Candidates flee East Coast as Frankenstorm takes Revenge for their Ignoring Climate Change

Mitt Romney and Joe Biden have canceled campaign events planned for this weekend at Virginia Beach as a massive storm bears down on the east coast of the US. The candidates are fleeing from the East Coast, even though they won’t talk about the key environmental issue of our time.

The candidates in this year’s presidential election completely ignored climate change in their debates and their campaigning, even thought it is the most deadly issue facing this country and all humankind. Human beings are dumping massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by burning coal, natural gas and petroleum at feverish rates. They have already increased temperatures significantly since 1750, and are on track to put up the average surface temperature of the earth by 5 degrees C. or 9 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century, enough to turn everyplace on earth over time into a sweating tropics, melt all surface ice, and, over the long term, submerge a third of the current land mass. A global state of emergency would be necessary to keep the temperature increase to 2 degrees C. or less, but the window is rapidly closing for this curbing of disaster.

Big oil is pouring money into the Romney campaign or superpacs supporting him, so as to make sure they keep their tax breaks but those for wind power are abolished. The power of big Carbon money is preventing climate change from being discussed in the campaign, even though it affects every American voter. Romney’s energy policies will cause global disaster, but even Obama doesn’t seem to realize the severity and urgency of the problem (or else he does and feels his hands are tied).

A new study appearing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that uses accurate tide measurements since 1923 removes any doubt that hurricanes are more frequent and stronger in warm years (the number of warm years has steadily increased over the past century and especially in the past decade).

[pdf] For every increase of 1 degree Fahrenheit, US hurricanes will likely get 2% stronger (i.e. they are already 5% stronger than 2 centuries ago). In hurricanes, a 5% increase in ferocity matters quite a lot.

One mechanism for the increased severity is that higher temperatures produce more high-altitude clouds, called “deep convective clouds,” associated increased rainfall.

One recent study [pdf] found that torrential downpours in the United States are occurring a third more often than in 1948. New England has been the worst hit, with torrential downpours 85% more common now than in 1948. Note that these findings are based on actual historical records, and are not a matter of projection.

Across the board, storms are 10% more intense now than when Truman was president.

Hurricanes are a more contentious issue than storms but models show that the speed of hurricane winds could increase by as much as 13 percent over the next century as a result of our production of carbon dioxide, and rainfall rates will increase 10-31 percent in hurricanes. Because of the rising level of the seas, hurricanes will cause larger storm surges.

A Tel Aviv researcher has shown that every one degree increase Celsius produces a 10% increase in lightning, with the attendant dangers of increased forest and other fires.

Those who talk about solar energy being “more expensive” than coal or natural gas are not figuring in the expensiveness of climate change. In many markets, wind and solar are already competitive, and if the damage hydrocarbons are doing to our economy were taken into account, they’d be the only game in town.

One of the many indexes of the failure of American democracy is that our candidates can’t even publicly say the name of our worst nemesis.

15 Responses

  1. even Obama doesn’t seem to realize the severity and urgency of the problem (or else he does and feels his hands are tied).

    Obama has been taking very serious action against climate change ever since he came into office – he’s just been doing so quietly. For instance, he’s sold his gigantic fuel efficiency standards improvements as a way to lower energy costs for Americans, his aggressive (and targeted) EPA actions on coal plants as a clean air issue, and his massive investments in alternative energy as stimulus and long-term economic development.

    The United States has reduced its carbon emissions more than any other nation on earth since Obama came into office (the much-vaunted Chinese, sometimes held out as a model of alternative energy production, have massively increased theirs by building large numbers of coal plants, while we’ve been shutting ours down).

    He just hasn’t been talking about these actions in climate-related terms, because it’s too easy to make environmental protection look destructive to the economy during periods of economic decline (a point that featured prominently in the concept of Sustainable Development that came out of the Rio conference).

    When the economy picks back up, the Democrats will begin explicitly, instead of quietly, pushing climate change as an issue again – and they’ll be able to point to the successes of the wind and solar sectors and of other green policies implemented under this administration to make their case.

