We Are Destroying Our Life Support System

The warming of planet Earth continues apace, and the ramifications become ever more stunning with each passing month. While no single meteorological event or phenomenon can be attributed solely to human-caused climate disruption, this is now nearly always the leading cause of the event, or at the very least a major contributing factor.

Recent data from the World Meteorological office showed that 2018 was the fourth warmest on record, making the last four years the hottest four years in Earth’s recorded history.

On that note, it is worth remembering that the single worst mass extinction event in Earth’s history, the “Great Dying” that happened 252 million years ago and took out as much as 96 percent of all marine species and two-thirds of terrestrial life, occurred due to rapid planetary warming.

Another feedback loop has been discovered in the Arctic, this time in Greenland, where it was recently reported that melting glaciers are yet another source of methane.

It was also recently revealed that Greenland saw an “unprecedented” loss of ice over the last two decades. Another study by a US research team had shown that the decade of 2004-13 experienced more sustained and intense melting there than during any other 10-year period in the 350-year record. This means that Greenland is contributing more to sea level rise than previously understood, adding more than at any other time that record keeping has existed. Melt water runoff there has increased 50 percent since the industrial revolution began.

Dear readers, take a deep breath, and keep reading. We must be aware of the reality of this crisis, if we are to behave accordingly.

Earth

A scientist returning to the Puerto Rican rainforest recently found that 98 percent of all the ground insects had disappeared since he was there 35 years ago. The scientist, Brad Lister, told The Guardian: “We are essentially destroying the very life support systems that allow us to sustain our existence on the planet, along with all the other life on the planet. It is just horrifying to watch us decimate the natural world like this.”

His findings come on the heels of other disturbing studies that have revealed crashing insect populations in other places around the world. Lister has warned of an “ecological Armageddon” from these crashes.

Meanwhile, increasing temperatures alone are already threatening to decimate US crop yields. Farmer’s livelihoods are at risk as warmer temperatures, drought and floods combine to disrupt agricultural productivity. In addition to farmers struggling to make a living, food prices will, of course, escalate.

Another climate change impact with obvious consequences for humans is increasing heat waves. A study published late last year showed that more people globally are vulnerable to heat exposure, which means they will be at greater risk of heat stress, heart and kidney disease, and other heat-related issues that can kill. The study estimated that between 2030-50, climate change could also kill an additional quarter million people each year “due to malnutrition, diarrhea, malaria and heat stress.”

Another study showed that almost one-third of all of the bird species in Wales are now “declining significantly,” with some already having disappeared entirely.

recent report about the state of the Arctic showed that the number of Arctic reindeer has crashed by 58 percent in the last two decades alone, largely due to climate change.

Two scientists warned recently that the planet’s extinction toll may be far worse than previously understood. Climate change, overpopulation of humans, exploitation of resources and habitat destruction are combining to cause cascades of extinctions. The scientists warned that today’s rates, which are already 1,000 times the normal background extinction rate, could be a staggering 10 times worse.

In the US, another wave of US citizens have become climate change refugees. In the wake of Hurricane Florence in North Carolina last fall, many people of the New Bern community in the eastern part of the state have had their homes and lives destroyed. Already a largely old, poor and disabled community, these people cannot afford to stay where they are, and those who try to stay are beset with the psychological tolls and environmental toxins that are ravaging the area.

Even the corporate media are now reporting on “climate grief” — what happens to us when the experiences of extreme weather events and dire climate reports, such as this one, continue to intensify. Alongside them, the mental health impacts of depression and resignation about a grim future on the planet are striking more people than ever before. Even just last year, the American Psychological Association published a report on this subject, openly discussing trauma from living through extreme weather events, but also noting how “gradual, long-term changes in climate can also surface a number of different emotions, including fear, anger, feelings of powerlessness, or exhaustion.”

Water

In addition to the aforementioned dramatic news of the melting ice sheets and glaciers of Greenland and Antarctica, another study has revealed that glaciers in the Arctic are melting so dramatically they are pouring 14,000 tons of water every second into the ocean.

This means they are contributing more to sea level rise than even current melting in Antarctica, and that the Arctic region has thus contributed nearly one full inch to sea levels since just 1971.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2018 Arctic Report Card survey showed that sea ice had reached its second-lowest extent ever recorded as the Arctic experienced its second-warmest year on record. The report warns that this leaves the wildlife and communities across that region under great pressure as climate and ecosystems are undergoing dramatic changes.

Meanwhile, the melting of ice around the world continues apace.

In the Himalayas, a photo essay by the Nepali Times shows and describes the dramatic changes there, where the world’s highest glaciers are melting and receding at a shocking pace.

In Canada, a recent report warned that a stunning 80 percent of mountain glaciers in Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon will disappear within just 50 years from now.

Meanwhile, in the realm of the privileged, Miami’s affluent, many of whom are referring to themselves as “climate refugees,” are also abandoning their high-dollar oceanfront residences and moving to higher ground because of impending sea level rise. This is causing gentrification and suffering of the less privileged who happen to already be living in the areas where the rich are moving and driving up the costs of living for everyone.

