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Extreme Weather, Climate Change, Science Communication

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I have long stated the dangers of scientists refusing to take strong stands connecting weather events to climate change. I understand why they have done this–science is not about certainty, is ideally not too connected to politics, and you can’t 100 percent connect a specific weather event to climate change, although that is rapidly changing. But part of the problem as well is that scientists aren’t really trained to communicate their findings to the general public. What this has done in the real world is cede far too much ground to climate deniers, obscuring the facts and making doing something about climate change all the more difficult.

But it’s absolutely crucial to connect current weather events to climate change. Using the recent extreme flooding in Louisiana and other record rains Union of Concerned Scientists climate scientist Astrid Caldas makes the case as to how they are a consequence of climate change.

Louisiana, August 2016: “I’m going home to see if I have a home”.

Ellicot City, Maryland, July 2016: “Oh my god. There’s people in the water”.

West Virginia, June 2016: “23 dead, thousands homeless after devastating flood”.

What do these events (and 5 more since April 2015) have in common? They were all considered very low probability, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hydrometeorological Design Studies Center created maps of annual exceedance probabilities (AEPs) for all of them. AEP is the probability of exceeding a given amount of rainfall for a given duration at least once in any year at a given location. It is an indicator of the rarity of rainfall. These maps are created for significant storm events that typically have AEPs of less than 0.2% (i.e, exceed 500-year average recurrence interval amounts). For Louisiana, the probability analyzed was for the worst case 48-hour rainfall. For Ellicott City, it was for the worst case 3-hour rainfall. And for West Virginia, the June 23-24 event became a map for the worst case 24-hour rainfall.

In other words, just in the past 17 months, 8 rain events that are considered very low probability (i.e., less than 0.2%) occurred. Three happened in the past 3 months. Flooding like this should happen very rarely – there are AEP maps for only 18 more events, one of which was in 1913, all others having occurred since 2010. As our hearts go out to the families affected by the flooding, we may be asking; is this a series of unfortunate events? Certainly. The sheer loss of life and property is staggering, and heartbreaking. Totally unexpected? Unfortunately, the answer is hardly.

NOAA and NASA just released their global temperature data for the month of July 2016, and again, it was a record warm month. Not only the warmest July on record, but also the warmest month ever on record. According to NOAA, this is the 15th record warm month in a row, starting with May 2015. One can’t help but notice that over these 15 months, 8 rain events were off the probability charts, so to speak. Yes, climate change fingerprint is on these events, including the Louisiana flood, considered the worst natural disaster in the US since hurricane Sandy. Special conditions mainly fueled by climate change were behind this record event.

As much as local conditions affect rainfall events individually, global warming is among the main reasons why we are seeing places that never flooded before, such as Baton Rouge areas and Ellicott City, being swallowed by not only deep but very fast rising waters. Development and urbanization also play a big role in these events, as rainwater swells rivers that no longer have wide, protective margins, and hits impervious surfaces that do not allow for ground penetration – water that has nowhere to go but along streets and between buildings down the easiest path it can find, based on topology and gravity. Here and here are some good resources that elaborate on the aforesaid factors.

The 2014 National Climate Assessment stated: Heavy downpours are increasing nationally, especially over the last three to five decades. The heaviest rainfall events have become heavier and more frequent, and the amount of rain falling on the heaviest rain days has also increased. Increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events are projected for all U.S. regions.

Even though Louisiana is not among the areas that had seen the most increase in heavy precipitation events, the Southeastern US saw an increase of 27 percent from 1958 to 2012. The straightforward explanation for heavier downpours is that warmer air can contain more water vapor than cooler air. Indeed, global measurements show that there is more water vapor in the air now. It follows that there is more water to come down when it rains. Other factors also affect precipitation patterns, which I have explored a bit further here. Even if one cannot directly attribute individual events specifically to climate change, the latter is behind an increased likelihood of them happening, and also of them becoming more extreme. Extreme rainfall is one type of extreme event on which the effects of climate change are better understood, according to a recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that I explore in this blog.

