Ecocentric

Federal Forecast for Climate Change: It’s Getting Hot in Here

A new draft report suggests that the climate change we've experienced so far is nothing compared to what's in the pipeline. Can we make a dent in global warming—or is time to just prepare for the worst?

  • Share
  • Read Later
Yoon S. Byun / The Boston Globe / Getty Images

Despite the warm weather and a lack of snow, skiers and snowboarders were making their way down the slopes at Blue Hill Ski Area in Canton, Mass., on Jan. 2, 2012.

Spring came early to Walden Pond in 2012. Scientists — both amateur and professional — have kept records of flowering times for plants in Walden Pond, near the Massachusetts town of Concord, since Henry David Thoreau began doing it in 1852. The result is one of the best continuous datasets of nature in the U.S, which has made Thoreau’s retreat an excellent lab for testing the effects of manmade climate change on the environment. In a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Jan. 14, researchers reported that the unusually warm winter and spring of 2012 and 2010 resulted in the earliest known flowering times for dozens of species of plants around Walden Pond, sometimes nearly a month earlier than they had back in Thoreau’s cooler times.

Of course, you don’t need to pore through the records at Walden Pond to know that the climate is changing. Last week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that average annual temperatures for the continental U.S. were hotter in 2012 than in any year in U.S. recorded history. Extreme weather was the second-worst on record, with severe wildfires, major storms and a crippling drought causing billions of dollars in damage to the American economy. Really, all you need to do to notice climate change is to walk outside. Yesterday in New York City the high temperature was a misty 57° F (14° C) — yet another unseasonably warm January day when the temperature has barely dipped below freezing. Nor is it just the U.S.: a new study published in Climatic Change has found that global warming has increased monthly heat records by a factor of five. And while a burst of cold air has led to sub-freezing temperatures throughout much of the West over the past few days, I’m willing to bet my salary that average temperatures for the country this month will be higher than the 20th century mean for January. Why? One reason is that the last time the U.S. had a colder than average month was all the way back in December — of 1983.

(MORE: 2012 Was the Hottest Year in U.S. History. And Yes — It’s Climate Change)

But the warming and weather disruption we’ve seen so far will just be the beginning. Late last week a team of more than 300 federal scientists released a draft of the National Climate Assessment, which gathers the latest research on how climate change is likely to affect the U.S. The semi-regular report — the third such published — is a product of the Global Change Research Act of 1990, which required a national climate assessment to be conducted every four years.

This is the point at which you’re probably wondering why, if a 1990 law mandated that a national climate assessment be produced every four years, we’re only getting around to releasing the third one in 2013, or 23 years after the original legislation was passed. That’s in part because of the usual slow workings of the federal bureaucracy — complicated by the fact that the report is complied by an inter-governmental body involving 13 separate federal agencies and departments — but also because conservatives have repeatedly attacked the assessment for supposedly exaggerating the effects of climate change. No climate assessment was published during former President George W. Bush’s administration, and though the schedule is back in order under President Obama, the difficult history of the U.S. Global Change Research Program is another reminder of just how politicized this subject has become.

(MORE: Why Seeing Is Believing—Usually—When It Comes to Climate Change)

But while some politicians might prefer to simply stop studying climate change in hopes that it would go away, the results in the draft report show us that things are will only get worse. The findings include some sobering numbers:

  • U.S. average temperature has increased by about 1.5° F (0.8°C) since 1895—and notably, more than 80% of this increase has occurred since 1980. The most recent decade was the nation’s hottest on record, and the warming will continue—the report estimates that U.S. temperatures will rise by 2° to 4° F (1.1°C to 2.2° C) over the next few decades.
  • Of course, the amount of warming will depend on the sensitivity of the climate system — something that remains up for debate — and the rise or fall in carbon emissions we’ll see in the future. Under a high emissions scenario — if the world isn’t able to curb the use of fossil fuels — we could see warming as high as 10° F (5.5° C) by the end of the century.
  • Climate change will increase the likelihood of water shortages and competition for water, especially in arid but growing areas like the U.S. Southwest. Spring snowpack is on the decline in the mountain West, and we’ll see more seasonal water shortages throughout the country — even in areas where total rainfall will increase.
  • Some good news: over the next 25 years, the agricultural sector is predicted to be relatively resilient to changes in the climate, including rising temperatures and more sporadic rainfall. That’s important to remember. U.S. farmers have always been the best in the world at getting the most out of their land, but it’s also true that there’s a ceiling to adaptation, and by mid-century, yields of major U.S. crops are expected to decline — seriously bad new for the U.S. and those who depend on American farmers.

