Category Archives: Basic Science of Global Warming

Correcting the maths of the "50 to 1 Project"

A nine-minute video, released earlier this fall, argues that climate mitigation is 50 times more expensive than adaptation. The claims are based on calculations done by Christopher Monckton. We analyzed the accompanying “sources and maths” document. In short, the author shows a disconcerting lack of understanding of climate science and economics:

  1. Fundamental misunderstanding of basic climate science: Pre-industrial levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) were at around 280 parts per million (ppm).[i] One of the most commonly stated climate policy goals is to keep concentrations below 450 ppm CO2. Monckton, oddly, adds 280 and 450 to get to 730 ppm as the goal of global stabilization efforts, making all the rest of his calculations wildly inaccurate.
  2. Prematurely cutting off analysis after ten years: Monckton calculates the benefits of the carbon tax over a ten-year time horizon. That is much too short to see the full effects of global warming or of the policy itself. Elevated carbon levels persist for hundreds to thousands of years.[ii]
  3. Erroneously applying Australian “cost-effectiveness” calculation to the world: This may be the most troubling aspect from an economist's point of view. Monckton first calculates the effect of the Australia-only tax on global temperatures, which is unsurprisingly low, as Australia accounts for only 1.2% of world emissions. Next, he calculates the tax’s resulting “cost-effectiveness” — defined as the Australian tax influencing global temperatures. No surprise once again, that influence is there, but Australia alone can't solve global warming for the rest of us. Then, Monckton takes the Australia-only number and scales it to mitigate 1ºC globally, resulting in a purported cost of “$3.2 quadrillion,” which he claims is the overall global “mitigation cost-effectiveness.” But this number simply represents the cost of avoiding 1ºC of warming by acting in Australia alone. Monckton has re-discovered the fact that global warming is a global problem! The correct calculation for a globally applied tax would be to calculate cost-effectiveness on a global level first. If Australia’s carbon price were to be applied globally, it would cut much more pollution at a much lower cost. And that, of course, is very much the hope. Australia, California, and the European Union are called “climate leaders” for a reason. Others must follow.

What’s the real cost of cutting carbon? The U.S. government’s estimate of the cost of one ton of CO2 pollution released today is about $40.[iii] That's also the optimal price to make sure that each of us is paying for our own climate damages. Any policy with a lower (implied) carbon price—including the Australian tax—easily passes a benefit-cost test.

With all due respect Lord Monckton, 3rd Viscount of Brenchley, your maths are way off.


[i] "Summary for Policymakers," IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, Working Group I (2013).

[ii] Results differ across scenarios, but a rough rule of thumb suggests that approximately 70% of the ‘peak enhancement level’ over the preindustrial level of 280 ppm perseveres after 100 years of zero emissions, while approximately 40% of the ‘peak enhancement level’ over the preindustrial level of 280 ppm persevered after 1,000 years of zero emissions (Solomon, Susan, Gian-Kasper Plattner, Reto Knutti and Pierre Friedlingstein, “Irreversible climate change due to carbon dioxide emissionsProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106, no. 6 (2009): 1704-1709). Note that this refers to the net increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, not the exact molecule. Archer, David, Michael Eby, Victor Brovkin, Andy Ridgwell, Long Cao, Uwe Mikolajewicz, Ken Caldeira et al. "Atmospheric lifetime of fossil fuel carbon dioxide." Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 37 (2009): 117-134 discusses these two often confused definitions for carbon’s ‘lifetime,’ and concludes that 20-40% of excess carbon levels remain hundreds to thousands of years (“2-20 centuries”) after it is emitted. Each carbon dioxide molecule has a lifetime of anywhere between 50 to 200 years, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Overview of Greenhouse Gases: Carbon Dioxide Emissions.” The precise number is under considerable scientific dispute and surprisingly poorly understood. (Inman, Mason, “Carbon is forever,” Nature Reports Climate Change 20 November 2008)

[iii] The precise value presented in Table 1 of the Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis Under Executive Order 12866 for a ton of carbon dioxide emitted in 2015, using a 3% social discount rate increased is $38. For 2020, the number is $43; for 2030, the number increases to $52. All values are in inflation-adjusted 2007 dollars. For a further exploration of this topic, see Nordhaus, William D. The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World. Yale University Press (2013) as only one of the latest examples summarizing this kind of analysis. Nordhaus concludes that the optimal policy, one that maximizes net benefits to the planet, would spend about 3% of global GDP.