Now, it’s never going to be a precise 1:1 correlation between climate change and a given event. But despite that, scientists have to send a strong message that it is climate change causing catastrophic flooding that creates havoc on communities and costs taxpayers millions or even billions of dollars in each event. It’s not only in our interests to take strong action to mitigate climate change and start preparing for the inevitable, but it’s the most important issue of our time. We can’t allow oil companies and those who want to deny climate change because they hate the dirty hippies to win the public opinion battle. With each major event, the message has to be over and over again that climate change is at least partially responsible and without a real program to fight and mitigate this, it’s going to happen over and over again. Unfortunately, we are far from even such a widespread communications strategy, not to mention a real agenda on what to do or the political will outside of a few leaders like Sheldon Whitehouse or Ed Markey to even make a stink about it.

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  • Steve LaBonne

    Scientists won’t and shouldn’t say things in which they do not (yet) have a reasonable level of confidence (and it can backfire very badly if they break that rule). As your example indicates, climate scientists are beginning to tie climate to extreme weather events because there are now sufficient data to support such statements. Exhortations from non-scientists will not speed up that process.

    • That’s all true. And it also gives ExxonMobil and Jim Inhofe all the room they need to make sure nothing ever happens.

      • Steve LaBonne

        Imagine the hay they could make from premature statements that turned out not to be supportable. Science is all about making sure you know what you’re talking about. It loses all credibility otherwise.

        • Yes, of course, but it’s not like scientists are going to go to Congress and start making specific weather predictions that will then be discredited. And if anything, we’ve seen again and again that scientists have significantly underestimated the speed and the impact of climate change. That’s the larger threat.

          • ThrottleJockey

            If liberals are going to say the major difference between us and conservatives is that we support science, then we have to support science….which is not the same as supporting environmental politics. My and my best friend (a lawyer) get into this debate all the time.

            One of the problems we have with the climate change debate is that many journalists have completely fouled up the science attributing to climate change things that are not climate change. And, of course, this further fuels the anti-climate change conservatives. The best example I can think of was a front page story in the WaPo a few years ago with the alarmist headline: “In Norfolk, evidence of climate change is in the streets at high tide” Despite the scare-mongering, click bait headline some 60-80% of the change was due to subsidence and compacting of marsh land. I can’t think of a better way to eviscerate climate change arguments than to make outlandish, empirically unsupportable statements.

            • delazeur

              I have seen people claim with a straight face that the Salton Sea is shrinking because of global warming.

      • Murc

        And it also gives ExxonMobil and Jim Inhofe all the room they need to make sure nothing ever happens.

        Is it really the responsibility of the scientific community to take those sumbitches down, tho?

        I mean, in the sense that it is the responsibility of all citizens, it is, but in the specific sense of “this problem requires a political solution” then I would humbly submit that there are political organs whose job this is. The responsibility of an NOAA researcher is to do excellent science; it is then the responsibility of politicians and activists to use that science to make policy. Expecting the scientist to do both seems a bit much. They’re a scientist! If they were an expert in communications strategy and electioneering they’d be a press flack instead.

        • delazeur

          See, e.g., James Hansen. He produced important, high quality science at NASA but he turned out to be something of a nut and/or political naif when he turned his attention to policy.

        • JL

          I think one of the issues here is that we need more people with science backgrounds doing activist and policy work, either as a side gig or as a career (whether a second career, or their first career after getting a science degree). The AAAS Science & Technology Policy fellowships, where working scientists and engineers spend a year or two in a federal policy job, learning the ropes, and then afterward some of them go back to being scientists and engineers and some stay in policy, are an attempt at this.

          Being able to communicate the implications of your work is important though! Historians and social scientists have to do it, and their responsibility is to do excellent research just as much as a scientist’s is.

