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White House climate report is clear: Global warming is here

6
Posted May 28, 2014 by Dr. David Suzuki in Climate Change

White House climate report is clear: Global warming is here

Because we enjoy relatively pure air, clean water and healthy food systems, Canadians sometimes take the environment for granted. Many scarcely blink if oil from a pipeline spills into a river, a forest is cleared for tar sands operations or agricultural land is fracked for gas. If Arctic ice melts and part of the Antarctic ice sheet collapses, well… they’re far away.

Some see climate change as a distant threat, if they see it as a threat at all. But the scientific evidence is overwhelming: climate change is here, and unless we curb behaviours that contribute to it, it will get worse, putting our food, air, water and security at risk. A recent White House report confirms the findings of this year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment report, and concludes global warming is a clear and present danger to the U.S.

Climate change already affecting America

“Climate change is not a distant threat, but is affecting the American people already,” says White House science adviser John Holdren in a video about the report.

Summers are longer and hotter, with longer periods of extended heat. Wildfires start earlier in the spring and continue later into the fall. Rain comes down in heavier downpours. People are experiencing changes in the length and severity of allergies. And climate disruptions to water resources and agriculture have been increasing.

Recognizing the problem’s severity is a start, but whether the U.S. will actually do anything is another question. Action to curb climate change is constantly stalled — thanks to the powerful fossil fuel industry, political and media denial, extensive fossil fuel-based infrastructure and citizen complacency.

Canada lags behind

But at least the U.S. and its president have unequivocally called for action. It’s disturbing that political leaders in Canada — a northern country already feeling impacts, with a long coastline particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels — ignore the issue in their drive to make Canada a petro-power.

Our government prefers to spend taxpayers’ money to support the fossil fuel industry with advertising campaigns and billions of dollars in subsidies. A recent New York Times ad, worth US$207,000, touts oil sands and pipelines as “environmentally responsible.” Despite opposition from communities throughout B.C. and the rest of Canada, including many First Nations, approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project is expected next month.

Perceived economic benefits (mostly short-term) trump the needs of all Canadians and their children and grandchildren for clean air and water, healthy food and a stable climate. Droughts, floods, water shortages, insect-plagued forests, extreme weather events, rising sea levels and melting glaciers don’t matter as much as getting the oil, gas and coal out of the ground and sold as quickly as possible.

BC fracking its way to “prosperity”

B.C. once showed promise with climate policies such as a carbon tax. Now the government in my home province is also pinning its hopes on the fossil fuel market, fracking our way to “prosperity” at the expense of long-term human and economic health, farmland and climate.

How can we allow governments and industry to continue leading us down this destructive path?

Some people say we must choose between the human-created economy and the natural environment — an absurd argument on many levels, and a false dichotomy. Even within the current flawed economic paradigm, it’s far more financially sound to invest in renewable energy and diversification than in a dying industry.

Others, often driven by fossil fuel industry propaganda, doubt the evidence and question the credentials of thousands of scientists worldwide studying the issue.

Reputable groups all agree climate change is real

The IPCC report involved hundreds of scientists and experts worldwide who analyzed the latest peer-reviewed scientific literature and other relevant materials on climate change. The White House report was overseen by 13 government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, Department of the Interior, Department of Defense and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It was written by close to 300 scientists and experts and reviewed by numerous others, including the National Academy of Sciences. It was also vetted by groups ranging from oil companies to environmental organizations. As an article on Desmog Blog points out, “If anything, this report is conservative in its findings.”

The IPCC and White House reports are clear: solutions are available. But the longer we delay the more difficult and expensive they will be to implement. We can’t just sit by and do nothing.

With contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.


About the Author

Dr. David Suzuki

David Suzuki, Co-Founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster. He is renowned for his radio and television programs that explain the complexities of the natural sciences in a compelling, easily understood way.

6 Comments


  1.  
    voodude

    The Wall Street Journal carried this piece by BJORN LOMBORG on its website, WSJ.COM in January of LAST year, but it still puts the pointy-end in first, so I quote, extensively:

    “In his second inaugural address … President Obama laudably promised to “respond to the threat of climate change.” Unfortunately, when the president described the urgent nature of the threat—the “devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms”—the scary examples suggested that he is contemplating poor policies … but exaggeration doesn’t help…”

    That is the stuff that Holdren reiterates today, so let me quote from WSJ.com again:

    “For starters, let’s address the three horsemen of the climate apocalypse that Mr. Obama mentioned.”

    “Historical analysis of wildfires around the world shows that since 1950 their numbers have decreased globally by 15%. Estimates published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences show that even with global warming proceeding uninterrupted, the level of wildfires will continue to decline until around midcentury and won’t resume on the level of 1950—the worst for fire—before the end of the century.”

    “Claiming that droughts are a consequence of global warming is also wrong. The world has not seen a general increase in drought. A study published in Nature in November shows globally that “there has been little change in drought over the past 60 years.” The U.N. Climate Panel in 2012 concluded: ‘Some regions of the world have experienced more intense and longer droughts, in particular in southern Europe and West Africa, but in some regions droughts have become less frequent, less intense, or shorter, for example, in central North America and northwestern Australia.’”

