Pre-Sandy climate warnings: North America will have world’s most extreme disasters

Now that the worst of Hurricane Sandy has passed — the actual storm, not the cleanup — I thought it would be good to review this. It’s recent, but pre-Sandy. Joe Romm at ThinkProgress (my emphasis; note that Romm is the “I” in the passage below):

NOAA Bombshell: Warming-Driven Arctic Ice Loss Is Boosting Chance of Extreme U.S. Weather

Two new studies make a strong case that global warming is driving an intensification of high-pressure anomalies that in turn make North American weather more extreme. They add to a growing body of scientific observation and analysis on the connection between man-made climate change and extreme weather — and disasters [do click].

So I can say, not coincidentally, Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurance company is releasing a report next week based on its natural catastrophe database — the most comprehensive of its kind in the world — that concludes:

  • Global warming is driving an increase in weather-related disasters
  • North America is the continent with the largest increases in disasters.

And so I can also say, not coincidentally, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) reported Tuesday in its “State of the Climate” for September that the Climate Extremes Index for the period January-through-September was over the highest ever — and over twice the average value — since record-keeping began in 1910.

NOAA is the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Romm mentions a NOAA “State of the Climate” chart. Here it is:

Note that the binomial smoothing curve (the green line) also jumps abnormally high in 2012, yet does a great job of smoothing through all of the previous disasters — the droughts of the 1930s for example don’t cause the same jump.

This is not good. Sandy is not a one-off, but a “one-of,” as in one of many. Batten down.

Loss of Arctic sea ice

The NOAA report above ties the coming extreme weather to the rapid disappearance of Arctic summer sea ice, and Romm includes a chart of that as well. Here’s that chart (click to big):

I know climate scientists need to be conservative — science is conservative — but I’ll say it again. When it comes to climate predictions, we’ve been consistently wrong to the slow side. This thing is coming faster than anyone imagined.

And one more time for this warning as well. We’ve had near-total “climate silence” during this year’s presidential ad campaign (sorry, sparkling intellectual debate). This will the last year that such a conversation can be had, in my view. In 2016, if my estimates are correct, we won’t have enough turning radius to make a change in time.

Crash-conversion from carbon will he heard if we start now, but doable. Crash-conversion from carbon will be almost impossible if we don’t start until 2017. Remember, my deadline for a baked-in 3°C increase — making James Hansen’s mass extinction scenario unavoidable — is roughly 2022.

(Nevertheless, I predict that 2016 will be the year each candidate advertises their “climate concern” — it will be the meme of the campaign, just like advertising their “struggling middle class concern” is the meme of this one. What do I mean by “meme”? I mean what’s meant by slogans like “More taste” and “Improved formula”. You know — words.)

One more chart — disaster costs

Just to round this off, let’s look at pre-Sandy disaster costs. This is the NOA chart for disaster costs from 1980–2011.

It’s that green spike on the right you’re interested in. That’s the total number of billion-dollar disasters (left scale). I want to see what Sandy does to this thing; it won’t be pretty. That red total-costs line (right scale) should shoot right up.

Here’s a thought. There will be a huge price to pay for all this damage, and all the damages to come. Instead of taking it out of general funds, how about we make a special assessment — in the range of many billions — from the pockets of the Climate Criminals whose pockets these disasters are lining? You know, people like Ace Climate Criminal — Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, or the King and Queen of climate crime, David and Charles Koch, in that order.

Let’s start by unlining their pockets — I think I hear some climate cash jingling in there. After all, if the climate crime profits are theirs, so should be the costs.

And here’s another thought. If newly-minted executive assassinator Obama can kill by executive order, let him tax by executive order. There’s gotta be a way, like a drone-strike on David Koch’s bank account? (OK, that’s not politically practical; I get that. Killing by executive order isn’t a bridge too far for most Americans, but taxing … now that’s over the line.)

Bottom line

We really can stop this disaster. I wouldn’t be writing about it if it were hopeless — I’d be doing something more productive. We just have to up our game. My suggestion includes a full-on focus on the real perps — the megalomaniac climate CEOs and their enablers in political office, the media, and the faux-science world. And after the current frenzied ad campaign (sorry, exercise in democracy) winds down, I’ll have much more to say, and hopefully to do, about it.

In the meantime, stay optimistic, stay focused, and stay informed. We may be near a tipping point, but we’re not there yet. Now is the time your help is needed most.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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