Many thanks to Michelle Ho for excellent research assistance.

Also posted in Economics, International | Comments closed

Today’s IPCC Report is A Grim Reminder that We Must Find Solutions to Climate Change

People who are fond of conspiracy theories or enjoy rejecting mainstream science might want to stop reading now. What follows is solid, well-researched science based on mountains of peer-reviewed evidence. You have been warned.

Today, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued their latest report, and the picture they paint is grim.

Hundreds of scientists from countries all over the world assessed the most recent research. The result – they are more certain than ever that climate change is caused by human activity. The report says it is extremely likely that humans are the main cause for our increase in global temperatures since the mid-twentieth century.

More greenhouse gas emissions will lead to more warming, and the consequences will be felt all over the globe.

And the worst part is IPCC’s predictions may have been conservative.

The international organization, which is one of the world’s foremost authorities on climate change, reports:

  • They are 95 percent certain human activity is responsible for the rise in global temperatures from the latter half of the twentieth century to the present.
  • The chances of an extreme heat wave have more than doubled, and heavy rainfall events are expected to intensify and occur more often.
  • Ocean levels may rise by three feet by the end of this century if emissions are not curbed.

That last prediction may sound like a worst-case scenario, but other experts warn sea-level rise could actually be much worse.

As reported in the Washington Post, the Climate Change Commission predicts the oceans may rise as much as six feet by the year 2100, depending on factors such as glacial ice melting. Sea level rise at that level would be catastrophic, especially when considering its impact on storm surges.

As scary as these predictions are, there are reasons for hope. As communities across the United States and the world increasingly face extreme weather events and other consequences of climate change, we are beginning to see our leaders take more action.

Just last week the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first nationwide limits on carbon pollution from new power plants. That’s the latest development in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, a bold mission to take meaningful steps toward a climate change solution.

The release of the IPCC report will no doubt lead climate deniers to spread the usual disinformation. You can find almost anything on the Internet if you Google long enough, but that doesn’t make it true.

Legitimate scientific debate is a good thing — when we stick to facts that are backed by evidence and reviewed by independent experts in the field.  It’s understandable when citizens with busy lives don’t know all the facts on a complex issue like climate change, but there’s no excuse for politicians and talking heads to spread false information. Solving this problem will require a discussion grounded in science, which is why the IPCC report is so valuable.

It’s time to recognize that the billions of tons of carbon pollution we put in our atmosphere every year are causing dangerous changes to our climate — and then work together to find the best solutions.

Also posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Science | Comments closed

Wanted: Sound Climate Science from the House Science Committee

House Committee on Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith recently wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post that dangerously distorted the science behind man-made global warming.

It is patently false to suggest, as Chairman Smith did, that there is a “great amount of uncertainty” regarding the fundamental science underlying our understanding of the drivers of climate change. Man-made warming has been confirmed repeatedly by the vast majority of scientific organizations including NASA, the National Academies of Science and the American Meteorological Society. A recent review also reaffirmed that 97% of peer-reviewed scientific publications that address the causes of climate change endorse the consensus that climate change is real and man-made.

Chairman Smith argues that since the US decreased its greenhouse gas emissions between 2005 and 2012 we cannot be responsible for global greenhouse gas emissions. However, carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere so long the US is responsible for more of the warming we are currently experiencing than any other nation.  In 2011, the United States’ emissions remained the second highest behind only China, a country with more than four times the population of the US.  The US continues to emit significantly more greenhouse gas per person than does any of the larger nations of the world, the few smaller exceptions are major fossil fuel producing countries. The fact that the US is not currently the single largest emitter is no excuse not to lead on addressing climate change.  The logic used by Chairman Smith implies that we should only ask the very largest emitters to clean up criteria air pollution or water pollution across the US. If we utilized that strategy our water and air would not have seen the improvements of the past 40 years, which have reduced death rates and restored the places we cherish.