          • Murc

            Historians and social scientists have to do it, and their responsibility is to do excellent research just as much as a scientist’s is.

            How many of these write popular history and popular science, and how many of them write articles and papers that will only be read and peer reviewed by their fellow professionals?

            • Some of us try!

              • Murc

                Oh, no question, Erik. But, well… not every historian is David Halberstam or James McPherson, and even if they were, the marketplace wouldn’t support that.

            • JL

              Science blogging written by scientists that is accessible to the educated layperson is becoming increasingly popular. There are even blog collectives for it, including ScienceBlogs and Scientopia. NASA has a climate science blog.

              It’s still got a way to go before it’s really common, or commonly read by laypeople, but there’s a big push around this.

        • tsam

          Is it really the responsibility of the scientific community to take those sumbitches down, tho?

          No. That’s not their responsibility.

          They provided the evidence, it’s up to us to write it on a hammer and smash it between Inhofe’s beady cockroach eyes.

      • Latverian Diplomat

        One of the favorite tools in the Jim Inhofe toolbox is conflation of weather and climate. He’ll gladly serve up one Texas snowstorm or DC cold snap for every Louisiana flood or California wildfire.

        I’m not convinced that trying to make hay out of specific weather events won’t backfire.

        Of course, the science supports talk about trends and statistics around these events, which Inhofe can’t really argue against, but that’s not the simple message you crave.

        Why would climate change be an easier sell to the voting public than labor unions?

        • ThrottleJockey

          Precisely this. If you make the fight about specific incidents, he’ll find someplace where its colder than normal to fight you.

          You win scientific debates with science, not with politics.

          • Murc

            You win scientific debates with science, not with politics.

            What to do about climate change is a political debate. Convincing people that we should do something about it is a political debate as well.

            • Rob in CT

              Right. The Scientific debate (re: are we warming the earth by releasing GHG into our atmosphere) is over. It’s been over for some time.

              The debate that remains, and the one that matters, is the political one.

        • SNF

          The problem is that people do not care about trends and statistics.

          They care about single events that produce sad anecdotes.

  • J. Otto Pohl

    It has been 48 C all week here. I hope it doesn’t get any hotter.

    • rea

      !!8.4 F, in case anyone’s wondering. Holy shit.

  • delazeur

    I’m not convinced that tying individual weather events to climate change is really that important in convincing people to do something about climate change. If you don’t believe scientists when they talk about long-term trends, you definitely aren’t going to believe them when they talk about short-term events that (as they themselves will point out) they are not as good at evaluating.

    In addition, pointing at extreme weather events occurring with much-greater-than-expected-frequency combined with increasing average global temperatures is a demonstrably terrible way to link short-term weather with climate change. Advances in this area of climate science have given us much better tools for making those connections, which don’t always bear out the “because of climate change” hypothesis. During the flooding we saw earlier this year in Europe, for example, it was shown that the extreme rain in France was likely due to climate change but the extreme rain in Germany was likely not (or perhaps the other way around), despite the fact that these weather patterns occurred very near each other and at roughly the same time.

    Finally, listening to historians and journalists rebuke scientists this way is extremely irritating. It’s true that scientists are often bad at communicating to the public, but that’s an entirely different issue from declining to take a strong stand on a topic until there is something resembling scientific consensus. This is a complex technical issue, and if you’re going to talk about it you should listen to what the experts have to say. Especially if you have ever uttered something like the phrase “97% of scientists agree about anthropogenic climate change.”

  • You can’t say anything against oil co’s here in Louisiana b/c they own us. It’s like condemning coal in W Va.

    • TheSophist

      If I were king I’d be tempted to have a rule – no emergency funds for any state that elects warming deniers to congress. I know…I know…

  • The problem, of course, is that as soon as the scientists take a political stand, then their objectivity goes out the window. But, unfortunately, we don’t live in a country where the evidence can speak for itself.