Last November, the extremely well researched and comprehensive National Climate Assessment warned that, among many other things, increasingly warmer temperatures across the US threaten national water security. The report warned of physical alterations in the nation’s water supplies, including rising seas driving saltwater further inland underground, which threatens major water sources for cities such as Miami. Mountainous regions are seeing more precipitation falling as rain rather than snow, endangering water supplies that rely heavily on snowpack. Meanwhile, in lakes, rivers and estuaries, warmer temperatures mean an increase in algal blooms like those which occurred in Florida last summer and fall, causing massive fish kills and disruption to life and tourism.

Before the heat wave that is now scorching Australia, flash flooding in Sydney caused chaos and two deaths when the heaviest November rainfall in decades struck the city.

Also on the sea level rise front, Venice made the news again recently with a tax on day tourists in hopes of raising money to address the crisis, while local residents and businesses deal with the chaos of a city struggling to survive against sea rise and constant flooding.

On the other end of the water spectrum, a recent study showed that “anthropogenic climate forcing has doubled the joint probability of years that are both warm and dry in the same location” since 1931, posing a very serious threat to agriculture on a planetary scale. The study also found that the frequency of simultaneous hot/dry conditions will keep increasing, and will reach about 20 percent over the next 30 years without dramatic reductions of fossil fuel emissions.

Farmers in the US Midwest are already sounding the alarm about the “radical” changes they describe as far as the dramatic impacts of drought and higher temperatures on their farms. They are already spending more money and time than ever in trying to figure out how to grow crops amidst ever-changing harsher conditions.

Worryingly, several studies already exist that show the dramatic decline in nutrients of food due primarily to increasingly warm temperatures, some by as much as up to 30 percent.

Meanwhile, the oceans continue to warm apace.

Off the coast of Northwestern Alaska, the cod population is now at the lowest level it has ever been, and state officials have declared disasters after multiple salmon fisheries have failed. Meanwhile, further to the north, salmon runs are dramatically increasing due to warmer temperatures, reflecting the disruptive, chaotic and unpredictable nature of our warming planet.

On that note, oceans are continuing to heat far faster than previously expected, and 2018 set yet another heat record for the warming oceans, a trend which further threatens marine life.

Fire

The Guardian recently reported how several studies have shown how the US is woefully prepared for extreme weather events to come, including the dramatic increase of wildfires that have been predicted as climate disruption continues to advance. Last year, the wildfires in Californiaalone destroyed thousands of structures and left 85 people dead.

Meanwhile, in January, wildfires scorched many parts of Australia, as large swaths of that country continued to bake under record-breaking high temperatures.

Air

Temperature records around the world continue to soar, as do projections. In the UK, a recent report by the Met Office warned that summers there could be more than 5 degrees Celsius (5°C) warmer by 2070.

Very disturbing news came from a Japanese satellite that has spotted signs of methane gas bubbling up from beneath lakes that are forming in the tundra as Arctic permafrost continues to thaw. It is important to remember that methane is a far, far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.

Another troubling bit of news on this topic came in the form of a studyindicating that the upper reaches of the Himalayas, the highest mountain range on Earth, are already likely to be warmer than previously understood.

Denial and Reality

The Trump administration’s climate change denialism has, as usual, been off the charts since the last dispatch.

Their response to the National Climate Assessment, an intensely comprehensive study detailing the impacts of climate change across the US, including impacts that will cost the US hundreds of billions, if not trillions of dollars of damage in the coming decades, was to dismiss the findings of the federal report.

Then, in the wake of that move and unable to bury its own National Climate Assessment, since it was a government generated report, the Trump administration and its denialist colleagues launched a full-scale assault against the science in the report.

After releasing the report on Black Friday afternoon in an attempt to bury it, Trump simply said of the catastrophic findings, “I don’t believe it.” Following that, EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler and then-head of the Department of Interior Ryan Zinke, carried forward the assault on the report, along with other climate change denialists, calling the report“alarmist” and extreme.

Furthermore, Wheeler went on to say that the Trump administration may even intervene in the next climate study.

Meanwhile, back in reality, a poll released in late November showed that nearly two-thirds of Republicans and the majority of all Americans acknowledge that climate change is real. I understand that reporting this is akin to congratulating people for acknowledging the reality of gravity, but it has, indeed, come to this in the United States.

Another poll also showed that seven in 10 Americans believe climate change is happening, a 10-point increase over four years ago.

This is good, as the impacts of climate change are only going to intensify, and then some, given the International Energy Agency’s recent announcement that carbon dioxide emissions from the world’s richer countries were set to increase through the end of 2018, a trend that broke a five-year decline.

More bad news came from another report in early December 2018 which showed that global carbon emissions, not just in richer countries, were on track to jump to an all-time high through 2018, increasing by 2.7 percent.