He also discusses recent findings that temperatures have not warmed significantly in the past 15 years, which is not actually the case – rather several cooler years has reduced the rate of warming, as it has several times over the past decades of rapid warming. As EDF Vice President Nat Keohane recently wrote in response to this finding, this “underscores the fundamental nature of climate change — that we are creating dangerous uncertainties” and there are various explanations for this finding, notably that an unusual amount of heat has been stored in the deep ocean, rather than at the surface.

Chairman Smith also claimed that Hurricane Sandy was not caused by climate change. Scientists, including Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Bob Corell from the American Meteorological Society and Jeff Masters of Weather Underground and formerly of NOAA, confirm that Sandy’s damage was increased by rising seas, warming oceans, and was consistent with scientists’ climate predictions based on a warming artic. Just as we can’t say that steroids caused any one home run by Barry Bonds, steroids sure helped him hit more and hit them farther, and now climate change is increasing the likelihood of extreme of weather events, giving us weather on steroids.

Lastly Chairman Smith says that greenhouse gas regulations would hurt our economy. He does not account for the economic costs of inaction on climate change that many studies say outweigh the cost of action. Three of the most costly weather disasters in the US, Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and the 2012 Midwest drought, have happened in the past 6 years, costing $128 billion, $62 billion and $35 billion respectively. American taxpayers are footing a large portion of this cost including $12 billion from Sandy and $16 billion from Katrina under the National Flood Insurance Program, and $11 billion in crop insurance claims from the 2012 drought. These costs will only continue to increase as the effects of climate change become more apparent.

I appreciate that Chairman Smith is writing about climate change because it is a critical national debate. As chairman of the House Science Committee, however, he should start that discussion by acknowledging the most important and sound scientific facts: Climate change is real, it is caused by pollution from human activity, and it will become increasingly expensive for the US and the world.

Also posted in News, Science | 1 Response, comments now closed

New Reports about Weather Disasters, Cost, and Climate Change

Congress just passed a bill to provide more than $50 billion to victims of Hurricane Sandy.

If you think that seems like a lot of money, consider this Hurricane Sandy was just one of the eleven weather disasters in the U.S. last year that caused more than $1 billion each in losses.

For a long time now, the world’s top climate researchers have told us about the strong evidence of links between our weird weather and climate change.

(Of course, here at EDF, we’ve been talking about the links between weird weather and climate change too — as regular readers of Climate 411 know.)

Greenhouse gas pollution traps heat in our atmosphere, which interferes with historic weather patterns – and is resulting in more severe and damaging weather events.

Our particularly awful weather last year has put climate change back in the news:

  • In his Inaugural Address, President Obama talked about the threat of climate change — saying, “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.”
  • Two Members of Congress just formed a new bicameral task force on climate change.
  • The World Economic Forum just released its Global Risks Report 2013, which says: “Following a year scarred by extreme weather, from Hurricane Sandy to flooding in China, respondents rated rising greenhouse gas emissions as the third most likely global risk overall.”

How bad was it really? Four other reports — all released in the last few weeks – found that evidence showing the impacts of climate change is piling up.

Two new reports from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show that both America and the world are warming – by leaps and bounds.

According to NOAA, “By a wide margin, 2012 was the United States’ warmest year on record.”

NOAA’s State of the Climate National Assessment found that the average temperature for the continental U.S. in 2012 was one full degree Fahrenheit higher than the previous warmest year on record – and 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average.

And NOAA’s State of the Climate Global Analysis found that 2012 was the 36th consecutive year with a global temperature above the 20th century average. That means the last time the global temperature wasn’t above average was in 1976 – when America was celebrating its bicentennial and Jimmy Carter was elected President. Anyone under the age of 35 has never seen a year when the Earth wasn’t hotter than the 20th century average.