    “As for one of the favorites of alarmism, hurricanes in recent years don’t indicate that storms are getting worse. Measured by total energy (Accumulated Cyclone Energy), hurricane activity is at a low not encountered since the 1970s. The U.S. is currently experiencing the longest absence of severe landfall hurricanes in over a century—the last Category 3 or stronger storm was Wilma, more than seven years ago. ”

    I’ll try and post more of the Tornado URLs in a moment.




  2.  
    voodude

    “…Droughts, floods, water shortages, insect-plagued forests, extreme weather events, rising sea levels and melting glaciers…”

    David Suzuki and friends are just grabbing your hear-strings and pulling. Please, pay attention.
    Droughts are actually less… Floods are actually less… Tornadoes, Hurricanes, Typhoons, Cyclones, Tropcal storms – all manner of “extreme weather” that we can track with historical records, are all LESS than what your parents endured. Rising sea levels, well, the seas have been rising a little bit, ever since we left the Little Ice Age, many decades ago, and that isn’t going to change much, but it isn’t going to get any worse!

    The count of all hurricanes was over 60 in 1985, 1991, 1997; since 2007 the count has been 50 or below, every year (2013 ended with 43) http://policlimate.com/tropical/global_major_freq.png

    The number of named Atlantic storms last year was 13, about half of 2005’s 25, with 2014 forecasts predicting even less. See
    http://www.weatherstreet.com/hurricane/2010/named-storms-climatology.gif

    The number of actual Atlantic hurricanes in 2005 was more than seven times that of last year.
    http://www.weatherstreet.com/hurricane/2010/hurricane-climatology.gif

    June, 2014: Eight years have elapsed since a hurricane over category 3 hit the United States – the quietest period in recorded history, an all-time record calm (well, data before 1900 is sketchy, so at least, it is the best in over a century).

    Note that the USA hurricanes were the worst, prior to 1950 (1941-1950)
    http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/Landsea/gw_hurricanes/fig33.jpg

    Hurricanes, cyclones, typhoons (by count) have been on the decline since 1996, when the hurricane count last broke 60. Tropical storms, by count, haven’t broken 100 for sixteen straight years, and have been on the decline since 1998. See http://policlimate.com/tropical/frequency_12months.png
    Extremes peaked in 2005-2006, with the 5-year moving average over 40, the last couple of years, below 5.
    http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/images/cei/step6.02-01.gif

    The intensity, or strength, of cyclones, globally, is lower; below the peaks of 1993, 1998, and 2006
    http://policlimate.com/tropical/global_running_ace.png
    (and the above chart does not show the severe storms of the 1900-1950 half-century, when things were much worse, and CO2 much lower).

    Down under, Aussies’ extreme storms peaked in 1983-84:
    http://www.bom.gov.au/cyclone/images/tc-graph-1969-2012.png

    The count of “Named” storms each year can no longer be compared, since the USA’s National Hurricane Center began naming sub-tropical depressions as if they were full-tropical-strength, starting with Gustav, in 2002. Hurricanes, cyclones, etc and tropical storms (by ferocity) peaked in 1993, with a smaller peak in 1998, and an even smaller peak in 2006. See http://policlimate.com/tropical/global_running_ace.png

    Tornados are also way below normal. Three things about tornado data:

    (1) Doppler radar wasn’t around before. With radar, we detect more tornados, now.
    (2) People report tornados; fewer people back then, we missed some. More people now, we report more tornados.

    These two things would make the tornado count trend upward, even if the real number of tornados was absolutely flat, so the fact that the count of tornados is down, in spite of the detection bias, makes the claim of more ‘extreme weather’ even more silly, but wait,

    (3) The rating of the ferocity of a tornado is based upon the damage, and the width of the swath of destruction it leaves on the ground. Two identical tornados, one through a grassy pasture, and the other through a town, well, the one through the town would receive a higher rating, even though the two were identical. More people, more towns, one would expect more damage, higher ratings, if tornados were constant. Truth is, even the ferocity ratings are down. Ah, but lately, the “width” factor was changed from the average width, to the maximum width, thus tornadoes in the recent year or so will be rated higher than they would have been, prior to the “rule change”… even so, the numbers, and ratings, are lower.




  3.  
    voodude

    “Canada lags behind
    … a northern country already feeling impacts, with a long coastline particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels …” most of Canada’s coastline is NOT at risk from rising sea levels.

    The globe just left the “Little Ice Age” behind us. In geologic terms, that is a very short time ago. Global sea levels would naturally rise, as EXCESS ice on land melts, and the seas warm up a bit… warming water expands. But, note that global temperatures stopped rising at least ten years ago (more than 17 years ago, according to RSS satellites). This will stop the expansion (the stearic, thermal expansion) of the seas. In the last ice age (which really hasn’t ended, we’re still in the Holocene era), Canada felt the weight of the EXCESS ice, and that squished the land… Now that the EXCESS ice has left, much of Canada’s land is actually rebounding upward. There has been “news” of the great expanse of Western Antarctica’s glacier melting… It isn’t going to melt all at once… meanwhile, lots of NEW ice is forming around Eastern Antarctica (and all over the periphery of Antarctica – the middle of it is a desert). This excess snowfall is piling up ice that will greatly compensate for the melting, Western Antarctica ice sheet… but that isn’t what you have heard on the news, is it?