Meanwhile, at the time of this writing, atmospheric CO2 had already set three daily records for January, with an all-time high of 413.86 parts per million (ppm) on January 22.

The year 2018 saw three daily records set for the entire year, 2017 and 2016 saw two daily records each, and 2015 saw one.

Writing these climate dispatches has become increasingly difficult over the last five years. Each new report of the melting of glaciers and ice fields that is accelerating yet again, each new source of methane that is now speeding the warming of the already overburdened atmosphere, each new bird species listed as “declining significantly,” each new atmospheric CO2 level reached, and every round of temperature records across the planet leads to yet more grief, anguish, rage, anxiety, sadness — and finally, acceptance.

Yet, doing this research and collating it into this report each month is akin to watching, very closely, the slow-motion death of someone I love dearly.

At the same time, this work has brought some of the most magnificent people I’ve ever known into my life. Hence, the tragic drama of this Great New Era of Loss we have entered with Earth would not be complete without, of course, love.

One of these people in my life is author, teacher, healer and elder of Cherokee descent, Stan Rushworth. His writing and wisdom touched me so deeply at the exact moment in my life when I needed it more than I even knew. His presence in my life enabled me to conclude my recently published book properly.

Stan and I talk pretty regularly. He wrote me shortly after finishing my book, before it was published, as I had asked for his feedback.

Like me, Stan is burdened by the gravity of loss upon us now, and by us, I mean the big Us … all life on Earth. But here is what he wrote me, in part, as a response to this seemingly bottomless and unfathomable loss (Stan doesn’t use capital letters):

i read the other day that elephants are now being born without developing tusks, in areas where poachers have been killing them for the ivory. years ago in northern california, i heard a story about a place where lots of rattlesnakes lived, and the people there went on a series of extermination hunts, killing all they could find. the next generation of rattlers there carried no rattles, a quick adaptation to madness made by nature, by snake. it makes me wonder if earth has something in mind for her survival, or if human aberration has the power to change even nature’s mind. so many creatures and beings are now dying needlessly, that i wonder what’s going through her. i looked at big seas rolling in today, a storm coming, and though the surface was smooth and glassy, the waves huge, the roar was strong and carried far inland. i can open the door and listen from here.

why so many people have chosen to forget so much is completely beyond me.

with love and thanks,

stan

Stan reminds me to see the beauty and the mystery, even in the loss. And in so doing, to also remember to go touch the Earth, in homage and respect, while so much continues to live today.

It is clear that runaway climate disruption is upon us, and I wonder if humans’ ability to adapt to this increasingly harsh new world will be as dramatic as that of the elephants and the rattlesnakes when faced with their annihilation.

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Pentagon Confirms Climate Change Is A National Security Threat, Contradicting Trump

The military walks a fine line between the White House’s official climate denialism and the stark realities of a warming planet.
A U.S. Air Force member assigned to the South Carolina Air National Guard assists citizens during evacuation efforts after Hu

U.S. ARMY NATIONAL GUARD VIA GETTY IMAGES
A U.S. Air Force member assigned to the South Carolina Air National Guard assists citizens during evacuation efforts after Hurricane Florence hit in September 2018.

More than a year after President Donald Trump nixed climate change from his administration’s list of national security threats, the Pentagon has released an alarming report detailing how dozens of U.S. military bases are already threatened by rising seas, drought and wildfire.

“The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to Department of Defense missions, operational plans, and installations,” states the 22-page document, which was published Thursday.

The congressionally mandated analysis looked at a total of 79 military installations around the country. The Defense Department found that 53 sites are currently vulnerable to repeat flooding. Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, for example, has experienced 14 inches of sea level rise since 1930. Additionally, more than half of the 79 bases are at risk from drought, while nearly half are vulnerable to wildfire.

These climate impacts are expected to pose a risk to several other installations over the next two decades, and the report notes that “projected changes will likely be more pronounced at the mid-century mark” if climate adaptation measures are not taken.

While the report is a clear recognition of the immediate threat that climate change poses to the nation’s military infrastructure, it makes no mention of the greenhouse gas emissions driving the crisis. It also doesn’t mention some of the most recent climate-related devastation to military bases, including the estimated $3.6 billion in damages that Camp Lejeune in North Carolina suffered during Hurricane Florence last year.

President Donald Trump removed any reference to climate change from the White House's National Security Strategy report in 20

BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES
President Donald Trump removed any reference to climate change from the White House’s National Security Strategy report in 2017.

The Pentagon’s assessment comes just over a year after Trump eliminated any reference to climate change from the White House’s 2017 National Security Strategy report, breaking with two decades of military planning.

Even then, there was dissonance between the Defense Department and the White House.

A week earlier, Trump had signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which devoted about 870 words to the “vulnerabilities to military installations” over the next two decades and warned that rising temperatures, droughts and famines might lead to more failed states ― which are “breeding grounds of extremist and terrorist organizations.” “Climate change is a national security issue,” the legislation said, quoting then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis; Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and four other former top military commanders. And it said that the Air Force’s $1 billion radar installation on a Marshall Islands atoll “is projected to be underwater within two decades.”