NASA also measures global temperatures, and their report also found 2012 to be one of the top 10 hottest years ever for planet Earth.

Why? According to NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt,

The planet is warming. The reason it's warming is because we are pumping increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Let’s go back to NOAA’s data for more frightening statistics from 2012:

  • Every state in the contiguous United States had an above-20th century-average annual temperature. (You can check NOAA’s web page to see which cities broke any records or had their hottest year).
  • July 2012 was the hottest month ever observed in the continental U.S. since we began keeping records in 1880.
  • Nineteen states had their warmest year on record, and another 26 states had one of their ten warmest years since 1880.
  • Temperatures were above the 20th-century average in every month from June 2011 to September 2012 – an unbroken 16-month stretch that we’ve never seen before since we started keeping records.
  • The winter snow cover for the contiguous United States was the third smallest on record, and snowpack totals across the Central and Southern Rockies as of April 2012 were less than half of the 1971-2000 average.

In 2012, America also had the second largest extent of extreme weather events ever recorded in a single year. (A weather event has a variable at the high or low end of the observed historical range.)

And we saw vastly different types of weather extremes at the same time – which is consistent with weird weather linked to climate change. While most of the continental U.S. withered in drought, some areas got drenched — Florida had its wettest summer on record.

Along with Hurricane Sandy, 2012 weather lowlights include:

  • Hurricane Isaac, which caused flooding along the Gulf Coast and killed 9 people.
  • The Derecho storm that caused severe damage in eleven states from Indiana to Maryland.
  • Flooding in and around Duluth, Minnesota, where rivers reached all-time high flood levels.
  • A massive drought that covered more than 60 percent of the country and led to widespread crop failures. Crop prices are now rising because of last year’s drought. Corn, wheat and soybean prices are all up – which means your grocery bills will soon be up too.
  • Wildfires burned more than nine million acres around the West, about 1.5 times the ten year average from 2001 to 2010. A fire near Colorado Springs destroyed almost 350 homes, and New Mexico recorded its largest wildfire ever. Wildfire risk increases when drought is combined with high heat and low levels of humidity.

Now for the really bad news – it’s likely to get worse.

This month, the U.S. government released a first draft of another new report, the National Climate Assessment. More than 300 scientists contributed to writing the report, which warns that the U.S. could warm up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, unless we take steps now to reduce climate change.

According to the assessment:

Evidence for climate change abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans … The sum total of this evidence tells an unambiguous story: The planet is warming.

Unfortunately, the new reports are just the tip of the rapidly-melting iceberg. There’s a lot more evidence of climate change and its effects on our weather — evidence that shows that we need to take serious action to reduce carbon pollution and stop climate change.

Also posted in Extreme Weather, News, Science | Comments closed

Hot Topic: Climate Change and Our Extreme Weather

Americans have been griping all summer about the weather. It feels hotter than usual this year.

Turns out, that’s because – it is.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) just confirmed that America is enduring the hottest weather in our recorded history.

In fact, the past 12 months have been the warmest 12 months in the continental U.S. since record-keeping began back in 1895.

It’s not a coincidence either. NOAA says the odds of our record heat being a random event — rather than part of a global warming trend — are about 1 in 1.6 million.

How hot is it, really? Consider these facts from NOAA:

  • From June 1st through July 10th of this year, the U.S. broke 147 all-time high-temperature records.
  • In June of 2012, communities across the U.S. broke 2,284 daily maximum temperature records. In the week of July 1st through July 9th of this year, they broke another 2,071.
  • The average temperature in the contiguous United States was 71.2 degrees Fahrenheit this June – two full degrees above the 20th-century average.

Those scary statistics are just for the past six weeks. But our miserable June followed the blistering heat from last year.

Read all about it in NOAA’s new report, State of the Climate in 2011.)