(MORE: Climate Change and Sandy: Why We Need to Prepare for a Warmer World)

There’s more where that came from. This is a 1,000-plus page report, and what was released last week was only a draft put out for public comment. The final version will be released later this spring. Will one more report make a difference? I’m doubtful, though more-precise climate projections for regions or even cities will be invaluable for adaptation. (Of course, mayors and governors will actually have to read those reports — a New York climate panel’s prediction that a major storm and sea level rise could swamp parts of the city wasn’t enough to prepare the Big Apple for Sandy.) At best, these reports might offer a roadmap that shows how best to survive in a hot and crowded age.

When President Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress couldn’t push through cap and trade legislation in 2010 — see Harvard’s Theda Skocpol on the green movement’s political failures — we may have squandered the best chance in a decade to take comprehensive action against climate change. Now we can’t even agree to pay the country’s bills. It’d be nice to feel some optimism, but that’s vanishing faster than the remains of an increasingly rare snowfall in New York. Still,  I suppose there’s a silver lining. Spring is just around the corner — and it’s getting closer every year.

MORE: Antarctica: It’s Getting Hot at the Bottom of the Planet

195 comments
marek.masalski9
marek.masalski9

Global surface temperature in 2012 was +0.56°C (1°F) warmer than the 1951-1980 base period average, despite much of the year being affected by a strong La Nina. Global temperature thus continues <a rel="follow" href="http://epalenie.blog.pl/">e-papierosy</a>     at a high level that is sufficient to cause a substantial increase in the frequency of extreme warm anomalies. The 5-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade, which we interpret as a combination of natural variability and a slowdown in the growth rate of the net climate forcing.



kcopie
kcopie

James Hansen and Bill McKibben are disgraceful continuing to claim that record cold weather is really global warming is just disgusting. Get real jobs where you don't have to lie to support your discredited theories.

RobertConway
RobertConway

God has spoken and .....oh, no change in temperature for the last 10 years...

Change in temperature from the 5-year running mean (1950 to 1980) from 1910 to 1942 (32 years) +.56 C, change in 5-year running mean from 1976 to 2010 (36 years) +0.59 C, same amount of change before accelerated CO2 use as during accelerated CO2 use, of course GOD fails to point this out....

RobertConway
RobertConway

...... "The result is one of the best continuous datasets of nature in the U.S, which has made Thoreau’s retreat an excellent lab for testing the effects of manmade climate change on the environment."

Of course the datasets could also be an excellent lab for testing the effects of natural warming on the environment since 1910, following 350 years of global cooling, but of course we wouldn't want to be biased or anything.....  


Read more: http://science.time.com/2013/01/15/federal-forecast-for-climate-change-its-getting-hot-in-here/#ixzz2NpIb0Uuh

eric144144
eric144144

If it's sponsored by big business, it's a scam. This is an insurance scam like Obamacare (originally a GOP scam)


New York Yimes June 23, 1890, Wednesday Page 5


Is our climate changing? The succession of temperate Summers and open Winters through several years, culminating last Winter in the almost total failure of the ice crop throughout the valley of the Hudson, makes the question pertinent. The older inhabitants tell us that the Winters are not as cold now as when they were young, and we have all observed a marked diminution of the average cold even in this last decade.

http://newsbusters.org/node/11640#ixzz2HiuHZnUU

GeraldWilhite
GeraldWilhite

I am MRS Gerald Wilhite.  I accidentally stumbled upon this conversation.  All I have learned from what I have read here is that nobody engaged in this exchange of opinions would change his or her viewpoint were the wizard behind the curtain were himself or herself (if there is indeed such a being of any or no gender) to step forward and explain all.   So why bother?  I hope Gerald is participating for the entertainment value.  It is the only value to be found here and in my opinion (which I will never change, of course ) there are thousands of more entertaining ways to spend time than trading barbs with total strangers.  Now I will get back to the last episode of "Dancing With The Stars".  

GeraldWilhite
GeraldWilhite

It is a well known among climate scientists and climate modelers that we don't know enough about what we are doing to make trillion dollar public policy decisions that wastefully such up valuable resources. That sort of thing not only wastes  dollars. It trashes millions of lives in poor and undeveloped countries. 