Yet a month later, in January 2018, the Pentagon followed Trump’s lead and scrubbed its National Defense Strategy of all references to climate change.

In Thursday’s report, the Defense Department describes climate change as “a global issue” and says it is “continuing to work with partner nations to understand and plan for future potential mission impacts.”

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The department said in a statement to HuffPost that the report delivers a “high-level assessment of the vulnerability of DOD installations.”

“DOD must be able to adapt current and future operations to address the impacts of a wide variety of threats and conditions, to include those from weather, climate and natural events,” Pentagon spokeswoman Heather Babb said by email. “DOD will focus on ensuring it remains ready and able to adapt to a wide variety of threats ― regardless of the source ― to fulfill our mission to deter war and ensure our nation’s security.”

The department did not respond to HuffPost’s questions about any White House role in the report.

Oddly, the new analysis omits the Marine Corps. It also doesn’t identify the top 10 military bases within each service branch that are most vulnerable to climate impacts, a requirement of the defense bill that Trump signed into law in December 2017.

“They don’t have the prioritization of impact. That’s confusing,” said John Conger, a former principal deputy under secretary of defense in the Obama administration and current director of the research group Center for Climate and Security.

Conger said he expects that Congress will tell the Pentagon to go back and fulfill its request.

Climate change was first publicly recognized as a major concern for the Pentagon in May 1990, when the U.S. Naval War College issued a 73-page report, titled “Global Climate Change Implications for the United States,” which found that “Naval operations in the coming half century may be drastically affected by the impact of global climate change.”

The issue gained prominence under President George W. Bush, despite that administration’s embrace of climate change denialism. In October 2003, the National Defense University published a report stating that “global warming could have a chilling effect on the military.”

Today, the military still walks a fine line when discussing climate issues, particularly given that many congressional Republicans reject the realities of human-driven warming. Officials at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, the world’s largest naval station, have admitted to avoiding language such as “sea level rise” when requesting maintenance funds to raise docks, according to journalist Jeff Goodell’s recent book The Water Will Come.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the new report “inadequate” and criticized the Trump-era Defense Department for “treating climate change as a back burner issue.”

“President Trump’s climate change denial must not adversely impact the security environment where our troops live, work, and serve,” Reed said in a Friday statement. “Whether the Trump Administration wants to admit it or not, climate change is already costing the Department significant amounts of taxpayer resources and impacting military readiness.”

Watching the World Burn: Truthout Readers Share Their Climate Stories

Toward the front end of the recent spasm of several wildfires (one of them record-breaking) to rake drought-prone California, my friend Michael Dales who lives in Berkeley shared this with me:

“Smoke from the fire burning up in Butte County is so thick here in the Bay Area that lungs ache, eyes burn, and the TV news warns against being outside. Because of the winds (and of course, because we’ve had no rain), at one point the Camp/Butte fire was consuming the equivalent of 1 football field of acreage every second. Again, a football field size area every second.”

At the time of this writing, the Camp Fire in Northern California had already set the record of being both the most deadly (85 dead) and the most destructive in history.

And it’s not just wildfires that are setting records. Every year now we are seeing records being set for high temperatures, record-breaking droughts, Arctic sea ice melting and more species going extinct every day.

All one needs to do to see these dramatic changes stemming from runaway climate change is look out the window. When we sit still, and really pay attention to the shifts in nature right in front of our eyes, they cannot be missed.

Below is a selection of observations from some of Truthout’s readers from around the world.

“Never Seen Anything Like It”

Mark Oates, who lives on a farm in New South Wales, Australia, shared the following with me in September, while his country was being wracked by ongoing drought.

“My 17-year-old daughter has been reading the Deep Adaptation document and sent it to her economics teacher. It is interesting and at times difficult to talk with her about our predicament. She is certainly reconsidering if she would want to bring a child into this world. All I can say is that it is her decision and we don’t know what the future will look like other than it will be much more difficult than what it is now. Now that her eyes are open, she is keen to help other[s] see….”

Shortly after that, Mark sent another email that is worth noting:

“A lovely old guy, probably in his eighties or nineties, I ran into in the take away shop a few weeks ago was saying that he can’t wait for the weather to get back to the way it used to be. He said he could always count on getting snowed in a couple of times a year with 3-4 [feet] of snow. “It just rejuvenates the land,” he said. He said he hasn’t seen snow since the mid ’80s….”

Not long before Mark sent these observations from Australia, Robert Rands wrote to me about the fires and floods that had been besetting Tasmania during 2016, and again in 2018.

“Tasmania is not so much wilderness as wild. It is wilder in some places than others; for example, the highlands in the northwest of the state. There are forests there that have survived since the late ice age, and that’s because the island climate has protected them from the occasional heat waves brought down from the north, across the desert inland of Australia. Global warming is bringing hotter weather on the average, though. More heat waves and also more thunderstorms. The thunderstorms are more likely to bring dry lightning, and two years ago, the fires in the northwest ravaged some of the ancient pencil-pine forest, 11,000 years old. It will not grow back.