Take a look at this partial list of cities that broke records from June of 2011 through May of 2012:

  • Detroit – 101 degrees (daily record)
  • Syracuse – 101 degrees (daily record)
  • Mitchell, SD – 102 degrees (daily record)
  • Minneapolis – 103 degrees (daily record)
  • Bridgeport, CT – 103 degrees (all-time record)
  • Denver – 105 degrees (all-time record)      
  • Newark– 108 degrees (all-time record)
  • Houston – 109 degrees (all-time record)
  • Miles City, MT – 111 degrees (all-time record)
  • Wichita – 111 degrees (daily record)
  • Little Rock – 114 degrees (all-time record)
  • Childress, TX – 117 degrees (all-time record)

We’ve included some of those temperatures in our newest EDF public service announcement, which is running on the jumbo screen in Times Square. Just in case you’re not in Times Square right now — see the ad here.

The blazing temperatures have led to other problems as well:

  • The U.S. Drought Monitor says more than 56 percent of the contiguous United States is now under drought conditions — the highest level since record-keeping began in 2000.
  • Wildfires destroyed 1.3 million acres in Colorado and across the U.S. last month.
  • Wyoming recorded its driest June ever this year; Colorado and Utah recorded their second-driest Junes.

At the same time:

  • Florida recorded its wettest June ever — thanks in part to Tropical Storm Debby, which dumped more than two feet of rain on some towns, and spawned flash floods and almost two dozen tornadoes.
  • Duluth, Minnesota also had record floods last month.
  • Large parts of the East Coast got hit by a killer Derecho storm that killed more than two dozen people; more than three million lost electricity, some for more than a week.
  • Washington, D.C. broke its record for worst heat wave ever, according to the Washington Post.

Unfortunately, these bad weather trends are not unexpected. For a long time now, the world’s top climate researchers have told us about the strong evidence of links between dangerous weather and climate change.

Here at EDF, we’ve been talking – and blogging – about the issue for a long time. It was barely more than six months ago that we posted about the IPCC report on climate change and extreme weather. Sadly, looking back at the last round of weather disasters gives our current sweltering summer a sense of déjà vu.

Greenhouse gas pollution traps heat in our atmosphere, which interferes with normal weather patterns. That means we can expect more – and probably worse – weird weather in the future.

Climate change doesn’t just mean higher heat. It means more severe and damaging weather events across the country – including more frequent and heavier rains in some areas, increased drought in others, a potential increase in the intensity of hurricanes, and more coastal erosion because of rising sea levels.

Changing weather patterns changes will affect our agriculture, water supplies, health and economy. They’ll affect every American community and, ultimately, every American.

That’s why EDF is dedicated to reducing carbon pollution.

After all the reports, and all the statistics, and all the bad weather –there's no excuse for not fighting climate change.

Also posted in Extreme Weather, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Science | Comments closed

A Great Day for Science Too: More on the Court Decision Affirming Historic Climate Protections

On good days, the facts prevail — and Tuesday was one of those very good days.

As Fred wrote, on Tuesday the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C. issued a unanimous, historic decision upholding EPA’s actions to reduce climate pollution.

In our press release, Fred called it a good day for the “thin layer of atmosphere that sustains life on Earth.”

He’s right of course. But our planet wasn’t the only big winner. It was also a great day for science.

The court roundly rejected challenges to EPA’s science-based finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare (commonly called the Endangerment Finding).

In the process, the court reaffirmed the importance of having rigorous, independent science as the bedrock of efforts to protect our health and environment.

The court’s eloquent statement speaks for itself:    

EPA simply did here what it and other decision-makers often must do to make a science-based judgment:  it sought out and revised existing scientific evidence to determine whether a particular finding was warranted.  It makes no difference that much of the scientific evidence in large part consisted of “syntheses” of individual studies and research.  . . .  This is how science works.  EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.

(That’s from page 27 of the ruling. I added the emphasis.)

The court dismissed the challenges to the Endangerment Finding as without “merit”, noting that EPA relied upon an “ocean of evidence” including 18,000 peer-reviewed studies. (You can find those quotes on pages 26, 34 and 38 of the decision.)  

In dismissing this challenge the court acted in concert with our long history of relying on science-based evidence — not only to shape our health and environmental protections, but as the foundation of American innovation and ingenuity. 

