Climate change is real, it is a problem, and it is getting worse

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The year 2016 was messy and expensive and full of climate change enhanced weather disasters. There were, according to Jeff Masters and Bob Henson, over 30 billion dollar disasters last year.

This is the fourth-largest number on record going back to 1990, said insurance broker Aon Benfield in their Annual Global Climate and Catastrophe Report issued January 17 (updated January 23 to include a 31st billion-dollar disaster, the Gatlinburg, Tennessee fire.) The average from 1990 – 2016 was 22 billion-dollar weather disasters; the highest number since 1990 was 41, in 2013.

The frequency of flood disasters in Europe have doubled over 35 years.

The number of devastating floods that trigger insurance payouts has more than doubled in Europe since 1980, according to new research by Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurance company.

The firm’s latest data shows there were 30 flood events requiring insurance payouts in Europe last year – up from just 12 in 1980 – and the trend is set to accelerate as warming temperatures drive up atmospheric moisture levels.

Globally, 2016 saw 384 flood disasters, compared with 58 in 1980, although the greater proportional increase probably reflects poorer flood protections and lower building standards in the developing world

As I’m sure you’ve heard, he year 2016 was the hottest year on record, and 2017 is also going to be hot. (I personally doubt 2017 will be hotter, but then again, I was thinking that 2016 might not break the 2015 record.)

Mark Bgoslough as an interesting piece here on how global temperature records are made, analyses, and reported. I recommend reading that. Here, I want to use a graphic he made for that item to point something outI’ve added the green lines. I’ll just leave it here without comment.


People in the northeastern US should be about 50% more concerned about global warming than everyone else, because new research suggests that this region will warm about 50% faster than the globe in coming years.

The fastest warming region in the contiguous US is the Northeast, which is projected to warm by 3°C when global warming reaches 2°C. The signal-to-noise ratio calculations indicate that the regional warming estimates remain outside the envelope of uncertainty throughout the twenty-first century, making them potentially useful to planners. The regional precipitation projections for global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C are uncertain, but the eastern US is projected to experience wetter winters and the Great Plains and the Northwest US are projected to experience drier summers in the future.

John Abraham summarizes and interprets the results here.

Regardless of the so-called temperature target, what this study shows is that even if we do keep the globe as a whole to a 2°C temperature increase, some regions, like the Northeast United States will far exceed this threshold. So, what is “safe” for the world is unsafe for certain regions.

A recent poll tells us that 90% of rural Australians are concerned about the impacts of climate change. Most were concerned about drought and flooding. Fewer than half this coal fire power stations should be phased out.

I think that if you did a similar poll in the US, you would find that most rural Americans don’t are about climate change, and even fewer think coal should be phased out. Since all rural people, Australians or Americans and everyone else, have already been affected to at least some degree by climate change, and since the science strongly suggests that things will get much worse for them in the future, all of these folks should be concerned and all of them should be for doing something about it. The good news is that the cognitive dissonance we see in the Australia between climate change and concern may be a harbinger for future changes in American attitudes. Australia has probably been affected by severe weather caused or enhanced by climate change to a much larger degree than has Rural America. In short, I expect disdain for coal to catch up to concern about climate change in Oz, while in America, eventually, people will get more and more on board with both.

Americans are more concerned about not offending farmers than they are about saving them. In American farmlands, we expect climate change to reduce staple crop production substantially by the end of the century. The farmers need to get on board more quickly if they want their grandchildren to be able to be farmers too.

A question on everyone’s mind: “Is the California Drought over and what does this mean?”

It looks over. Reservoirs are filling, snow is piling up in the mountains, everything is wet.

However, there are several things still to consider. For one, the recharging of water supplies is not complete, and if near-zero-rain conditions return right away, the drought will slowly return. This is of course always a concern, but right now we have a slightly different question to ask for California. Is it the case that the conditions that led to the California drought are the “new normal” (a phrase I’m not really happy with) I the sense that from now on, there will be less snow pack, less rainfall, etc. In other words, is it the case that the future of California is generally much dryer all the time with the occasional drenching rainy season, because of climate change?