“The fire service is more concerned about fences and sheds, even on abandoned properties. That’s where most of the bushfire was fought, in the southern summer of 2016. There were no resources left to save bits of the beautiful heirloom forest in the wild, in the wilderness.

“More lightning, less rain: that does the farmers and graziers no good here, and far less on the mainland of Australia. The eastern half of Australia, away from the coastline, has been in drought for over five years.
“In Tasmania, the rains are coming less frequently, but the warming of the ocean means that we may get far heavier rain when it does arrive. This happened last May. Hobart was flooded. The streams that make the town livable were vomiting debris into the city, tearing out roads and paths, overflowing into streets and buildings. Torrents of water ran down hillsides and through houses. At our house, we were lucky. The water flowed down the steps from the road and probably undermined the concrete stairs to the house, but they didn’t collapse. Several of the neighbours had their ground floors soaked and their belongings ruined, not to mention the many who are not our neighbours.

“The fact is, collectively, we were lucky. Most city folks have building insurance that covers the damage, so their losses, in dollar terms, are limited. But we have lost our climate, and we will be losing more of it, and a fair proportion of Hobartians know this and do not try to deny it. But we will not fare well if the sea level rises by more than a metre. Of course, we’ll be better off than Miami, or even Melbourne, on Australia’s south-eastern coast, but if the Antarctic glaciers fall away, then downtown Hobart will disappear, along with New York City and Bangladesh. We live on a hillside 80 metres above sea level, so our shelter would remain in the worst of circumstances, but that’s ignoring the social collapse that would ride along with a climate disaster like major ice-cap melting in Antarctica and Greenland.

“Until then, we are lucky. But our luck may last a bit longer than the Bangladeshis’ luck, but in the end, we will also be living by our wits in a land of surprises.”

That same month from Geneva, Switzerland, independent journalist and Truthout contributor Robert James Parsons wrote the following from the city where he lives:

“In 2003, Europe lived through the worst heat wave on record. It started with a very early spring (mid-February). By late July, the temperature in Switzerland was up around +/- 40°C (+/-104°F), breaking a record.

“This year, the temperatures were only slightly above long-term averages, with cool periods and rain every few weeks.

“Then, in the beginning of July it started to get warm, and it got hot very fast. In four weeks, enough heat had accumulated to push the temperatures above 40°C for a good week. In 2003, it had taken over four months for this much heat to accumulate, with no cool periods and almost no rain. This time, it took about four weeks, starting from below normal temperatures.

“This means that the earth was not abnormally warm this year when the heat wave started, hence, it was still absorbing heat. Yet four weeks later, it was throwing heat back up at us because it had reached saturation point. This is testimony to the intensity of the summer heat.”

That same spring, Joseph Peterson, Truthout’s community liaison shared this:

“I am sad to have read the details from your piece, ‘Thanks to Climate Disruption, Earth Is Already Losing Critical Biosphere Components,’ but I know the truth in it all too well following my recent travels to Spain and then Florida immediately after. In Barcelona and Valencia, all anyone said to me was that ‘… it isn’t normally like this this time of year,’ in reference to the cold and rainy weather I experienced for most of the two weeks I was there. It was also unseasonably cold the entire time I was down at the Gulf Coast of Florida. By mid-March it is usually in the 50s [to] 60s [Fahrenheit], but it stayed in the 40s the entire time. People in Europe seemed more aware of the problems of climate change, but they too have many political hurdles to jump in order to improve their own carbon footprint, which is certainly less than ours in the States.”

“Where Will This Growing Population Get Its Water?”

Some of these people, including two of the aforementioned, have shared their observations of changes occurring over decades. Given the mobility of much of industrialized societies, it is an anomaly to find people who’ve lived in the same place for longer than a decade, so their perspectives are very much worth noting.

Robert James Parsons from Geneva, in May 2017, shared this:

“Here, today, it was well over 80 degrees, Fahrenheit, with a strong, steady northerly wind. I have been running, to work out, on the lake embankment for the past twenty-nine years that I’ve lived here. It has an almost perfect north-south alignment. Today, the wind was definitely out of the north, but warm, warm, warm. I have never known such a warm northerly wind, much less at this time of year, so early in the summer (a time that used to be late spring). I keep mentioning the premature spring — four to six weeks ahead of schedule, depending on the species of vegetation — and getting the usual consumer response, ‘Yes, hasn’t it been beautiful?’ Nobody seems to have the slightest idea what such a shift means.”