    Boning, Lebsock, Landerer and Stephens, published, 02 NOV 2012: “…recent extreme precipitation events along the East Antarctic coast that led to significant regional mass accumulations that partially compensate for some of the recent global ice mass losses that contribute to global sea level rise. The gain of almost 350 Gt from 2009 to 2011 is equivalent to a decrease in global mean sea level at a rate of 0.32 mm/yr over this three-year period.
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2012GL053316/abstract

    C. GENTHON, G. KRINNER, H. CASTEBRUNET (Annals of Glaciology 50 2009) say that increased precipitation in the Antarctic is so large that it will slow down sea level rise by 1 mm/year. The interior of the continent is a desert; the additional precipitation collects on the margins.
    http://www.igsoc.org:8080/annals/50/50/a50a101.pdf

    http://sealevel.colorado.edu/content/estimating-mean-sea-level-change-topex-and-jason-altimeter-missions
    http://sealevel.colorado.edu/content/2013rel8-global-mean-sea-level-time-series-seasonal-signals-removed
    “Abstract – 7 JUN 2013
    Recent snowfall anomalies in Dronning Maud Land, East Antarctica, in a historical and future climate perspective
    Enhanced snowfall on the East Antarctic ice sheet is projected to significantly mitigate 21st century global sea level rise. In recent years (2009 and 2011), regionally extreme snowfall anomalies in Dronning Maud Land, in the Atlantic sector of East Antarctica, have been observed. It has been unclear, however, whether these anomalies can be ascribed to natural decadal variability, or whether they could signal the beginning of a long-term increase of snowfall. Here we use output of a regional atmospheric climate model, evaluated with available firn core records and gravimetry observations, and show that such episodes had not been seen previously in the satellite climate data era (1979). Comparisons with historical data that originate from firn cores, one with records extending back to the 18th century, confirm that accumulation anomalies of this scale have not occurred in the past ~60 years, although comparable anomalies are found further back in time. We examined several regional climate model projections, describing various warming scenarios into the 21st century. Anomalies with magnitudes similar to the recently observed ones were not present in the model output for the current climate, but were found increasingly probable toward the end of the 21st century.”
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/grl.50559/abstract

    Sea level is rising, no where near what the IPCC claims, and Canada can deal with it.




  4.  
    voodude

    Holdren: “Summers are longer and hotter” – By whose memory? The US (and Canada) were much warmer in the 1930s.
    Holdren: “Wildfires start earlier in the spring and continue later into the fall….” I cannot refute that statistic, because the records I have access to, show tabulations of “number of fires” and “area burned” in a given year.
    - Western US wildfires are at their lowest point in THREE THOUSAND YEARS.
    “Since the late 1800s , human activities and the ecological effects of recent high fire activity caused a large, abrupt decline in burning similar to the [Little Ice Age] fire decline. Consequently, there is now a forest “fire deficit” in the western United States attributable to the combined effects of human activities, ecological, and climate changes.”
    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/02/09/1112839109.abstract

    LA Times: “Although 2013 was marked by two high-profile blazes, one in California and the other in Arizona, nationally the total wildfire acreage, 4.15 million, is far below the 10-year average of 6.8 million acres.”
    http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-wildfire-season-2013-20131209-story.html

    The study, below, noted a world-wide, century-long history of ever-decreasing GLOBAL burned area.
    “…we developed a 0.5° × 0.5° data set of global burned area from 1901 to 2007 …”
    “The average global burned area is ~442 × 104 km2 yr−1 during 1901–2007…”
    “…a notable declining rate of burned area globally (1.28 × 104 km2 yr−1).
    “… the declining trend of burned area in tropics and extratropics…”
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2013JG002532/abstract

    Canada also shows a DECREASE in the total number of fires, AND the total area burned, over the last 40 years. The snippet that I have is a graphic, so I can’t post it here…

    The graphic at
    http://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/fireInfo_stats_totalFires.html
    shows that the fires (by count, and by acres) have declined. It is a US statistic.

    Holdren makes a claim that rain comes “in heavier downpours”. That isn’t a statistic that is cited in years past; maybe modern technology can capture that, but not in the 1800s or early 1900s. However, STREAM FLOW gages have not shown any sign that rainfall is, in any way, abnormal.

    Flat out lies.




  5.  
    nonconfidencevote

    I have to admit .
    It is quite depressing at the complete pigheaded obstinance of our national and provincial leaders when it comes to alternate energy sources.
    Other countries offer tax breaks or refunds on clean energy purchases( solar, wind, etc.).
    Our “geniuses” just relabel oil and gas as “green”

    Its embarrassing. Its pathetic. Its outrageous.





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