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.