    That being said, I’ve long felt that we would never be able to stop pumping CO2 on our own. We’ll keep doing it until the sustained damage to infrastructure makes it impossible to do so on a large scale. I think we’ve got a long way to go, probably 600 ppm CO2, before that happens, and that is also probably the end of organized civilization on a global scale for a few centuries. I really don’t think you can be too pessimistic about what the outcome will be, but maybe after the waters recede in a thousand years we’ll do better with the reboot of civilization.

    • Brett

      We’ll have an elevated death rate world-wide from the conditions (particularly in poorer, more equatorial countries) punctuated by occasional major disasters that destroy property in rich countries and kill tons of people in poor ones. I just don’t see a world-wide collapse in the future, although we could have a collapse in the global system of migration in the wake of massive climate refugee movement as richer, more northerly countries swing xenophobic.

      We’ll end up somewhere in the 3-4 degrees Celsius temperature change, probably after increasing panic in the 2020s onward causes countries to finally start taking this seriously.

      • delazeur

        This blog post is a worthwhile read: Odds of Cooking the Grandkids.

        • Brett

          We already have cities in places where it’s generally not a good idea to spend extended times out during the day in summer. In rich countries, at least, we’ll just move from one air-conditioned space to another.

          Poor countries have it harder. They’ll either move or do most of their working at night so they can sleep during the hottest part of the day in summer.

          And that’s in the worst scenario, where we have a 12 degree Celsius GMT rise and don’t try any drastic solutions to keep the temperature down (like dumping reflective aerosols into the upper atmosphere). I don’t think it will get that bad – I’m predicting more on the order of a 3-5 degree Celsius rise. That’s the kind of rise we’ll get if we do little to stop climate change until the 2020s, then try to stop it with increasing urgency as time goes on.

          • Rob in CT

            Isn’t 12C game over for civilization?

            21.6F

            That’s gotta be game over.

            • Linnaeus

              A 4 degrees C rise would be enough to create a mostly unlivable Earth, at least for human beings. Three times that? Way more than game over.

            • Brett

              It would put GMT up at 27 degrees Celsius, which is really damn warm – essentially we’d be in a similar temperature regime as the Early Cretaceous Period and the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.

              . . . Honestly, making predictions about the weather changes that would ensue would be very difficult. All we know from previous experiences with the Earth in its usual “hothouse” climate are that it was hotter and wetter in terms for rainfall, with the exception of early Triassic Pangaea (where the geography created vast deserts). Early Eocene Earth had vast tropical and subtropical forests, and palm trees growing as far north as southern Alaska.

              EDIT: I don’t think we’d get that far. At that point, we’d be dumping stuff in the sky to cool it down first.

          • SNF

            If we get to 4C, human civilization will end.

    • Redwood Rhiadra

      There will be no reboot. The establishment of an industrial civilization requires easily-accessible fossil fuels – other sources of energy either require an already-established industrial base or do not provide sufficient energy density. And we’ve already used up all the easily accessible fossil fuels (which is why we’re using fracking and deepwater drilling and ever more extreme techniques to acquire oil, coal, and gas.)

      We had ONE shot at this whole “civilization” thing, and we fucked it up.

      • bender

        I agree and thank you for making the point. I would qualify your statement by saying that we had one shot at industrial civilization; it is coming to an end.

        Prior civilizations sustained themselves (for awhile) on wood, wind, water, peat and muscle power. Some had law codes, cities, paved roads, libraries, philosophers and scientific inquiry. It is not possible to have space travel, the Internet, skyscrapers or eight billion people living on Earth without highly concentrated energy sources.

        The human capacity for creating complex societies depends on having sufficiently predictable weather conditions for agriculture and the right mix of domesticatible plants and animals. Many human lifetimes may pass before those conditions exist anywhere on Earth, but it’s possible that we’ll luck out and the polar regions will become more habitable in time to keep at least barbarian-level cultures going.

    • SNF

      My guess is that our endgame will be a moment of panic followed by a hail mary attempt to geoengineer our way out of it.