Didn't we learn anything from the disastrous 'ethanol from corn' program?  We all pay at the pump and supermarket for it every day.  Its primary windfall profit beneficiaries are corporate corn farms and powerful politicians (Republicans and Democrats) who get secretly prearranged annual campaign contributions from big players in the US corn industry, players like Archer-Daniels-Midland and Dupont.  Both easily stave off the harsh public criticism (and jail sentences) that they should be getting by making big contributions to AGW and cAGW promoters. It stinks.

Lt's not repeat that mistake.

JackWolf
JackWolf

The number for today is 13, 950.  This is the number of peer reviewed papers that were published in scientific journals that affirmed global warming and resulting climate change.

And for those that are curious about the number that did not affirm the reality around us, it was 24. 

GeraldWilhite
GeraldWilhite

     I could not find a clear citation to the paper on which your article is based in your article, but I assume that you were talking about “Global Temperature Update Through 2012, 15 January 2013 by J. Hansen, M. Sato, R. Ruedy”, which has not yet been peer-reviewed.

  This preliminary paper is notable because it is, to my knowledge, the first time Hansen has admitted that global warming flat-lined several years ago. In one of his typical intentional deceptions, Hansen admits to five years of no global warming in this preliminary paper. I’m confident that he will, as usual, correct his deception to ‘over 15 years’ in the final paper.
   I find it sadly amusing to watch him back away from his fundamental tenet that CO2 is the primary driver of global warming. The final paper is all that will go in the record. Hansen is obviously trying to fabricate a great legacy. I must admit that he is probably the best scientific con man we’ve seen since the Piltdown Man hoax of 1913. Like an evangelist preacher at a small town tent revival, Hansen knows how to ‘speak in tongues’ --- convoluted scientific tongues in this case --- to keep the faithful believers stirred up and in line. 

   To those who have not read it, I highly recommend an obscure little book entitled “The True Believer”, written in 1949 by Eric Hoffer. He was an uneducated migrant worker and longshoreman that many say will go down in history as one of the preeminent philosophers of the 20th century. It should be required reading for climate scientists.

DavidNutzuki
DavidNutzuki

FORMER climate blame believers are better planet lovers.
*Occupywallstreet does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded carbon trading stock markets ruled by corporations and trustworthy politicians.

pdxjjb
pdxjjb

Furthermore, "January 14" does not appear to even be a publication date for PNAS. Can we stop with the philosophical debate for long enough to use the commentary thread as a way to get Time Magazine to straighten out its damned reporting!?

pdxjjb
pdxjjb

I just spent about half an hour trying to confirm that the National Academy of Sciences actually published the article that Time Magazine says they published: "In a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Jan. 14, researchers reported that the unusually warm winter and spring of 2012 and 2010 resulted in the earliest known flowering times for dozens of species of plants..."

I can't find any such article. Can anyone else? I just get sick of the combination of uncited scientific quotation in the media combined with scientific periodicals that do their best to hide from search engines. It's ridiculous. Where's the article? Does it say what Time says it does? Do the editors of Time care? Does the National Academy of Sciences give a whit about the "public interest"? Then straighten this nonsense out!

False_Believer
False_Believer

Those who deny the existence of any kind of climate change, even when it kicks them in the head, must be living under a whole pile of rocks. But the idea that energy efficiency equals economic ruin is equally myopic. Energy efficiency is a huge opportunity for new products and services. Extreme weather events have rammed home the decrepit state of our energy distribution system: we can and should make it better. The deniers of change are also deniers of opportunity: perhaps they should stop worrying and learn to love climate change.

middlelane
middlelane

I believe the reason it is hard for people to believe that climate change is real is because humans by design are small minded.There have always been changes in temperature (both increase and declines), but the problem with today is not that the temperature is changing but the rate that it is changing.Previously temperature changed over thousands of years, many centuries (including the ice ages, warm periods, etc).The change that we are seeing now is happening over 100 years or so (many decades).Humans, on average, only live to be around 70 years, so 100 years sounds like a very long time.So long that it is hard for people to believe that the current climate change is not natural.But the earth has been around for a very very long time.No matter if you believe the earth is 30,000 years or 1 million year old, 100 years is a blink of the eye.So the change we are seeing now is not normal.So then you have to look at what has changed over the past 100 years and that is human involvement.

JonBoy
JonBoy

Most people like warmer weather.  Plants like more CO2.  Melting ice means more available water which because of  the waramer temperatures will evaporate into the atmosphere and return as rain to make the plants grow. What's not to like about global warming?  It's better than the ice age they were predicting in the '70's.  Of course if you built on the beach for the view, you might be concerned.

speedbird286
speedbird286

Climate change is clearly all a hoax - that was proved by those emails that were hacked from the University of East Anglia right?  That proves it is all a Democrat hoax to take away our gas guzzlers and our guns. Global warming is just caused by them Dems spoutin a load of hot air!  If only they'd shut up the world would all cool off!

