Friday, July 1, 2011

Romm on Inhofe, Oklahoma, and the US Climate Risks

As Oklahoma Swelters Under Record Heat and Drought, Inhofe Bails on Heartland Denier Conference: ‘I am Under the Weather’

You may recall last year that Senator Inhofe’s grandchildren built an igloo to mock a killer snow storm, calling it ‘Al Gore’s New Home’.  Of course, extreme precipitation is precisely what we expect from human-caused global warming, but the story still got a lot of play in the media.
What’s more ironic is that the Senate’s leading climate denier bailed on the annual Heartland climate science denial conference this morning — saying “I am under the weather” (!) — just as his home state is being slammed by a record-smashing heatwave and a drought more severe than the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
Yes, I know, it’s just coincidence, not a karmic backlash.  But then again climate science projects a permanent dust bowl for the Southwest if we keep listening to Inhofe.  It also projects that by century’s end, the state will be above 90°F for 135 days a year!
What’s also ironic is just yesterday I pointed out that the Texas drought is so bad, “In Austin, They are Praying for a Hurricane.” Incredibly, meteorologist Stephen Mullens, aka Oklahoma City Weather Examiner, in his Wednesday post, “Heat wave records fall: No relief in sight,” writes
It seems the only hope of rain would be for a hurricane to hit the Texas coast and travel northward to Oklahoma. That path is a fairly common one. Fortunately, the scientists at Colorado State University have predicted a 50% probability that the Texas coast will be hit by a hurricane this year.
No, I don’t think one should use the word “fortunately” to describe a hurricane hitting Texas.  But it is a measure of the desperation felt by a state that is three quarters covered by severe drought and that has been above 90 for the entire month.
Here are some of the amazing statistics of this Oklahoma heat wave:

Today marks the 29th consecutive day over 90. That is a record.
Today is forecast to be the 10th day above 100 in June. That is a record.
Today marks the 34th consecutive day above normal.
June 2011 set or tied single-day record high temperatures on the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 27th. Those record temperatures were 103, 104, 101, and 103 degrees, respectively.
This exceptional heatwave (and drought) would in fact be a rather normal June in the second half of this century if Inhofe and his ilk continue to succeed in duping the nation into inaction, as the 2009 NOAA-led impacts report projected:

Back in October, the National Center for Atmospheric Research published a complete literature review, “Drought under global warming: a review.” That study makes clear Dust-Bowlification may well devastate the mid- and south-west even on a moderate emissions path, as the figure below suggests (click to enlarge, “a reading of -4 or below is considered extreme drought”):
drought map 4 2090-2099

The PDSI [Palmer Drought Severity Index] in the Great Plains during the Dust Bowl apparently spiked very briefly to -6, but otherwise rarely exceeded -3 for the decade (see here).  NCAR explains:
The large-scale pattern shown in Figure 11 [of which the figure above is part] appears to be a robust response to increased GHGs. This is very alarming because if the drying is anything resembling Figure 11, a very large population will be severely affected in the coming decades over the whole United States, southern Europe, Southeast Asia, Brazil, Chile, Australia, and most of Africa.
NCAR adds “By the end of the century, many populated areas, including parts of the United States, could face readings in the range of -8 to -10, and much of the Mediterranean could fall to -15 to -20. Such readings would be almost unprecedented.”
For the record, the NCAR study merely models the IPCC’s “moderate” A1B scenario,” atmospheric concentrations of CO2 around 520 parts per million in 2050 and 700 in 2100 (up from 390 now).  We’re currently headed somewhere between the A2 and A1FI pathway, which would takes us to 850 and 1000 ppm by century’s end.
Politico reports of Inhofe today:
The senator has canceled his planned appearance at the Heartland Institute’s Conference on Climate Change today on account of illness, a spokesman tells POLITICO.
The man who is doing more than anyone else to put the entire country under extreme weather said he couldn’t come because he is “under the weather.”  Seriously.
TPM reports:
He couldn’t make it, but did make sure some words got through. “It is my hope that over the next two days you will take a little time to note the tremendous successes we have enjoyed,” Inhofe told attendees in a statement. “Today the mood in Washington is significantly different.”
What Inhofe labels as “tremendous successes” are his efforts to kill bills aimed at preserving a livable climate, thereby increasing both the likelihood and severity of future catastrophic climate impacts for billions of people at home and around the globe.
This amoral hubris won’t result in any punishment by the gods of Greek myth, but it will in all likelihood render his home state a super-hot, deserted, uber-dustbowl for a long, long, long time (see NOAA: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe).

This NOAA and NCAR data is great!  I agree, though, that the likes of Inhofe are hardly worth wasting real breath on.  However, I think the key to the election of politicians is in the economics of the thing.  Start up solar co-ops are springing up in a few places on the East Coast, while wind co-ops have been big in some European locales with special acknowledgment of Denmark´s pioneers and have spread to Canada.  I know some of the established US electric co-ops are catching on with wind especially.  Biomass has made some progress in Europe, especially Germany.  There´s a pretty good article about one village in the Christian Science Monitor by somebody named Blake.
       In a way, it´s all about the money to these denier creeps, so.... what the heck?  Of course, I had to do my master´s thesis on the subject to really plow through the media and other hype. 

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