The fact is: Human-caused climate change has increased the odds of extreme, even unprecedented weather events. Senior scientist Jerry Meehl of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) puts it this way, “Just as steroids make a baseball player stronger, and increase his chances of hitting home runs, greenhouse gases are the steroids of the climate system.” So in the case of climate, the extra juice (greenhouse gases, not performance-enhancing drugs) doesn’t result in more home runs but in the greater likelihood that heat waves and other forms of extreme weather will occur.Climate scientists have long warned that if we continue to burn fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas as our dominant source of energy, the planet will warm, extreme events will increase, and we will become more vulnerable to disasters.
The media often avoids making the connection between weather and climate change — and while weather coverage has dominated the headlines all year, these climate facts go largely unmentioned. For example, last August the New York Times ran a gripping piece on the intense drought that plagued 14 states along America’s southern tier. The story put a human face on the economic toll of this slowly unfolding disaster. However, when it came to providing readers with a deeper understanding of the shifting dynamics of drought, the reporters neglected the elephant in the room – climate change.
The global output of heat-trapping carbon dioxide jumped by the biggest amount on record, the U.S. Department of Energy calculated, a sign of how feeble the world's efforts are at slowing man-made global warming.
The new figures for 2010 mean that levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago.
It is a "monster" increase that is unheard of, said Gregg Marland, a professor of geology at Appalachian State University, who has helped calculate Department of Energy figures in the past.
Since Republicans won control of many statehouses last November, more than a dozen states have passed laws requiring voters to show photo identification at polls, cutting back early voting periods or imposing new restrictions on voter registration drives.
Restrictive voting laws in states across the country could affect up to five million voters from traditionally Democratic demographics in 2012, according to a new report by the Brennan Center. That’s a number larger than the margin of victory in two of the last three presidential elections.
The new restrictions, the study found, “fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities. This wave of changes may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election.”
A comprehensive new study that profiles 280 of America’s most profitable companies finds that 78 of them paid no federal income tax in at least one of the last three years. Thirty companies enjoyed a negative income tax rate over the three year period, despite combined pre-tax profits of $160 billion.
Keynote Address at Public Citizen's 40th Anniversary Gala
The Scientific Finding that Settles the Climate-Change Debate
By Eugene Robinson
Published October 24 in the Washington Post
For the clueless or cynical diehards who deny global warming, it’s getting awfully cold out there.
The latest icy blast of reality comes from an eminent scientist whom the climate-change skeptics once lauded as one of their own. Richard Muller, a respected physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, used to dismiss alarmist climate research as being “polluted by political and activist frenzy.” Frustrated at what he considered shoddy science, Muller launched his own comprehensive study to set the record straight. Instead, the record set him straight.
“Global warming is real,” Muller wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal.
Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and the rest of the neo-Luddites who are turning the GOP into the anti-science party should pay attention.
“When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn’t know what we’d find,” Muller wrote. “Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that.”
In other words, the deniers’ claims about the alleged sloppiness or fraudulence of climate science are wrong. Muller’s team, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, rigorously explored the specific objections raised by skeptics — and found them groundless.
Muller and his fellow researchers examined an enormous data set of observed temperatures from monitoring stations around the world and concluded that the average land temperature has risen 1 degree Celsius — or about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit — since the mid-1950s.
The Berkeley group’s research even confirms the infamous “hockey stick” graph — showing a sharp recent temperature rise — that Muller once snarkily called “the poster child of the global warming community.” Muller’s new graph isn’t just similar, it’s identical.
Muller found that skeptics are wrong when they claim that a “heat island” effect from urbanization is skewing average temperature readings; monitoring instruments in rural areas show rapid warming, too. He found that skeptics are wrong to base their arguments on the fact that records from some sites seem to indicate a cooling trend, since records from at least twice as many sites clearly indicate warming. And he found that skeptics are wrong to accuse climate scientists of cherry-picking the data, since the readings that are often omitted — because they are judged unreliable — show the same warming trend.
Muller and his colleagues examined five times as many temperature readings as did other researchers — a total of 1.6 billion records — and now have put that merged database online. The results have not yet been subjected to peer review, so technically they are still preliminary. But Muller’s plain-spoken admonition that “you should not be a skeptic, at least not any longer” has reduced many deniers to incoherent grumbling or stunned silence.
Not so, I predict, with the blowhards such as Perry, Cain and Bachmann, who, out of ignorance or perceived self-interest, are willing to play politics with the Earth’s future. They may concede that warming is taking place, but they call it a natural phenomenon and deny that human activity is the cause.
It is true that Muller made no attempt to ascertain “how much of the warming is due to humans.” Still, the Berkeley group’s work should help lead all but the dimmest policymakers to the overwhelmingly probable answer.
We know that the rise in temperatures over the past five decades is abrupt and very large. We know it is consistent with models developed by other climate researchers that posit greenhouse gas emissions - the burning of fossil fuels by humans — as the cause. And now we know, thanks to Muller, that those other scientists have been both careful and honorable in their work.
Nobody’s fudging the numbers. Nobody’s manipulating data to win research grants, as Perry claims, or making an undue fuss over a “naturally occurring” warm-up, as Bachmann alleges. Contrary to what Cain says, the science is real.
It is the know-nothing politicians - not scientists - who are committing an unforgivable fraud.
London After Midnight / Sean Brennan