My friend Michael, whose comments about the current wildfires in California are above, shared this observation about the drought in his state, as well as overpopulation:

“I was raised in San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s and 1980s before leaving for college. Fifteen years ago, I returned to the East Bay city where I grew up. Through the years I have been amazed by the changes I have witnessed. The quiet residential streets where we played as kids are now often clogged with traffic. Today, a child riding a bicycle or skateboard runs the risk of being mowed down by a speeding Prius with a Hillary [Clinton] sticker. That’s because the Bay Area’s population is growing exponentially. In addition to the expanding populace, the most notable difference has been the changing weather patterns, particularly the distinct lack of rain. The media calls it a five-year-long drought, but in a very visceral sense, it doesn’t seem like the drought we had in the 1970s. This feels like the new normal, or perhaps I should say abnormal. If you grew up here and know the area in your bones, you can feel that the environmental systems that supported us are breaking down. As the rain stops falling and the reservoirs dry up where will this growing population get its water?”

He wrote that in the spring of 2017, before the record-breaking wildfire season scorched his state that year, only to be surpassed by the Camp Fire this year, which now holds the record for lives lost and property destruction.

In the fall of 2016, Tom Shetterly wrote from San Lorenzo Nuovo, Italy.

“About 15 years ago we started an olive orchard in Central Italy, and as the trees have matured and the climate has warmed, I have noticed several changes which I am confident are due to climate change.

“In the late ’90s Italy was in a drought pattern that lasted for another 5-6 years. The winter temperatures were, on average, about 1 degree (Celsius) warmer, and the summer was usually quite hot with no more of the summer rains that Central Italy used to get. In 2006, we had an infestation of a leaf-eating beetle that — if left unattended — would strip the leaves from the top branches (new growth) from all the trees. My caretaker and friend, Roberto, had never seen this before in his 60 years of living in that area. In 2008, we saw a new insect — an egg-laying moth — that would drill its proboscis into the new fruit, lay an egg, and the egg (worm) would eat its way to the seed of the fruit and go dormant for a while. Later in the season, usually around mid-August, the worm would eat its way to the surface, and the result was a complete destruction of the fruit.

“The EU has been looking for a way to kill these moths but has nothing yet, and every year — because there have not been any hard freezes in the area for years — the moths get a little more intense. Their season is a little longer so we can see moths in May and they last until November. Two years ago, we experienced a bark blight — fungal in nature — which produced large welts or sores on the bark. This spread like wildfire throughout the orchard. Last winter we used a dormant spray, which had little or no effect, and it is just a matter of time before all the trees are covered with this scaly blight. It doesn’t seem to affect the fruit per say, but in time I am afraid it will kill all the trees.

“The boot of Italy has also developed serious issues with their trees, and it seems to be spreading all over the Mediterranean. It is a bacterial infection that dries out the leaves — as if it is stealing all the moisture from the tree — and the fruit either dies or never matures. The end result has been to cut down 1,000+ year-old trees to prevent the spread of whatever this is. Locals have tried injecting antibiotics into the soil, and continual spraying with copper sulfate, but nothing has worked. There are 600,000 trees in this part of Italy and they are a principal component of the local economy. If all these ancient trees die, it will be the end of the olive oil economy in Southern Italy, and if it spreads to the rest of the Mediterranean, it could mean the end of the olive oil business altogether.

“My opinion, and the opinion of farmers who have worked the land for generations, is that climate change is the culprit causing these dramatic and disturbing infestations. Without cold enough winters to freeze the larvae, it appears that these problems will persist with greater damage as time goes on. Stock up on olive oil. It may not be so abundant in the future. I talk to my trees, and their response now is frightening.”

At this point it is clear that, no matter where you live in the world, all that is needed to understand how far along we are regarding human-caused climate disruption is to look closely into the natural world where you live.
Only a relatively short time frame is necessary for comparison to how dramatic changes are upon us compared to nature’s normal cycles.

This awareness is accompanied by alarm, but also reminds us to cherish and work to protect what is here today, while we still can.

These Images Of The Effects Of Climate Change In 2018 Are Devastating

Another year of changing climate intensified fires, hurricanes, and droughts, and resulted in a staggering number of human and economic losses.

Posted on December 28, 2018

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/laurageiser/2018-photos-climate-change-natural-disasters

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

This year saw a number of notable wildfires, storms, and droughts ravage many regions around the world. As the year draws to an end and we look to 2019 for some relief, the National Climate Assessment, released in November and prepared across 13 federal agencies, isn’t reassuring: More frequent and intense events are on the horizon as the climate continues to warm. The report warns of further loss of life, substantial economic impact, and a transformation of current ecosystems so significant that “future generations can expect to experience and interact with the natural environment in ways that are different from today.” These photos illustrate this year’s most devastating natural disasters.

WILDFIRES

Drought, kindling-like dry vegetation, and strong winds intensified wildfires this year to catastrophic levels, helping them burn hotter and spread faster. As global temperatures continue to rise for the foreseeable future and communities continue to be built and expand into fire-prone areas, wildfires will persist as a menacing force with devastating consequences.

In Greece, a series of wildfires called the Attica fires spread across resort communities such as Mati, and began on July 23 during a particularly lengthy heat wave in Europe. These fires were the second-deadliest series in the 21st century with over 90 dead. Although many factors contributed to the high death toll, the prolonged hot and dry conditions coupled with winds in excess of 45 mph fed and fanned the fast-moving blaze.