EPA’s Endangerment Finding is based on an extensive review of climate change research, including assessments of climate research prepared by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, the United States Global Change Research Program, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The creation of these assessment reports involved thousands of scientists, reviewing thousands of articles from peer-reviewed research journals.

This massive body of research documents the effects that rising atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping emissions are having on our climate. It also documents the harm that climate impacts cause to human health and welfare. 

Affirming EPA's reliance on state-of-the-art climate science, the court discussed the substantial evidence supporting EPA’s Endangerment Finding on page 30 of the decision:

To recap, EPA had before it substantial record evidence that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases “very likely” caused warming of the climate over the last several decades. . .  Relying again upon substantial scientific evidence, EPA determined that anthropogenically induced climate change threatens both public health and public welfare.  It found that extreme weather events, changes in air quality, increases in food- and water-borne pathogens, and increases in temperatures are likely to have adverse health effects … The record also supports EPA’s conclusion that climate change endangers human welfare by creating risk to food production and agriculture, forestry, energy, infrastructure, ecosystems, and wildlife. 

The call from scientists worldwide urging swift action to curb climate-destabilizing emissions has been heard. 

EPA’s efforts to fulfill its statutory responsibility to protect human health and the environment from dangerous pollution have been resoundingly affirmed.   

It is a good day to be a scientist, and an American.

(You can read more about the court cases on our website and in my colleague Megan Ceronsky’s earlier blog on the subject. And stay tuned for more analysis of the historic decisions.)

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy, Science, What Others are Saying | 1 Response, comments now closed

Landmark Environmental Court Battle on Horizon

On February 28th and 29th, the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. will hear oral arguments in challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s landmark clean air measures to protect American's health and well-being from the clear and present danger of climate pollution.

In one corner states like Texas and large industrial polluters are challenging EPA's action.  In the other, EPA’s defenders include a dozen states, business like the U.S. auto makers, and environmental groups like EDF.

There are a group of clean air rules in question:

  • The Climate Pollution Endangerment Finding- On December 15, 2009, EPA determined that six greenhouse gases endanger the public health and welfare of current and future generations. EPA based this finding on more than 100 published scientific studies and peer-reviewed syntheses of climate change research.  The finding follows from the Supreme Court’s landmark 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, where the Court held that greenhouse gases are air pollutants under the Clean Air Act and instructed EPA to determine — on the basis of science — whether these gases endanger human health and welfare.
  • Clean Car Standards- landmark fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks.  These standards are supported by U.S. auto makers, the United Auto Workers, and a dozen states – among others – because they will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, reduce harmful greenhouse gas pollution, and save consumers money.
  • Application of Climate Pollution Protections to Largest Emitters – EPA requires new large, industrial emitters (like power plants) deploy the best available cost-effective strategies to reduce harmful climate pollution in a timely fashion- a requirement EPA has phased in, focusing on the largest industrial sources of climate pollution while shielding small sources.

There is much at stake for our nation's environment and economy, but we’ll be in the courtroom and giving you updates every step of the way.

If you’re looking for more background, EDF has compiled detailed information about the cases. You can read more about the rules and the parties involved, and find the court briefs. You can also read about the EPA's endangerment findings.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Climate Change Legislation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy | Comments closed

New Report on Climate Change Says Wilder Weather is Headed Our Way

A new report by some the world’s top researchers confirms that climate change will make the extreme weather we’ve seen recently even worse in the future.

The report was released today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It synthesizes two years work from 100 experts who analyze data from all over the world.

Their conclusion: climate change is bringing us more extreme weather, and it’s likely to get worse and have greater negative impacts over the next century.

Here’s what EDF’s Chief Scientist, Steve Hamburg, had to say today:

We've all been experiencing these dangerous storms and heat waves, and this report provides strong evidence of the links between impacts of dangerous weather and climate change. Now we need to start using this data to find ways to protect ourselves and our communities.

