see individual states offer some version of universal health coverage by themselves and then join cooperatives to expand their population pools.

This gives candidate Romney something to talk about for a while, but there is no way he will actually remove the ACA if he were elected: the industry has already changed too much in preparation for 2014, when the law takes full effect.

Some of the media struggled with reporting this as the following screenshots demonstrate.

MSNBC at 10:20EDT:

CNN at 10:11EDT:

CNN at 10:18EDT


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Arctic Will Be Opened To Drilling

Among the reasons: Russia, Canada and Norway will drill, so we should also.  This from a “Democratic” administration.  This development is the result of increasing  corporate control over a government.  When people voted for “Hope and Change” in 2008, did they really think that any part of Obama’s administration would stand up to fossil fuel drilling in the most sensitive areas left on Earth?  In Colorado, policy allows natural gas drill pads physically closer to elementary schools than are marijuana dispensaries.  All this is occurring just two years after one of the worst oil spills in world history – how short is our memory?  Maybe people figure as long as the oil only destroys an Arctic ecosystem instead of an ecosystem which Americans might personally experience, then it’s alright.

Shell will receive approval for drilling later this year, according to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.  The article also includes a couple of reassurances that any potential spills in the future will be dealt with quickly because sufficient technologies will be in place already.  Once a spill occurs (as they always do), every politician and corporate executive interviewed will lament that nobody could possibly have foreseen an oil spill in the Arctic.

Solar panels and wind farms don’t explode or leak, to say nothing of the lack of carbon emissions from their energy generation.  The resources utilized are also common resources (nobody owns the sun or air – yet), so they directly threaten the obscene profits realized by a handful of corporations who now  have more rights than American citizens.


Conservatives Do Not Believe In States’ Rights

The most conservative judges on the Supreme Court since the 1930s issued a decision yesterday that said police could racially profile people in Arizona.  Some of the writings and statements made yesterday were overtly political – exactly what judges should not be.  The politicization of the Supreme Court by right wing extremists has reached new heights with this group.  That was the state of affairs forecasted to occur by non-partisan experts asked to comment on President Bush’s unqualified nominees.  And that is the state of affairs that has developed.  Based on the aforementioned writings, the conservative judges defended the so-called “right” of Arizona to “defend” itself against people that those in power don’t want in the state: brown people.

Is the immigration system broken?  Yes.

Are most government systems broken?  Yes.

Why are they broken?  Because those same right-wing extremists have put policies and personnel in place to ensure the systems don’t operate as they were designed.  The more they can wreck things, the truer their complaints that government doesn’t work rings true.  It’s called fulfilling their own prediction.

But hold on one moment.  Those same so-called “pro-states’ rights” folks are equally silent on the right of Montana to enforce a 100-year old law to keep corruption out of government.  Folks used to publicly pay for legislators – including U.S. Senators – to get the policies they individually wanted implemented.  The people of Montana stood up to that kind of nonsense.  Alito, Romney, Limbaugh and all the other right-wing nuts out there didn’t say word one about Montana’s right to pass a state law in the absence of national laws and a broken election system.

There are dozens of corporate media articles proclaiming Romney’s unwavering belief that states’ rights are paramount.

Except that it isn’t.  The corporate media is part of the problem.  If they sold themselves as stenographers, dutifully copying down everything fed to them by whatever source they could dredge up, that would be one thing.  But they continue to try to pass their industry off as legitimate.  The results?  Declining participation in a democratic process.  Disapproval of all branches of government.  These conditions won’t last forever.  Movements will arise and succeed in putting the ship back on course.  The wealthy and powerful won’t like it, but that’s not the real issue.

At the end of the day, conservatives believe in states’ rights.  Except when they don’t, which is more often than when they do.

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NASA & NOAA: May 2012 Was 2nd Warmest On Record

According to data released by NASA and NOAA this month, May 2012 was the 2nd warmest May on record: NASA’s analysis produced the 2nd (tied with 2010) warmest May in its dataset; NOAA recorded the 2nd warmest May in its dataset.  The two agencies have slightly different analysis techniques, which actually helps to reinforce the results from each other.

The details:

May’s global average temperatures were 0.65°C (1.17°F) above normal (1951-1980), according to NASA.  The warmest regions on Earth are exactly where climate models have been projecting the most warmth to occur for years: high latitudes (especially within the Arctic Circle in May 2012).  The past three months have a +0.56°C temperature anomaly.  And the latest 12-month period (Jun 2011 – May 2012) had a +0.52°C temperature anomaly.

According to NOAA, May’s global average temperatures were 0.66°C (1.19°F) above the 20th century mean of 14.8°C (58.6°F).  NOAA’s global temperature anomaly map for May (duplicated below) reinforces the message: high latitudes continue to warm at a faster rate than the mid- or low-latitudes.  Unfortunately in May 2012, the Northern Hemisphere was almost entirely warmer than normal.  The extreme warmth over Siberia is especially worrisome due to the vast methane reserves locked into the tundra and under the seabed near the region.  Methane is a stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide,which is the leading cause of the warmth we’re now witnessing. As I discussed in the comments in a recent post, the warming signal from methane likely hasn’t been captured yet since the yearly natural variability and the CO2-caused warming signals are much stronger.  It is likely that we will not detect the methane signal for many more years.  Of additional concern are the very warm conditions found over Greenland.


Figure 1. Global temperature anomaly map for May 2012 from NOAA.

These observations are also worrisome for the following reason: the globe is still exiting the latest La Niña event:


Figure 2. Time series of weekly SST data from NCEP. (NOAA)  The highest interest region for El Niño/La Niña is NINO 3.4 (2nd time series from top).