California also had a particularly disastrous year that included both the most destructive (Camp fire) and the largest complex fires (Mendocino Complex fire) on record for the state. The Mendocino Complex fire torched over 400,000 acres of land in July and killed a firefighter. The Camp fire, which was first reported on Nov. 8, in Paradise, California, claimed the lives of 88 people and destroyed more than 250,000 acres. Other notable fires in California were the Woolsey fire, which began in November and burned all the way from Thousand Oaks to the coastline in Malibu, and the Carr fire in July, which claimed the lives of both firefighters and civilians.

A burned neighborhood in Paradise, California, as a result of the Camp fire, Nov. 15.

Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty Images

A burned neighborhood in Paradise, California, as a result of the Camp fire, Nov. 15.

A home is overshadowed by towering smoke plumes as the Camp fire burns through Paradise on Nov. 8.

Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty Images

A home is overshadowed by towering smoke plumes as the Camp fire burns through Paradise on Nov. 8.

People watch a wildfire in the town of Rafina, near Athens, July 23.

Angelos Tzortzinis / AFP / Getty Images

People watch a wildfire in the town of Rafina, near Athens, July 23.

A scorched area following a wildfire in the Greek village of Mati, July 26.

Savvas Karmaniolas / AFP / Getty Images

A scorched area following a wildfire in the Greek village of Mati, July 26.

Firefighters monitor a backfire while battling the Ranch fire in Northern California, Aug. 7.

Noah Berger / AP

Firefighters monitor a backfire while battling the Ranch fire in Northern California, Aug. 7.

Burned-out cars from the Ranch fire, part of the Mendocino Complex fire, which hit Spring Valley in Northern California, on Aug. 7.

Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty Images

Burned-out cars from the Ranch fire, part of the Mendocino Complex fire, which hit Spring Valley in Northern California, on Aug. 7.

Tim Biglow tries to save furniture from the Woolsey fire in Malibu, Nov. 9.

Ringo H.w. Chiu / AP

Tim Biglow tries to save furniture from the Woolsey fire in Malibu, Nov. 9.

The Woolsey fire reaches the ocean along the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, Nov. 9.

Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images

The Woolsey fire reaches the ocean along the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, Nov. 9.

Homes destroyed by the Carr fire, Redding, California, July 27.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Homes destroyed by the Carr fire, Redding, California, July 27.

DROUGHT & EXTREME HEAT

The overall rise and often extreme temperatures, coupled with little to no precipitation, led to lengthy heat waves in regions worldwide and put some cities in a drought. The Australian state of New South Wales was plunged into total despair “with close to 100% of the state in one of the three drought categories,” according to the Department of Primary Industries, which monitors drought. The state’s second-driest fall on record was followed by a very dry winter, leading to large-scale crop failure and dried-up dams. Grim images of skin-and-bones livestock began to emerge as farmers struggled to feed their animals and find them adequate water.

Northern and Southern European countries alike were gripped by a deadly heat wave caused in part by a stalled jet stream beginning in May. The prolonged extreme temperatures caused a widespread browning of fields and vegetation, which could be seen from space. Other effects included a number of wildfires, the melting of the southern peak of Kebnekaise in Sweden, causing it to lose its title as the highest peak in the country, and a critical reduction of the Rhine’s river levels, resulting in the death of thousands of fish.

In Afghanistan, another very dry winter has led to the worst drought in decades with millions of people in some parts of the country lacking access to food and water. The situation is so dire it rivals the ongoing conflict between the government and the Taliban. The United Nations announced the allocation of $34.5 million in emergency aid in October.

The riverbed of the Rhine dried out on Aug. 8 in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Patrik Stollarz / AFP / Getty Images

The riverbed of the Rhine dried out on Aug. 8 in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Dry sunflower plants in a field near Lyon, France, affected by drought during a heat wave on Aug. 20.

Konrad K. / KONRAD K./SIPA

Dry sunflower plants in a field near Lyon, France, affected by drought during a heat wave on Aug. 20.

Harry Taylor, 6, plays on the dust bowl his family farm has become during the drought on June 17 in Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia.

Brook Mitchell / Getty Images

Harry Taylor, 6, plays on the dust bowl his family farm has become during the drought on June 17 in Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia.

A train makes its way through dry paddocks in the drought-hit area of Quirindi in New South Wales, Australia.

Glenn Nicholls / AFP / Getty Images

A train makes its way through dry paddocks in the drought-hit area of Quirindi in New South Wales, Australia.

An Afghan girl carries empty containers to collect water as a younger child looks on in Sakhi village, Afghanistan, on July 19.

Farshad Usyan / AFP / Getty Images

An Afghan girl carries empty containers to collect water as a younger child looks on in Sakhi village, Afghanistan, on July 19.

Drought-displaced Afghan children at their tent at a camp for internally displaced people in the Injil district of Herat province in Afghanistan on Aug. 3.