      Whether we survive will be determined by if that geoengineering ends up working or not.

  • This is a good article.

    I think at some points in time, such as after Hurricane Katrina, bringing up climate change (I think we still called it “global warming” in those days) could be painted as “insensitive” to the victims of the crisis. And the other response to it, namely that it was just one (1) event and therefore not part of any trend, did resonate with a lot of people who may have been skeptical of climate change activists.

    But pointing out we’re now having 500 Year Rains somewhere in the country every single month, and this hasn’t happened before in recorded history… that really puts any lingering doubt to rest. Now is the time to remind everyone what climate change can and will do.

    • Brett

      I disagree on the Hurricane Katrina issue of insensitivity, but agree on the rest. Bringing it up after Katrina is and was a good idea, because it was a powerful image – a city drowned – and that can really create impetus for change.

      • delazeur

        Yeah, that’s pretty much the same thing the NRA says after every mass shooting.* I can’t think of a better way to honor victims than to try to prevent recurrences of the thing that killed them or tore their lives apart.

        *Of straight white people.

  • Rob in CT

    One thing that I’ve seen people bring up that strikes me as likely to be effective is “hey, notice how [XYZ plants] didn’t used to grow here? Now they’re growing here and 50 miles north of us. Huh, how about that?”

    • TheSophist

      My family moved from the UK to the US in 1977. I still own the bird guide that I was given for Xmas the year before. Every time I go back to Europe I see bird species substantially north of where the range maps in that 1976 book say they should be.

      I can’t help wondering if that’s a small part of the reason why warming denial is less in Britain. Many brits are casual birders, and if you keep seeing birds where they haven’t been before…

  • Mr. Sparkle

    One ray of hope (no pun intended) is that, although the pseudo-scientific misinformation the well-funded deniers have spread continues to linger among the general public, clean energy is very popular with that same populace. Progress on energy efficiency, renewable energy and energy storage technology has been stunning over the last few years, to the point that these technologies range from justifiable on a purely economic basis today to justifiable within the next few years.

    No breakthroughs or giant discoveries are needed, just a scaling up of what we already know can save us from doomsday if sufficient political will is applied in the near term. Consequently, my view of the future has upgraded from totally despondent to highly worried in the last five years or so. IMHO, the next 10 to 15 years are critical to curtailing further environmental damage before the window of opportunity to turn back closes.

    So, as long as there is a non-trivial chance of Donald Trump (or any R) winning the next presidential election and bringing us at least four years of backtracking on carbon reduction and active hostility to renewable energy, I remain very, very worried. Beyond that, the revolution will be self-sustaining and the political situation less pertinent to avoiding a greater disaster than we are already seeing. I’ll be breathing a sigh of relief or stocking up my mountaintop bunker on November 9.

    • delazeur

      Yes, it’s worth noting that much of the climate proposals coming from the mainstream left these days don’t obviously advance us beyond the developing economic status quo. Programs like cap and trade or the Clean Power Plan reinforce the path that our energy supply is taking on its own more than they push that path in a better direction.

      • Latverian Diplomat

        The whole idea of something like Cap and Trade is to push away from carbon fuels without dictating what the “better direction” necessarily is.

        Putting aside legal and accounting game playing, that any regulatory system needs to be defended against, I’m not sure I see the problem with that.

        • delazeur

          My point is that the results we see from these programs generally aren’t hugely different from what we would expect without them. (I was responding to Mr. Sparkle’s observation that unsubsidized clean energy is pushing into economical range.) The usual example is the recent switch away from coal that is often blamed on Obama administration policies but is more directly a result of low natural gas prices. (N.B. there is some debate about whether natural gas actual has a lower carbon footprint than coal. It burns cleaner but you get a lot of methane emitted from extraction of transportation.)

          That doesn’t mean that those policies are bad, it just means there is a lot of room for improvement. In particular, we should be wary of allowing energy companies to let us think we have scored a victory by “making” them do something they were going to do anyway.