      • These policies would be exactly the same percentage of “enough” if they had been explicitly promoted as climate-change policies.

        Well, probably not…some of them probably wouldn’t have been implemented if they had been explicitly sold as climate change policies.

        The point is, concluding that President Obama doesn’t realize the urgency of the problem because he didn’t talk about it during the debates places far too much emphasis on rhetoric, and far too little on action.

        PS – can we expect an “It isn’t enough. It isn’t nearly enough,” comment in your next piece lauding the Chinese for their investments in alternative energy?

    • “When the economy picks back up….”

      Given the predictions in a wide variety of significant sectors, the presumption that the economy will pick back up is an exceedingly weak presumption. Bad as things might seem for many at present, these will be good old days we likely will be pining for in just a very few years. Addressing human actions that result in environmental and climate alterations cannot be postponed til the time is right, all deniers have been persuaded, we all have better cars and jobs, and all American boats have risen on the tide we like to think of as normal. Anyone who thinks the future is gong to be a replay of the past, especially any ‘golden past’ is deluded. Humans have changed and continue to change what ‘normal’ is. If you dispute that I will ship you untreated drinking water from a dozen randomly selected American rivers. Imbibe that as your sole source of water for the next year and get back to us. As Dr Cole points out, seemingly small alterations can and will have big effects. Wait too long to begin change and no matter how hard you try then it will be too little too late.

      • Anyone who thinks the future is gong to be a replay of the past, especially any ‘golden past’ is deluded.

        No, JamesL, it is the people who think “This time is different!” who are deluded. It is always the people who think “This time is different!” who are deluded.

        I hear leftists proclaiming in very wistful tones that this recession is the final crisis of capitalism in every single recession. They are always wrong, and they will always be wrong. It is as deluded to believe that “This time is different” when you are hoping for permanent economic decline, as when you are hoping that housing prices will rise eternally.

  2. Great commentary as usual.

    However, you are too easy on Obama and the Democrats. I read the following comment a few days ago, I adlib: The Republican party has been hijacked by extremists while the Democrat party has proven to be ineffective. Republicans aren’t afraid to express their extreme views and indeed we may get an all Republican government in a few weeks, in spite of their now open views on banning all abortion, embryo personhood, and limiting the availability of birth control. Democrats are “afraid” to stand up for their values and instead focus on positions that will win elections.

    Climate change could have been an issue in this election, brought forth by the Democratic platform. It could have been a rare opportunity to hear both sides out. I think the data would speak for itself in such a setting as most Americans still respect the discipline and processes utilized in scientific studies. Of course there was no hope that Romney and team would endorse any of this. He is effectively anti-science and anti-evidence on any issue where the party idealism is threatened by real data. But the democrats??? I am very disappointed indeed.


    • I think the data would speak for itself in such a setting as most Americans still respect the discipline and processes utilized in scientific studies.

      I’ll take two of whatever he’s having, with a beer chaser.

    • Too bad that squishy liberals, with their empathy and respect for individuals and odd weak notions about fairness and justice and other stuff that’s meaningless to the advancement of our Empire, just don’t get that. And looking at the fighting stances of recent presidential candidates, Kerry, Gore and now Obama, well, there really aren’t any bits of the necessary pugnacity and tenacity about them. Like our last Dem gubernatorial candidate in FL, Alex Sink — they just don’t want to be the boss of us, it seems, unless we the voters ask them pretty please and make it all easy for them. This ain’t student council, it’s the fate of all the ordinary people who will be making those last trips to the suicide parlors that are in the backs of so many steal-it-all Red minds….

  3. Quote: “One of the many indexes of the failure of American democracy is that our candidates can’t even publicly say the name of our worst nemesis.”

    Because our own worst nemesis is ourselves, and our appetites for comfort and leisure.

    This does not necessarily mean that we are “bad” people, or that we must live out our lives in shame while foraging food to be eaten cold. People get so hung up on their cultural/moral definitions of “good” and “bad” and their need to label everyone else with one or the other, it seriously impedes positive thought and action. Of course, people’s need to label themselves as “good” in all circumstances also seriously impedes positive thought and action.