Here are some of the highlights of the report – or lowlights as the case may be:

Here in the United States, we’re likely to see

  • Higher temperatures and more hot days through the next century (Record-breaking heat that would have been a once-in-20-year high are likely to become a one-in-two-year event)
  • More frequent and heavier rains, especially in winter
  • Stronger hurricanes that will do more damage
  • Increased droughts, especially in the center of the country
  • Higher sea levels, which means more coastal erosion and other damage
  • All these changes will affect our agriculture, water supplies, health – even tourism. And all that, in turn, will affect our economy.

That's more bad news on top of an extremely unpleasant year of bad weather. America suffered through a number of extreme weather events, including these compiled by Climate Central:

  • The Groundhog Day Blizzard blanketed 22 states and crippled travel. The deadly blizzard was one of Chicago’s top five snowstorms on record.
  • Some of the worst flooding in history hit us in the spring, from the Upper Midwest all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. More than three times the normal spring rainfall caused the Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers to overflow. Flooding in Minot, North Dakota damaged 4,000 homes and forced 11,000 to evacuate. More than a million acres of farmland flooded in Missouri and Arkansas.
  • Hurricane Irene became the first hurricane to make landfall in New Jersey in 100 years, and inundated people from Virginia all the way north to Vermont. Tropical Storm Lee following right behind Irene. Their combined rainfalls led to damaging floods in the East.
  • Record-setting rainfalls were recorded across the country. August 2011 was the all-time rainiest month in New York City, Newark and Philadelphia; 2011 will be the rainiest year ever in Cleveland, Scranton, Binghamton and Harrisburg. 14 places in Wyoming and Montana set precipitation records in May, and seven places set new all-time records for the single rainiest day ever.
  • Deadly tornado outbreaks caused damage across the Southeast. 748 twisters touched down across the South in April, the most ever recorded in a single month. The EF-5 tornado that destroyed Joplin, Missouri was America’s deadliest single tornado since modern record-keeping started in 1950.
  • Extreme heat across the region had people sweltering. Texas had the hottest summer for any state in U.S. history, going back to when modern records were first kept in 1895. New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado had their hottest summers on record — as did Tallahassee, Florida and Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Wichita Falls, Texas had 100 days when the temperature was more than 100 degrees; Austin had 67 days over 100 degrees. Washington D.C. hit an all-time record high of 105 degrees on July 22.
  • Severe droughts caused massive damage in the Southwest. Texas had the worst one-year drought on record.
  • Wildfires — which are linked to droughts –burned across the West. 3.5 million acres burned in Texas — the state’s worst wildfire season ever. 156,000 acres burned in New Mexico and 538,000 in Arizona.

Also posted in Extreme Weather, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Science | 4 Responses, comments now closed

New Report Blows Lid Off Climate Deniers

Today's New York Times features a story that may not shock you, but should concern us all:

According to internal reports dating back to 1995, scientists working for the Global Climate Coalition, an industry-sponsored group set up to wage a lobbying and public relations war against global warming action, were telling their bosses that human-caused global warming could not be refuted. But, that didn't stop industry lobbyists from waging a cynical campaign to undermine the science and cloud the debate.

Read the full story here.

Americans were outraged a decade ago when cigarette makers made similar claims about the evidence linking smoking and lung cancer. And then we discovered reams of damning research hidden away in tobacco company vaults.

The only real difference between then and now is that global warming stands to threaten more than just people — millions of species face extinction, entire ecosystems altered beyond recognition, the natural world as we know it today irreparably diminished.

Also posted in News | 13 Responses, comments now closed

2 Key Climate Terms to Know

Lisa MooreThis post is by Lisa Moore, Ph.D., a scientist in the Climate and Air program at Environmental Defense.

Scientists use some technical terms in discussing climate change that can cause confusion. Two that are especially useful to know are "forcing" and "feedback".

You'll hear these terms a lot in discussions of how human activity impacts climate – and especially when the topic turns to the melting Arctic. If you know what they mean, you'll have a much better understanding of the dynamics behind climate change.

Read More »

Posted in Basic Science of Global Warming | 6 Responses, comments now closed
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