    • JR in WV

      If these rain storms keep becoming more common and more severe, with accompanying wind effects (like 9 tornadoes in Indiana just the other day) at some point it will become impossible to maintain an above ground power grid. At that time modern civilization will end.

      Just like that, on Tuesday through Friday, when storms remove xx% of the entire power grid, and continued bad weather keeps that number from going back into service, we are done. No fresh clean water, no sewage treatment, no fresh meats or vegetables.

      Where would we get the cables and transformers to replace an appreciable proportion of the American power grid? I’m just spinning thoughts here, but do we have the material to replace 37% of everything? Or to pull another number from a dark place, 47% or 57% of the power grid? Over maybe a month.

      Not long ago we had an unprecedented event from Illinois to Maryland, including parts of IN, OH, most of WV, much of PA, most of MD, from the mid-west to the Atlantic seaboard. The weather-casters called it a derecho. Which no one had ever heard of before. I was outdoors when it came over the ridge north of our farm, and it was black, and it made a noise like a train roaring on a trestle overhead.

      What if those events become common?

      Along with storms dropping tornadoes like hail stones?

      We would be so over.

      • Brett

        Japan and the Philippines regularly get whacked by typhoons, the Philippines to such a degree that they spend the equivalent of 10% of their GDP on natural disaster recovery. Modern civilization has not collapsed in either country, and in Japan’s case they still use above-ground power lines, etc.

  • gratuitous

    This is a trail blazed long ago by General Motors and the tobacco industry. (GM introduced leaded gasoline and kept it on the market in the United States for decades, disputing every scientific study about the harmful effects of lead; Big Tobacco, of course, used the same tactic in disputing the link between tobacco use and lung cancer.) Both industries grudgingly acknowledged that lead and tobacco were harmful to the public health, but fought successfully for decades the notion that any single individual could be conclusively proved to have been injured by lead or smoking. There was always some other circumstance in a person’s life that might have contributed to their health problems besides lead or tobacco use.

    GM and Big Tobacco also masterfully manipulated the various standards of proof to sow public confusion: Someone dying from lung cancer had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt (in effect, all doubt) that their lung cancer was due solely and exclusively to smoking cigarettes. None of this namby-pamby preponderance of the evidence or conclusive proof, no sir; it had to be beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Both industries also spent millions if not billions of dollars pumping out ersatz research that absolved them of any culpability for the public health calamaties they were so profitably inflicting on the country. By cleverly involving their lawyers in the research, GM, R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris and the other tobacco companies were able to shield any negative research results behind the veil of attorney-client privilege, and release only the results that absolved them of responsibility. In addition, public relations firms were paid millions to influence popular opinion, sway lawmakers, and outright bribe regulators to look the other way or to grant exemptions for the industry from liability for the deaths they were causing.

    It’s no surprise that with such terrific track records to follow that polluting industries would use the exact same tactics to maintain their highly profitable but lethal ways. Is the Louisiana flooding due solely to climate change? Well, it’s the result of a combination of factors, but yeah, the pollution load we’re putting into the environment has a hand in drowning those cities. But it’s not the sole, exclusive cause, right? Well, no; climate scientists can’t go that far for any individual climate event. Then industry is off the hook!

    But the emerging patterns and severity of climate events can be attributed in no small part to our wasteful and environmentally profligate ways. If we were to modify our behavior, we’d have less flooding, less severe tornados, lower ocean levels, thicker ice caps, and so forth, which would have a salutary effect on the climate. It’s practically impossible, however, to get to that point, because industry, its bought-and-paid-for researchers and its bought-and-paid-for politicians and popular media mouthpieces keep us bogged down in the “you can’t prove this individual climate event is solely due to climate change” nonsense.

    So why should industry change its ways? They’re making a shit-ton of money. Sure, people are having their lives destroyed and lost, but that’s not their problem. And they’ll never be held individually accountable for all the death and misery they’ve inflicted on us.

