This is what Climate Change Looks Like

As bad as this is … it’s going to get worse.

16 responses to “This is what Climate Change Looks Like

  1. A lot of folks (I am certainly one of them) have been warning that we are headed to this place. A place where large swaths of continents are no longer reliable human habitat. It’s going to take our species a long time to sort this out because our institutionalized property rights and economic theories and institutions have us tethered to ground that is no longer suitable for human habitation. This is strange to watch. I expect insurance companies and the Feds will pay out large chunks of money to help folks “recover” from these events and that will encourage and underwrite rebuilding on ground that is now inherently unsafe in human time frames because of the level of global warming that we have already created. Strange times.

    I am often called an alarmist. I am an alarmist on global warming and ocean acidification. I am and have been quite alarmed, but I have been learning to relax as it becomes more and more apparent that our species cannot avoid hitting the wall of habitat destruction. The sixth extinction is underway and it’s going to proceed fast, so there’s a good chance that folks alive today will get to experience and come to grips with an extinction event that is happening right before our eyes. How are we doing with these challenges? The US elects someone who thinks it is all a hoax and our “leader” says don’t believe your eyes. Strange, strange times.

    It seems to me from reading Tamino for years that Tamino has moved closer to my position and that only a couple of years ago, this kind of “new normal firestorm” post would not have appeared here. It might have showed up at Robert Scribbler or any of the GuyMac-influenced blogs, but not here. Is this true or have I remembered incorrectly about this blog’s style and transformation? I have other questions, but I will stop here for now.

    [Response: I used to be more interested in posting about science, because I love science and I thought the firestorm was enough years away that I had time to do so. I now feel much greater urgency, and that it’s far more important for me to be a catalyst for action.

    So I will repeat what I believe is the most important thing for us to do: vote. Vote climate. Vote *out* the deniers. Mainly that means the Republican party — even those who pay lip service to believing in climate, still serve the forces of denial by standing in the way of action.

    If you’re a Republican politician who *really* gets it (like Bob Inglis) then you can’t get re-elected because you’ll be “primaried out” by the tea party. Bob Inglis is no longer in congress, and I mourn that loss because as much as I disagree with his extreme conservatism, I respect him and trust him and I wish to God we had him representing conservative values in congress instead of the idiots we have now.

    So get out and vote. Vote for every Democrat and against every Republican. It’s a sad, sad day when the Democratic party is our best hope — but it’s true.]

  2. The (very conservative) Washington Times claimed yesterday that global burn area is decreasing. It says that even in California the number of fires peaked in 1980, and that there is little evidence of any connection to climate change. Unfortunately, most of the cites are paywalled, so I have no idea whether they actually say what the Times claimed they say.

    • Well, it is correct that global burn area is decreasing…but it fails to mention this is due to anthropogenic activity:

      Would be a bit problematic to thank human activity for reduced burn area, and at the same time deny humans have any significant impact on climate.

    • Whachamacallit

      I noticed from your brief description that the Washington Times is talking about the number of fires–not the area burned. Mogreenstats wrote an excellent post about how while the number of fires has decreased a bit, the amount any given wildfire burns has increased dramatically. I think the Washington Times are purposely getting number of wildfires and area burned conflated, in order to muddy the waters.

      Here’s the link to the post:

      • Well, Whachamacallit, it says both: It says that global burn area is down, as well as that the number of fires in CA has not increased. (I’m aware that most of the discussion regarding the American West has centered on acres burned, not number of fires.)

        What the Times has done is not to conflate the two, but to use the most convenient statistic for each–burn area for global, number of fires for California. This way they get to say, “Nothing to see here, folks.”

        And, as Marco notes, the explanation for the reduced global burn area has mostly to do with agriculture. The Times does mention this, but only in a single sentence buried far down in the article–and it’s immediately followed by a quote from JoNova that completely disregards what they just said (“Global warming means a global fall in wildfires.”).

        It’s very professionally packaged. This is the sort of thing we have to contend with.

  3. Michael Sweet

    This post is so sad.

    I agree with your point about everyone voting.

  4. Climate change hasn’t been on the agenda because while most Americans have been “concerned”, they haven’t seen it as a high enough priority to direct their voting behavior.

    As Tamino, says, that has to change if we are to have a hope of averting the worst. Yes, ‘worse’ will come either way–but the ‘worst’ still depends on us, either to realize, or to prevent.