LRonHoover
LRonHoover

Sure, there "may" be a worldwide conspiracy encompassing every university in the world, the National Academies of Science, the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society, the American Physical Society, the European Federation of Geologists, the Royal Meteorological Society, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, 95% of professional climate scientists worldwide etc. 

There "may" be aliens living among us. 

President Bush "may" have been behind 9/11. 

There "may" actually be a giant bunny who hops around the world delivering Easter eggs to children every April. 

Right-wing pollsters "may" have been engaging in more than desperate wishful thinking when they predicted a Mitt Romney blowout last November.

But any betting man willing to put his money on these remote possibilities would quickly find himself living behind a dumpster at Walmart.

LRonHoover
LRonHoover

When 95% of the world's climate scientists and every single major scientific institution in the world agrees on something, you'd better have a PhD and have done some serious research to take the opposing position.

KincaidMeyerson
KincaidMeyerson

The Earth is a giant log careening down a mighty river and we are 8 billion ants all paddling madly; some with and some against the current. If you think we are in control of the weather, just study the ancient Mayans. Not one of them ever drove a car.

brycanyon101
brycanyon101

Here's a small part of the Time article on the coming Ice Age reported in their June 24, 1974 issue:

"...when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age.

Telltale signs are everywhere —from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest.Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7° F. Although that figure is at best an estimate, it is supported by other convincing data. When Climatologist George J. Kukla of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory and his wife Helena analyzed satellite weather data for the Northern Hemisphere, they found that the area of the ice and snow cover had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971 and the increase has persisted ever since. Areas of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, for example, were once totally free of any snow in summer; now they are covered year round.

Scientists have found other indications of global cooling. For one thing there has been a noticeable expansion of the great belt of dry, high-altitude polar winds —the so-called circumpolar vortex—that sweep from west to east around the top and bottom of the world. Indeed it is the widening of this cap of cold air that is the immediate cause of Africa's drought. By blocking moisture-bearing equatorial winds and preventing them from bringing rainfall to the parched sub-Sahara region, as well as other drought-ridden areas stretching all the way from Central America to the Middle East and India, the polar winds have in effect caused the Sahara and other deserts to reach farther to the south. Paradoxically, the same vortex has created quite different weather quirks in the U.S. and other temperate zones. As the winds swirl around the globe, their southerly portions undulate like the bottom of a skirt. Cold air is pulled down across the Western U.S. and warm air is swept up to the Northeast. The collision of air masses of widely differing temperatures and humidity can create violent storms—the Midwest's recent rash of disastrous tornadoes, for example."

brycanyon101
brycanyon101

38 years ago Time Magazine had a big article on the climate.  It was all about the new Ice Age that we were entering.

naturalbornlamb
naturalbornlamb

Out of the last 650 million years, give or take a million or two, the earth has been warmer than it it now for all but just 12 million of those years.   And it apparently flourished.  Who is to say current temperatures are 'normal', Al Gore ?

climbinghorse
climbinghorse

Where is the souce of this study that is listed in the 1st paragraph? Can you link it Bryan Walsh? Thanks.

JeffSwift
JeffSwift

To hell with Global Warming concerns and Al Gore and his obscenely large and numerous mega mansions.If you want to worry then worry about the Amazon rainforest and solar flares destroying all our power worldwide some day.If you want to be proactive then live in an underground Hobbit house like Al Gore would do if he wasn't an evil greedy hypocrite in the extreme..

JeremyEdwards
JeremyEdwards

"Climate change, just the beginning"... that's really actually pretty funny.  How about an edit?  "Climate Change - 14 billion years and still going"

RadioUranus
RadioUranus

Anyone having opposed the addressing of any environmental issue should be deported --- to the Maldives. 

babarudraji
babarudraji

Whether the climate change is manmade, or contributed to by man, or cyclical or whatever, it is happening. I don't think anyone can argue that. So what is wrong in exploring what we can do to ease the changes and/or do to prepare for the changes? That has always been my issue with climate change... instead of finger pointing between man and nature, lets come up with contingency plans for what to do when things get worse instead of having everything be a mad dash after the fact. Our nation is so emphatic about planning for war/terrorism/tyranny, but so little is done to plan for natural catastrophes.