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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16 Responses to “Pre-Sandy climate warnings: North America will have world’s most extreme disasters”

  1. citizen_spot says:

     Oooh!  Sarcasm.  The stupid, it burns!!!

  2. theoracle says:


    This is the word I kept seeing in science-based climate change articles over the past several years. Accelerating. Thus, I knew that earlier estimates were off, too conservative, that climate change was speeding up, that extreme weather events would begin to multiply in number and intensity. And then there was the report by Russian scientists in the Arctic region describing methane plumes rising to the surface of the water near their ship, much large in circumference than previously seen, possibly indicating that methane emissions might start spiking, adding to the heating up of the earth’s atmosphere. Uh oh..

  3. rulesreason says:

    That’s a relief to hear that the Earth is a closed system.   That means we don’t have to worry about asteroids.  And when the Sun dies out 20 billion years from now, it won’t impact the Earth.
    Great news!

  4. samizdat says:

     Yo, chief, you may want to pick up a book on geology, and maybe a book which details the number, type, and reason for glaciation over the course of this planet’s history. Climate changes for a reason. Everything on this planet, with regards to the course of Natural history, happens for a reason. It just so happens that the human-driven folly of reintroducing sequestered carbon (buried over the last 400 million yrs), has been identified as the driver behind our current catastrophe. The Earth is a closed system. There are only so many ways in which cosmic forces come to bear on planetary climate. After that, it’s all about what happens in this planet-sized terrarium.

    Ever since the start of intensified burning of coal at the beginning of the Industrial Age, the human race has been doing a balance act on a Razor’s Edge…and we’ve got no safety net to stay our fall.

  5. This article says that a bunch of French companies contribute to right-wing candidates and Tea Parties in the US.

    It says they contribute to all sorts of flat earth groups and global warming deniers too.

  6. hollywoodstein says:

    BTW, this one’s for Gaius.  Did you catch the quote by PBO on Joe Scarborough, “I truly believe that if we can get the deficit and debt issues solved, which I believe we can get done in the lame-duck or in the immediate aftermath of the lame-duck, then that clears away a lot of the ideological underbrush,” he said. “And then now we can start looking at a whole bunch of other issues that, as I said, historically have not been that ideological.”

    Sorry, off topic, and there’s this election, but I thought that would be of interest to your lame duck preparations.  It’s a done deal the GOTP is going to say yes this time.  Obama probably will offer the same old deal without pressing the advantage of winning a second term.  It’s who he is, and what he believes, and what he wants.  To hell with his base. 

    He’s broken my will.  Let him have it.  The economy will cycle back.  He’ll credit the grand bargain.  There will be other elections if people want to rectify the “tweaks”.

  7. hollywoodstein says:

    Well first it is anthropogenic.  But second even if it isn’t there are things that would help both like planting hundreds of millions of acres of forests. 

  8. Rulesreason says:

     You say we should take “steps to ameliorate climate change, anthropogenic or not.”   If it is not anthropogenic, exactly how do we do that?    Alter the earth’s orbit?    Put a giant sun-shade in space?

    The people who want to try to prevent climate change remind of the the folks building the Tower of Babel.   The sheer arrogance that humans can stop gigantic natural processes ….

  9. hollywoodstein says:

    Vote and GOTV!

  10. hollywoodstein says:

    Oh Jesus!  For starters I would not hold up the Catholic Church’s geocentric dogma as a model of the scientific method.

    The scientiific consensus regarding the current anthropogenic theory of climate change is evidence based not faith based.  The very fact that it is potentially falsifiable based on evidence is one of the things which makes the scientific method such a powerful tool.  Some of the evidence comes from ice cores from a time before human civilization. 

    Just because climate naturally varies is not an argument against man made effects.  You don’t need anything more than common sense to understand that pumping billions of tons of carbon into the air might have an effect.

    In any case, due to the dire consequences for human civilization, prudent risk management would argue that we take steps to ameliorate climate change, anthropogenic or not. 

  11. EdM01 says:

    Most Americans would stop up their ears and howl in protest. 

  12. rulesreason says:

    Man-made global warming is a theory based on consensus among climate scientists.   But “consensus” is not science.    (See Galileo versus the Consensus (aka as Catholic Church).

    And all warming theories that claim a human basis fail miserably at the most basic scientific experiment — applying variables to a controlled state and measuring the outcome.

    It’s impossible to conduct that experiment because it is impossible to create the initial controlled state — the Earth without humans.  

    In other words, warming theorists can not unequivocally answer this basic question: what would be the temperature of the earth, and rate of change, it human civilization does not exist.

    The earth’s climate has changed dramatically over the past 4 billion years.   Much of North America was once covered by seas.   What caused them to recede?    Much of North America was once covered by glaciers.   What melted them? 

    Climate changes.  

  13. hollywoodstein says:

    There is no god.  We are all we’ve got.  Lord help us!

  14. BeccaM says:

    Yeah, but here’s the thing: An approaching asteroid doesn’t require humans to give up our fossil-fuel based culture. Even the laughably absurd term ‘energy independence’ continues to be couched in the notion we’ll simply keep drilling for oil & gas and mining coal — with maybe a little of that hippy-dippy ‘green energy’ on the side as long as it’s not inconvenient.

    We talk about improving fuel efficiency standards, but almost never the question, “Hey, we really need to replace the internal combustion engine. How do we begin doing that, like immediately?”

    If that asteroid deflection in any way inconvenienced people or resulted in higher taxes, especially here in America, forget about anything being done.

    Anyway, to address your point more directly, yes, we’ve been failed by corporate media because they themselves are utterly dependent on our fossil fuel-based culture. And our plutocratic lords and masters, even as oil becomes more scarce, are only getting richer, so they have zero incentive to change anything.

    They already have their gated communities. As the environment and climate grow increasingly hellish, I think the construction of domed cities for the mega-rich is something some of us may live long enough to witness.

  15. hollywoodstein says:

    Scientists have discovered a giant asteroid on a trajectory that will impact planet Earth in 50 years.  We are already getting hit by smaller meteorites in its debris field.  If this was the case does anyone doubt this would be the most important topic anyone talked about, and nations would band together to try to stop it.

    This is the same situation as catastrophic climate change, but asteroids are sexier than drought, and melting ice.  Not a question in the debates even from the moderators who were praised.  Not a centerpiece of the campaigns. Not front page news except when a small meteor hit New York.  And deniers are given credence, instead of being refuted with the facts, and mocked for their dangerous, anti-science, carbon corporate protection racket hackery.

    We have 24/7 cable news.  This information should be in heavy rotation.  But we have been failed by the corporate media elites who decide what is important for us to think, and our betters who govern us.  And we have failed ourselves by not doing more, by not doing all that we can.

  16. samiinh says:

    Would it be inappropriate to suggest that perhaps God is pissed with American Exceptionalism (aka Imperialism) and wants to punish her for being an ignorant, greedy corporate entity?

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