    My vote will be to prevent.

    And, leading up to the vote, some may also wish to participate in actions on Sept. 8:

  5. My own take on the political party solution to global warming is that the US is dead in the water in terms of significant action on AGW until the republican party takes it up and faces the fact that we have to do something about it. Until that happens, I think pushing for Dem victories simply fuels the culture wars. I also think that if the dems were lucky enough to have control of congress and white house as they did in 2009, that they would not seize that opportunity to push serious legislation such as a carbon tax. They might take up cap and trade as they did in 2009, but I would not expect a dem congress and wh to pass and implement significant AGW legislation. I know that some here and elsewhere will complain that I am undermining the solution, but we will just have to agree to disagree on that.

    This is not that different from the move you have made from science posts to alarm posts. At some point, you may make a jump from seeing the solution as a Dem over Repub outcome and conclude that the solution is much harder than that: a third party (green) electoral surprise which is quite unlikely or the republican party deciding the time has come to accept that AGW is a big threat and choosing to take action on the threat.

    Come big or stay home. The dems are not big, they are timid and ineffective standins for the party that brought us important legislation like Social Security and Medicare. I would love to be wrong about this stuff, but the dems fell on their faces in 2009 and an electorate that has been sliced and diced by vote suppression, gerrymandering and unlimited money in elections will not rally to the dems unless they act like they know how to govern when they have the reins in their hands. They will not get the chance very often because of the vote suppression, gerrymandering and unlimited money issues.

    All that said, I will continue to vote against republicans every chance I get. I am in a relatively safe blue state that will elect dem senators. I am in a swing, mostly red, congressional district that might swing to a dem this election cycle and I will vote strategically in that race to defeat the incumbent republican congressperson. I would like to see the house under dem control after the midterms, but all that means is that we return to political gridlock such as we have had since the 2010 midterm election cycle that swung the house and senate away from Prez Obama.

    • smurf-like mike,
      Dude, we live in the real world. The choice is not between the best and the worst, but between better and worse, and since one side has turned its back on reality in a snit, that choice is pretty clear.
      If you want more choice, then work to get the two parties to vote against their entrenched interests and for the interests of the country by getting more states to adopt rank-choice voting. That is the only way third parties will ever have any chance in this country.

      Also, to blame the Dems for their timidity is short sighted. Every time they try to adopt a policy that is in any way progressive, the electorate punishes them for it. The problem with America is not the parties. It’s Americans.

      • “Every time they try to adopt a policy that is in any way progressive, the electorate punishes them for it. The problem with America is not the parties. It’s Americans.”

        There’s some truth in that, but let’s not omit the longevity, strategic thinking, organizational ability, and financial clout that have gone into crafting the denial machine, as documented in Jane Meyer’s “Dark Money” and other places. The electorate may have gone in some foolish directions, but not without some firm ‘shoves’ from the oligarchs, many of whom also ‘happen’ to have large vested interests in fossil fuels in one way or another, and all of whom are fervently against governmental regulation on what they would see as principle. Well, unless and until regulation can bolster their interests, anyway, at which point perhaps principle admits of a tiny exception or two.

      • hi snark, we agree on many parts of this, so let’s just leave it there. Tamino is correct, that climate change has arrived in the early manifestations of what is going to be a long and hot time in the old town tonight (and tomorrow).

        It may be possible to make AGW progress on a state level even if the fed govt is unable to act. My state (WA) has been in gridlock for the past few election cycles, but it has problems with growth, with a regressive and unstable tax structure and with building toxics in the water ways. The first nations of the Salish Sea are the orcas and the salmon. Both of those species have been decimated by human growth and our effects as water runs downhill and ends up in the Salish Sea. A couple of years ago, the starfish in the coastal waters were literally dissolving. So we have dissolving starfish and a grieving mother orca carrying her dead calf around for days. This stuff really bothers me and a lot of my neighbors on the west side of this state. Maybe we will do something about it with the next legislature, but the east side of the state generally hates government and government functions, so we end up with east/west gridlock.

        I spent a lot of time over the past 15 years on demonstrations, petitions, letters to the editors, etc. and the end of those efforts for me came with watching Hillary sleepwalk her way to a loss to Agent Orange. I am handing off the activist baton to my younger friends along with a very sincere apology for the state of the world that my generation is passing to them. It’s kind of reassuring to see Tamino step up and sound the alarm. The world needs new alarmists to replace folks like me who are hobbling off into a much-too-warm sunset. I hope the new alarmists will be more effective than I have been. Embrace the term alarmist. We should be alarmed. If you are not alarmed now, you are dumber than paint.