    If our appetites have been so huge, and our ability to deal with our waste-products has been so poor, that we end up killing prosperity, civilization and even life itself for our grandchildren, then, of course we have been very, very bad for our grandchildren (yet perhaps good to the ants, roaches and rats who will take over).

    We won’t know the full answer to that for some years. It’s now time to take all those confused feelings of shame and pride and greed, and apply them to seriously changing our political and economic environments in a less-dangerous direction. Luckily, changing our political and economic environments is something we humans do, willy-nilly in all incoherent directions simultaneously, all the time. We can’t help it, we re-establish old political and economic patterns, and create new ones, with every thought and action of our lives.

    The trick is building a culture in which the positive elements outweigh the negative for a majority of people over a multi-year, multi-decade amount of time.

    Time to get busy, folks.

  4. Change really happens when people have been ruined and will risk their lives to try something different, or their country has been defeated by war or by the faster economic progress of its rivals. The elites must self-destruct, and not be replaced by fascist demagogues.

    The capitalists were very smart to escalate their activities from country-raping to planet-raping, as no country wants to be blacklisted by the capitalists by opposing harm that will be visited on them no matter what. All the countries will be ruined by climate change together, so none can be the environmental hero that leads the others to salvation.

    After the catastrophes have lead to megadeath, the corporations need only use their wealth, all that still exists on earth, to build new kingdoms into which they will let in those survivors who will pledge undying allegiance and the rejection of all “unproductive” rights. It’s a little bit like what the landlords did when Rome fell, converting themselves into feudal nobility amid a mass dieoff.

    Are the rich now that evil? Under the circumstances, the burden of proof is on them to pay for a better alternative out of their own pockets.

    • “The capitalists were very smart to escalate their activities from country-raping to planet-raping…”

      Your statement cited above states that capitalists “escalated their activities from country-raping to planet-raping,” but conveniently (by design?) completely ignores the rape of both countries and the environment by Communism. The Soviet Union certainly “country-raped” Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and East Germany after World War II by saddling them with totalitarian governments; and the environmental impact of communism is illustrated by Chernyoble, and the devastation visited upon Eastern Europe by shoddy, inefficient industrial processes. I suggest you read up a bit more on comparative political and economic systems.

      • “Whether the vultures and predators and parasites go by one or another, the result is the same, the behaviors are essentially the same.”

        Mr. McPhee, I detect in your statement, quoted above, that you agree with me that to single out capitalism as the sole villain, as the original author did, is plain wrong. You seem to suggest that the all do it and “the result is the same.” I’m not sure the result is equally the same, but I do commend you for being broader-minded than the original author, who seemed to ignore other political/economic systems and just wanted to impugn capitalism.

  5. You know, even if climate change were NOT caused by human activity, or there wasn’t sufficient “proof”, if we were able to do something to mitigate or halt it, we would do it.

    When a hurricane approaches, people don’t just continue about their daily business, saying Well, if Gawd wills the hurricane to kill me, it will or There’s no PROOF that hurricanes are caused by human activity, so I guess there’s just nothing we can or should do about it.

    NO! Folks batten down their homes, board up the windows, sock in food and bottled water, or flee if they can. And in between hurricanes, they have their local governments build seawalls, dikes, plan and designate evacuation routes, change the building codes, zone to restrict construction in hurricane zones, etc.

    Folks in the reality-based community need to start the message going that IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT’S CAUSING IT – IF WE CAN DEAL WITH IT, WE NEED TO – NOW. And make the “natural disaster” analogy. Whether it’s hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, flooding, snowstorms – whatever. We don’t ignore these events because hey, it’s not OUR fault.

    And politicians making that claim need to be corrected, mocked, and driven from office.

  6. Fantastic write up professor Cole, I can’t help it but to think we can all take this as the 4th and the final “presidential debate” hosted and moderated by “Mother Nature”, and both party just announced that the are not going to be part of this debate :-)))

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