    • delazeur

      This is definitely the strategy that lobbyists and politicians are taking, but I think we are seeing something more insidious from the fossil fuel corporations (oil more than coal) themselves. Instead of saying “climate change is not a problem” or “climate change has not been conclusively proven” they say “climate change is a problem, but any particular solution you propose will be ineffective, so don’t even bother.”

  • Peterr

    But despite that, scientists have to send a strong message that it is climate change causing catastrophic flooding that creates havoc on communities and costs taxpayers millions or even billions of dollars in each event.

    Here in metro KC, Gary Lezak (one of our local meteorologists) has been direct in saying exactly this, and has been for several years. But he and his colleagues at local tv stations around the country face the pressure from the beancounters not to piss off a segment of their potential audience. While one of his local competitors is openly dismissive of humanity’s role in climate change, Lezak isn’t afraid to call it as science sees it.

    In 2013, he did a special climate change segment (video here and text version here) for his station, KSHB. But he also puts in various asides about climate change during ordinary forecasts from time to time.

    Conservatives find it easy to dismiss far-off elites, but when their local trusted (relatively speaking) meteorologists speak out, it’s harder to dismiss.

  • Michael Cain

    Many Louisianans are complaining that the rest of the country isn’t paying enough attention to their plight. What happens if, as major flood incidents there become even more common, the rest of the country responds with, “Why don’t you just move?”

    • That is what’s happening in the southern parishes that are disappearing. But try doing that to Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

      • Murc

        I’m comfortable saying New Orleans and Miami shouldn’t exist in their presently constituted forms, and definitely shouldn’t have as many people living in them as they do, and that if we don’t decide to draw down their populations the ocean is gonna do that for us at some point.

        But I also support spending billions, trillions if necessary, on relocation.

        • tsam

          Yeah–they can move now or later. The longer they wait, the more dangerous and expensive it becomes. Those cities are going to be gone in less than a century.

  • rickhavoc

    In a word, innumeracy.

    Last time I checked, and this was at least five years ago, NOAA released a report describing, among other things, five percent more moisture in the atmosphere than had ever been recorded.

    The public shrugged…five? who cares? Its five. Its not like 20.

    I had a ‘we’re doomed’ moment.

    But of course its all a hoax.

  • JL

    The message that you quoted in your original post seems like a pretty good one, that’s getting the message across, short enough to be pretty quickly readable, and not making outlandish or unsupported claims about individual events.

    But it’s still way too long for a bumper sticker or sign.

  • It is worth pushing the “fossil air pollution kills” truth at every opportunity. Not that AGW isn’t perfectly true, but denying it has become a conservative shibboleth in the USA and Australia (though only there). I have not spotted any serious attempts to discredit the findings that air pollution, indoor and outdoor, kills about 7 million people a year (WHO) and costs over $3.5 trn a year (OECD).

    First, the science is simple in outline and bomb-proof: you find chemicals and particles in smog that kill lab rats and tissue cultures through standard mechanisms; you measure the smog; you count the asthma cases and so on in the city. Second, the write-ups come from people with white coats and Harvard MDs after their names – authority figures to the most hardened conservative. Third, the damage is to YOU and your children and grandchildren, not brown-skinned Muslim Bangladeshi peasants far away.

    The health savings ALONE justify the CPP and indeed the energy transition generally. You don’t need climate change at all to make the case, since the cash costs are a wash.

    • Rob in CT

      The case against Coal, in particular, is absolutely ironclad. And yet…

    • delazeur

      All that has been well-known for a long time (although perhaps not communicated as aggressively as climate change), but the same people who deny climate change still find a way to stick their heads in the sand. It seems like there is a significant percentage of the US and Australian population that just doesn’t care very much about abstract threats to public health and welfare. (I would say that air pollution qualifies as an abstract threat because it is never the proximal cause of death. Even smog deaths just look like severe asthma attacks.)

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