        Vote Democrat?! Sure, why not. But don’t stop there. What did Obama say about truly progressive policy? Make me do it.

        Go get’m.

      • Doc,
        I agree that Denial, Inc. has got a pretty powerful apparatus, but just as with the Ruskies, the power it has is contingent on the electorate staying gullible and stupid. The Faux News types know this–they actually sell their subscriber lists to scam artists and cash in on the grift themselves selling gold and survival kits.

        Basically, 35% of the American people will side with Trumplethinskin no matter what, and 10% were willing to sell their souls to him for a tax cut.

        Americans never deserved America. The colonists let the Continental Army starve while selling produce to the Brits. Now the people are finally getting the government they deserve–a kleptocracy that will steal them blind and allow them to finally achieve the third world status they’ve always longed for.

    • There’s a ‘big tent’ aspect to the Democratic party right now, which means that there is a wide multiplicity of interests and concerns, not all of which are easily reconcilable. So what you call timidity–and I in my less patient moments, of which there are not a few, call lack of vision–is often, in part, a reflection of that diffuse focus, and for the necessity of compromise and outright horse-trading.

      But I think the party is getting ‘bigger’ on climate change than it has been. Hillary’s platform was fairly timid, and I think that was a contributing factor to the lack of enthusiasm that helped to suppress the Democratic vote some–not to mention the vote-splitting campaign of Jill Stein and the Greens. I suspect that that lesson has not been lost on the power-hungry, while the dual lessons of worsening extremes and abysmal–not to say ‘perverse’–policy are not lost on many others. So Democratic support for climate action continues to be broad, and is likely broadening further, it is also, IMO, deepening.

      As to the GOP acting on climate change, it isn’t going to happen any time soon. The depth of their dependency on the Kochs and their ilk; the momentum of media denial that they themselves are complicit in creating and furthering; the tribalizing of politics and culture; the spectacular success of their “Redmap” gerrymandering efforts which have had the unintended consequence of making the primaries the real contest in many districts and thereby enabling and encouraging right-wing extremism; the empowerment of financial clout to sway elections even more than in the past; all of this will make change for the GOP very difficult.

      That said, there are countervailing tendencies, too: the destructive character of the Trump presidency has clearly creating very significant centrifugal forces within the GOP, and I suspect that as with climate change ‘we ain’t seen nothing yet’. Moreover, the rightward shift is, I think, failing to move the middle much, which means that independent votes are going to be harder and harder to come by for Team Red. (This November will be something of a bellwether in that respect, I think.) And my experiences with CCL when I was in Georgia left me with the impression that a lot of GOP legislators have at least a clue that the party line is BS, and would be ready (even in some cases, perhaps, eager) to take a more realistic stance. Perhaps this all holds some promise for the possibility of any surviving Republican moderates crossing the aisle to support initiatives for more effective climate change action. So if (IMO) Republican leadership on climate is for the present a complete fantasy, some limited GOP defection to climate realism may not be.

  6. Climate central recently had a post that speaks to the claims made in the Washington Times about fires.

    Climate Change is Tipping Scales Toward More Wildfires

    “Across the Western U.S., the average annual number of large fires (larger than 1,000 acres) burning each year has more than tripled between the 1970s and the 2010s.
    The area burned by these fires has shown an even larger increase: in an average year, more than six times as many acres across the West were burned in the 2010s than in the 1970s.
    The fire season is 105 days longer than it was in the 1970, and is approaching the point where the notion of a fire season will be made obsolete by the reality of year-round wildfires across the West.”

  7. I drove from the SF Bay Area to LA a few days before Christmas last year, and the fires in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties were still burning, though almost out.

    I’ve seen a lot of posts on FB recently, urging people to push for a more progressive Democrat party, and social democrat candidates, and against established Dems. I just hope people still get out and vote for any Democrat in the general election in November, regardless of these differences.
    And yes, more rank-choice voting would start putting Greens and social democrats in state and federal legislatures, etc. That would be more productive than running, for example, a Green party candidate for President every year, when they have not yet been established in lesser government positions.