We don’t know yet, but there is one fairly obvious area of concern: Snow pack. Snow pack plays a role in watering California. Snow pack forms during the rainy winter, and slowly melts thereafter. If that precipitation wasn’t temporarily stored up as snow, the winter rains would be more flooding, and there would be less water retained in the system for the rest of the year. Increasing warmth, due to global warming, has caused more of the precipitation that falls in the mountains to be rain rather than snow, and it has caused the snow to melt more quickly.

Warmer temperatures also mean more evaporation, so getting everything all wet and squishy for a few months during the Winter may mean less a few months later when a warm and dry atmosphere starts to drunk the moisture out of the ground and off the reservoir’s surfaces at an accelerated rate.

This piece by Andrea Thompson at Climate Central does a great job of summarizing the current situation in California.

I have been noting for years (well, for a couple of years) that the best available paleo data suggest that the current levels of CO2 and/or temperature, protracted over a reasonable amount of time, should be associated with sea levels of about 8 meters. In other words, if you are worried about sea level rise, and you should be, the amount of sea level rise that we are currently locked into is enough to inundate much of Southeast Asia’s rice growing land, large parts of various US states such as Louisiana and Florida, and to cause retreat from many of the world’s most densely settled cities.

Over recent months the interface between the scientific research and journalism has started to squeeze out the occasional example of this startling fact, one we’ve known for years but have been afraid to say about else we be considered non reputable. From the Independent:

The last time ocean temperatures were this warm, sea levels were up to nine metres higher than they are today, according to the findings of a new study, which were described as “extremely worrying” by one expert.

The researchers took samples of sediment from 83 different sites around the world, and these “natural thermometers” enabled them to work out what the sea surface temperature had been more than 125,000 years ago.

How long will this take? Nobody knows. This depends on how fast the major glaciers melt.

Carlos Gimenez, mayor of Miami, is already rolling up his pants:

“Let’s be clear, sea-level rise is a very serious concern for Miami-Dade County and all of South Florida,” Mayor Carlos Gimenez told the crowd Wednesday morning at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center during his annual State of the County address. “It’s not a theory. It’s a fact. We live it every day.”

Read more here.

The British Antarctic Survey is abandoning its Halley Base, in Antarctic, because the ice shelf on which it is located had developed a huge crack, so it is no longer safe to be there. They’l be out by the end of March. The crack is known as the “Halloween Crack.” Here’s a short video:

In the Arctic, sea ice growth so far this year is below any previously observed year. From the National Snoe and Ice Data Center:
Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 12.08.19 PM

About Bangladesh:

Along the coast lies Kutubdia, an island in the Bay of Bengal where lush green rice fields give way to acres and acres of flat fields. Consisting of small rectangles of varying hues of brown, they are salt fields. The encroachment of saline water from rising tides has made rice farming impossible.

They now “farm” salt. That is not euphemism for farming in salty conditions. They take salt out of the water. That is not a business that will have a lot of future when everybody else along the coasts of low lying countries are doing it as well.

At the end of 2015, it looked like the negative effects of climate change were accelerating. That turned out to be true, and acceleration of the effects continues. This is probably not a good time to official deny the reality and importance of climate change, but that seems to be what we are doing in the United States.

Have you read the breakthrough novel of the year? When you are done with that, try:

In Search of Sungudogo by Greg Laden, now in Kindle or Paperback
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54 thoughts on “Climate change is real, it is a problem, and it is getting worse

  1. Even most “alarmists” are understating the problem.

    CO2 in the atmosphere is growing at an exponential rate, with no sign of a change in the trend.

    The most important fact is that CO2 and temperature are “cointegrated” at the .0001 level. Those familiar with time-series analysis will recognize that this means the strongest statistical connection between CO2 and temperature. That is, CO2 and temperature have to trend together. Any pause is temperature has to lead to an a reversion to the CO2 trend.