As the second time series graph (labeled NINO3.4) shows, the last La Niña event hit its highest (most negative) magnitude in December 2011.  Since then, SSTs have slowly warmed back toward a 0C anomaly (y-axis).  La Niña is a cooling event of the tropical Pacific Ocean that has effects across the globe.  It is therefore significant that the past few months’ global temperatures continued to rank in or near the top-5 warmest in the modern era.  You can see the effect on global temperatures that this last La Niña had via this NASA time series.

As the globe returns to ENSO-neutral conditions this summer and early fall, how will global temperatures respond?  Remember that global temperatures typically trail ENSO conditions by 3-6 months: the recent tropical Pacific warming trend should therefore help boost global temperatures back to their most natural state (i.e., without an ENSO signal on top of it).  Looking further into the future, what will next year’s temperatures be as the next El Niño develops?


US Drought Conditions mid-June 2012: 69% in West, 57% in Southeast

The record warmth of the past six months in the US was more than just a set of numbers or a temporarily interesting headline.  Along with the heat, precipitation for most of the southern half of the country has been below average in the past few months.  The result?  At least some level of drought conditions exists today across the Western US, with a significant portion of the Southwest (CO, NM, AZ, NV) experiencing Severe drought:


Figure 1. Drought conditions over the West US for the week ending 12 June 2012.

As you can probably tell from Figure 1, the Pacific Northwest had below average temperatures and above average precipitation during the same time period, thus the relative lack of drought in OR, WA, ID & MT.

Interestingly, the areas experiencing the most severe level of drought are also those with the largest wildfires: the High Park fire in my state and the Little Bear and the Whitewater-Baldy Complex (at 289,478-acres as of yesterday!) fires in New Mexico.  An additional link to climate change here: the High Park fire is burning in an area that the the pine beetle epidemic has devastated.  The epidemic has left over 3.3 million acres of forest in just Colorado with dead trees.  The beetles’ population have exploded in the past 20 years as winter nighttime lows warmed enough to allow more larvae to survive the coldest months of the year.  This epidemic will transform the inter-mountain West.  Combined with the extensive drought, millions more acres of trees will succumb to the epidemic.

Meanwhile, the Southeast finally got some relief in the past week and a half due to very heavy rainfall.  The result is clear in the table below: the percent area experiencing drought has dropped significantly, from over 75% three months ago to 57% this week.  Unfortunately, the areas with the worst drought conditions didn’t get their long-term drought busted, especially Georgia.  This area typically receives some relief from drought during the Atlantic tropical storm season.  The Atlantic has been quiet for the past few weeks, however.  The Southeast will have to wait a bit longer for additional relief.


Figure 2. Drought conditions over the Southwest US for the week ending 12 June 2012.

Drought has been present across GA for the better part of a year now.  The area affected by drought has expanded to neighboring states during the end of the winter and beginning of spring, then shifted in the last month due to weather systems moving through.

There’s no crisis to speak of yet, but inhabitants as well as policymakers should monitor conditions as the year progresses.  These conditions are not a result of climate change in any direct way.  They are simply a result of a chain of events, some of which (e.g. Arctic ice loss in recent years) are more directly related to climate change than others.

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You Still Get Evil When You Vote For The Lesser Of Two Evils

I have argued for some time now with fellow Democrats and liberals about what I perceive as the lack of choice in candidates between the two major US political parties, especially for “higher” offices – President and Senator especially.  Yesterday’s news that President Obama restarted an effort begun under the Bush presidency to establish a free trade pact with eight Asian nations, despite clear and unambiguous 2008 campaign promises not to, is the latest evidence supporting my theory.

My theory is the lede: you still get something evil when you vote for the lesser of two evils.  This goes out to all the so-called Democratic activists who claim that voting for a “Democrat” is always the only choice.  No, it’s not.  It’s a terrible long-term plan because right-wingers purposefully grow more extreme, which pulls Democratic candidates and their policies further and further to the right.  I only vote for candidates that I think will stop this trajectory.  I didn’t think then-Sen. Obama would do that in 2008 and most of his actions since then have convinced me of that opinion.

Compare this:

The newly leaked document is one of the most controversial of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. It addresses a broad sweep of regulations governing international investment and reveals the Obama administration’s advocacy for policies that environmental activists, financial reform advocates and labor unions have long rejected for eroding key protections currently in domestic laws.

with the 2008 campaign promise:

“We will not negotiate bilateral trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety, or the health of its citizens; give greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors; require the privatization of our vital public services; or prevent developing country governments from adopting humanitarian licensing policies to improve access to life-saving medications,” reads the campaign document.

The administration and its sycophants can spin this free trade effort any way they want – the end result will be the ultimate determination of what President Obama and his backers really want.  Read again what I wrote in the first paragraph: Obama restarted the Bush effort.  Obama stopped it once he gained office, with a grand public show trying to prove how change-gy and hope-y he was.  Then he restarted it without public acclaim.  His administration has been negotiating for over 2 years in secret.  It’s all bipartisanship-y, which is exactly what the corrupt media inside the D.C. Beltway wants to see, but it’s not what average Americans want to see.  Has Obama been campaigning on this effort?  No, he hasn’t brought it up once.  Nor has he campaigned on the other free trade agreements he’s signed.  Our economy falters, which we’re told causes Obama to worry, but the free trade express keeps chugging right along without public debate.

So keep voting for the lesser of two evils.  Just don’t expect me to consider a slower march to an evil state a success.  A march away from that state would be a success.  That’s what I’ll be voting for in November.