    Temperatures changes follow CO2 changes with a lag of many years (just how many is uncertain, but it is measured in decades). The current warming trend must continue.

    In other words the earth is an extreme mess, with no possibility of relief unless extreme measures are taken now to reduce CO2 emissions. There is no sign that such measures are possible.

  2. t marvell, no, you have the science totally messed up. Or, you understand the science and chose to come here and lie about it in order to confuse people.

  3. @ t.marvell and @ g. laden. I think Mr. Marvell is reasonably correct in his conclusion, quotation: “In other words the earth is an extreme mess, with no possibility of relief unless extreme measures are taken now to reduce CO2 emissions. There is no sign that such measures are possible.” According to science the point of no return has already been passed. People have to concentrate on measures to limit threatening damage as much as possible. Laren NH, Monday 6 February 2017, Netherlands, Laren NH, 0.22 AM DT.

  4. #3 – it was not nice to call me a liar. You did not even specify what I said was a lie or, even, incorrect.
    I suspect that you barely read my post. Are you upset because I “out-alarmist” you?
    The key facts are that CO2 continues exponential growth, CO2 is cointegrated with temperature, and there is a long lag between CO2 changes the corresponding. temperature changes.

  5. WOW asked for sources. I earlier gave a link to a chart showing that CO2 is growing exponentially, About the cointegration of CO2 and temperature, you can download this from paper Scholar: “Long-Run Changes in Radiative Forcing and Surface Temperature: The Effect of Human
    Activity over the Last Five Centuries”
    About the importance of cointegration, look that term up on Wikipedia.
    About the lag, this is not often emphasized, but the information came from communications with Gavin Schmidt.

  6. No, I asked for sources. Things that show it’s too late and there’s nothing left to be done, mr denier patsy.

    And stop lying. Links != 1 link.

  7. I’d agree with most of what t marvell said at #1.

    As I understood it, he is pointing out that the climate is not in equilibrium and there is therefore warming ‘in the pipeline’ until it does reach (radiative) equilibrium. So if by magic we could stabilise at ~400ppm CO2, we would carry on warming for many decades to come.

    I don’t think this is right though:

    Any pause is temperature has to lead to an a reversion to the CO2 trend.

  8. t marvell has been previously running the lukewarmist trope, but now runs the last stage of denial: “It’s too late to do anything about it”.

    That impossible standard there is part and parcel for why it’s not worth stopping, because if it doesn’t immediately drop, whatever we did “must be” being undone by some “other actor” making even more pollution, so therefore we should stop “crippling” our economy and just join in while we are alive.

    Just a heads up there.

  9. The Mail on Sunday today reveals astonishing evidence that the organisation that is the world’s leading source of climate data rushed to publish a landmark paper that exaggerated global warming and was timed to influence the historic Paris Agreement on climate change.

    A high-level whistleblower has told this newspaper that America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) breached its own rules on scientific integrity when it published the sensational but flawed report, aimed at making the maximum possible impact on world leaders including Barack Obama and David Cameron at the UN climate conference in Paris in 2015.

    Read more:

    (attack the messenger, or the scientist?)

  10. So why is the guardian wrong, ron? If it’s “because they’re biased”, how do you know the daily hate isn’t biased?

  11. ron, all that is needed is to point out that the items in that story don’t match up with reality. The claims made by the science – the ones that the clown who wrote the article and ethics-free people like you try to lie about – have been supported by other analyses. By observation. By reality.

    It’s also worth noting (for people who are interested in facts rather than the usual bullshit folks like you push) that several of the key misrepresentations and outright lies the author of the daily mail article wrote have been pointed out as such, with explanation.

    So yes ron, the messenger should be attacked, for presenting a dishonest load of crap as valid criticism. You should be called out for repeating it, although it seems that the only thing losers like you, mikeN, and rickA do is spend your time making shit up and/or finding others who do the same.

  12. CO2 is cointegrated with temperature, and there is a long lag between CO2 changes the corresponding. temperature changes.

    No, that’s incorrect. GAT tracks the rapid increase in CO2 pretty well from the 1960s onwards.

    I think you might be confusing the transient response (immediate) with the equilibrium sensitivity (lagged).

  13. BBD writes: “I think you might be confusing the transient response (immediate) with the equilibrium sensitivity (lagged).”

    Oh c’mon – he’s merely parroting a talking point, it’s not like he’s actually tried to study and understand the science.

  14. WOW – i am not saying that it is too late to do anything about global warming. I am saying that what the world is doing is so little as to be meaningless (note the continued exponential increase in CO2). That is also true of what the world talks about doing about global warming. In other words, in spite of all the pretense, people are not really taking the issue seriously. An example of taking the issue seriously would be outlawing in the use of coal and wood as fuel. Also a Manhattan-type project to develop non-CO2 energy sources.
    In other words, the world seems resigned to living with the higher temperatures and higher sea levels. The consequences are very uncertain, especially the political consequences. I don’t think it is worth the risk. Equally uncertain is the consequences of geo-engineering (e.g., to reflect sun light), but I suspect that will become the dominate response.

    #20 – BBD – on the lag between CO2 and the resulting temperature change. You cannot tell what the lag is by eyeballing the charts. CO2 is increasing at a very regular pace, and temperature trends upward. This is consistent with both an instantaneous and a delayed connection.

    You say I confuse the transient response with “the equilibrium sensitivity (lagged)”. Obviously I am talking about the latter. There are a lot of things, mainly the effects of the oceans, that cause a delayed equilibrium.

  15. What you’re saying is precisely what your denier mates claim is going on when they’re talking out of their mind’s arse.

    You say I confuse the transient response with “the equilibrium sensitivity (lagged)”. Obviously I am talking about the latter. There are a lot of things, mainly the effects of the oceans, that cause a delayed equilibrium.

    So you admit to the confusion, but don’t change anything or revisit your claims based around that confusion….

  16. Obviously I am talking about the latter.

    Then you should say so. Why? Because this is incorrect as the transient response is immediate:

    CO2 is cointegrated with temperature, and there is a long lag between CO2 changes the corresponding. temperature changes.

  17. The short-term connection between CO2 and temperature is tricky. There is a positive connection, but it is in the reverse causal correction. Warming oceans cause out-gassing, especially in the Pacific, because the warmer the water is, the less gas it can hold (dissolved). That impact lasts several months, and it causes a feed back mechanism that in the long term exacerbates the CO2 warming effect.

  18. So GLOBAL sea ice extent is the lowest since they have been recording it by satellite. Does this mean anything?

    Here is an interesting line of “common sense” reasoning. If the satellite photographic data is correct ( and why wouldn’t it be? Hello? Is there Anybody out there without tinfoil on their head this side of ?????-??????????, who would care to critique that idea?) then what does that portend for the various glaciers in the vacinity of meliting sea ice? You know, the glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica? Right. They are probably going to be melting a bit faster too! Brilliant. And what about the albedo of the polar oceans? Wouldn’t it be safe to say that if millions of square kilometers of white, refleective snow covered ice keep going missing each year , that the reflectivity of the polar oceans is going to diminish, and the temperatures of said oceans are going to rise,, leading to more melting of ice and so on? ….

    Anyway, I used to think that crop failures from climate change would be the first thing that finally grabbed the public’s attention about this here climate change problem. But now, I wonder if maybe it is going to be rising sea level that rings their bell. If some of the larger glaciers start suffering from Exxon Exlax disorder.,, we might see some startling changes in sea level in our very own life times, especiially you younger folks. I will probably be dirt napping when this happens, …. But most of you won’t! So Have fun!.

    Seriously, these changes will be facinating and dynamic. And think of all the myriad business opportunities that await those who have the capital and cleverness to be there when the excrement hits the wind turbine! Have a great Day!

  19. Many people having problems. One user is either having someone impersonate him and he’s complaining about it, or someone is impersonating him to complain about it.

  20. t marvell

    Before being wrong about Henry’s Law, why not acknowledge that you were wrong to say that ‘there is a long lag between CO2 changes and the corresponding temperature changes’?

    That would be a more honest way of proceeding at this point.

  21. @ wow

    Despite multiple attempts, I simply could not post a response to TM. I eventually gave up and re-wrote it. God knows what the problem was as no ripe language or links to denier blogs (obvz).

    Irritating mystery.

  22. @Wow, the impersonator is someone named Travis Schwochert. He’s been impersonating several people (me included) at “Respectful Insolence”. He also impersonated me on “Starts with a Bang”. Somehow, he guessed my email address.
    @Greg, he may try to do the same here. Look at I.P. Addresses to confirm.

  23. Some of you will have heard of Forrest Mims III. I knew him as an electronics whiz and popularizer, somewhat like Don Lancaster or Steve Ciarcia. But it seems he’s done a lot of science work and has a cache of atmospheric data that may be useful.

  24. Quick question for “t marvell.”

    What do you think is expected from something growing exponentially which has a logarithmic effect?


  25. Who says its real? Name one climatologist, who is not on the Government payroll or who’s grant is not hinged upon following the party line.

  26. Who says it’s fake? Name one climate science denier who is not on the Fossil Fuel industry payroll or whose investments are not hinged upon following the denier line.

  27. Mike #41: Now that the US government has changed presumably the big funding (ha!) will be all going to climatologists who say that climate change is not real. When do you expect NASA, NOAA and websites like RealClimate to reverse their opinions? If they are taking their stated views solely for the money, we should see big changes in the next few months. What will be your excuse when that does not happen?

  28. RickA: Once again redefining reality whenever it suits his agenda, using more of those Conservative “alternative facts” (TM )

  29. “There you have it – the science isn’t settled.”

    Oh, so according to you, gravity is a fake and unproven.

    So why aren’t you flying, dick? WHY ARE YOU IN ON THIS CONSPIRACY?!?!?!?!?

    Or your claim is meaningless twaddle and you know it, but aren’t even enough of a human being to refrain from being an arsehole.

  30. “What will be your excuse when that does not happen?”

    The same as when it was Shrub in charge.

    Ignore the facts still and retain the claims.

    Deniers aren’t the sharpest tool on the cheeseboard. Even when it only has cheese on it.

  31. “Despite multiple attempts, I simply could not post a response to TM.”

    WordPress has many exploits and there has been a concerted effort to hack into wordpress sites (such as this one) to hack information and hack into viewers’ machines from these exploits.

    This would be sufficient reason for the problems on scienceblogs.

  32. WordPress has many exploits and there has been a concerted effort to hack into wordpress sites (such as this one)

    This is WordPress? It doesn’t recognise my WordPress account. I though ScienceBlogs ran on some other software?

    I’ve been keeping an eye on the WP hackery since it stepped up a week or so ago.

    and hack into viewers’ machines from these exploits.

    I’ve often wondered about direct vulnerability from a corrupted blog site. I’ve never had any problems, but then I’m behind a lot of security, so I wouldn’t really expect to.

  33. This one may not be hosted there, but it’s using wordpress CMS. The vulns are part of the design, but each one gets “fixed”. The latest ones with, IIRC, 4.7.2.

    The hack for someone’s email address being scraped was why Julian had been joe jobbed by another user.

    And if you have someone’s email address, you have info to try hacking other places with. Get the webtracking image bugs uploaded to you, and you can find out which sites they may have more information on. And eventually find somewhere where their card details live and hack that with some ideas of what their password might be (if a WP site requires logins with passwords).

    At least this place doesn’t require a password.But your other places can be tracked, and your email address harvested or used to brute force another attack.

  34. So, yeah, they can find other sites you’ve gone on if you don’t use protection for it (and many sites refuse to acknowledge the “Tell sites I do not wish to be tracked”, because the ad companies only want schemes to cut back on advertising tracking if it won’t work.

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