Hoshang Hashimi / AFP / Getty Images

Drought-displaced Afghan children at their tent at a camp for internally displaced people in the Injil district of Herat province in Afghanistan on Aug. 3.

HURRICANES & TYPHOONS

Hurricanes, or typhoons, as they’re called for storms over the western Pacific ocean, are fueled first and foremost by warm ocean waters. As the oceans gradually heat by around 0.2 degrees per decade, we should experience larger and more frequent storms during future hurricane seasons.

Two major storms to hit the United States this year were hurricanes Florence and Michael. Both storms reached a Category 4 while over the warm ocean waters, and each caused destruction in their own way. Florence, the first major hurricane of the season, weakened before making landfall as a Category 1 on Sept. 15, but moved so slowly and dumped a devastating amount of rain (20 to 30 inches) that it caused catastrophic flooding in North Carolina and 53 deaths. Hurricane Michael, the third most intense hurricane to make landfall in the US, hit Mexico Beach, Florida, as a Category 4 on Oct. 4. Its wind speeds (up to 155 mph) caused more damage than its rainfall. At least 36 people died as a result of Michael.

Super Typhoon Mangkhut was a Category 5 as it made landfall in the northern Philippines and made its way toward South China. In anticipation of this incredibly strong storm, the Hong Kong Observatory labeled it a Signal 10 (the strongest in its range). The typhoon caused an incredible amount of damage with heavy rain, strong storm surge, wind damage with speeds of 109 mph and deadly landslides, and caused at least 88 deaths.

Jovani Quintano and Carlos Gomez walk through a flooded neighborhood after heavy rains brought on by Hurricane Florence, Sept. 19, in Lumberton, North Carolina.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Jovani Quintano and Carlos Gomez walk through a flooded neighborhood after heavy rains brought on by Hurricane Florence, Sept. 19, in Lumberton, North Carolina.

Floodwaters from the cresting Little River inundated the area of Spring Lake, North Carolina, during Hurricane Florence, Sept. 17.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Floodwaters from the cresting Little River inundated the area of Spring Lake, North Carolina, during Hurricane Florence, Sept. 17.

Hurricane Florence churns through the Atlantic Ocean toward the East Coast on Sept. 12.

NASA/European Space Agency (ESA) via Getty Images

Hurricane Florence churns through the Atlantic Ocean toward the East Coast on Sept. 12.

The aftermath of Typhoon Mangkhut in Hong Kong on Sept. 17.

Lam Yik Fei / Getty Images

The aftermath of Typhoon Mangkhut in Hong Kong on Sept. 17.

Rescuers dig at a landslide site where dozens of residents are believed to have been buried during heavy rains at the height of Typhoon Mangkhut in Itogon, Benguet province, the Philippines, on Sept. 18.

Ted Aljibe / AFP / Getty Images

Rescuers dig at a landslide site where dozens of residents are believed to have been buried during heavy rains at the height of Typhoon Mangkhut in Itogon, Benguet province, the Philippines, on Sept. 18.

Rescue workers make their way through floodwaters during a rescue operation after Super Typhoon Mangkhut passed through Macau on Sept. 16.

Isaac Lawrence / AFP / Getty Images

Rescue workers make their way through floodwaters during a rescue operation after Super Typhoon Mangkhut passed through Macau on Sept. 16.

Route 98 in Mexico Beach, Florida, was decimated after Hurricane Michael passed through the area in October.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Route 98 in Mexico Beach, Florida, was decimated after Hurricane Michael passed through the area in October.

Amanda Logsdon begins the process of trying to clean up her home after its roof was blown off by Hurricane Michael on Oct. 11 in Panama City.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Amanda Logsdon begins the process of trying to clean up her home after its roof was blown off by Hurricane Michael on Oct. 11 in Panama City.

A man walks through Mexico Beach, Florida, Oct. 16.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

A man walks through Mexico Beach, Florida, Oct. 16.

2019 may be the warmest year on record as a result of an El Niño event exacerbated by global warming

By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer
December 26, 2018, 6:42:20 AM EST

There is a 90 percent chance that El Niño will form and continue through the Northern Hemisphere winter of 2018-19 and a 60 percent chance that it will continue into the spring of 2019, according to the Climate Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

El Niño is a part of a routine climate pattern that occurs when sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean rise to above-normal levels for an extended period of time. It can last anywhere from 4 to 16 months and it typically has a warming influence on the global temperature.

The opposite of El Niño, La Niña, is when sea-surface temperatures in the central Pacific drop to lower-than-normal levels.

These warm and cool phases are part of a recurring climate pattern that occurs across this section of the Pacific, known as the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

global warming

This is a Monday, Dec. 8, 2014 file photo of birds as they fly past at sun set as smoke emits from a chimney at a factory in Ahmadabad, India. Temperatures have risen almost 1 degree C (1.8 F) since humans started burning fossil fuels — the biggest source of greenhouse gases — on an industrial scale in the 19th century. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki, File)

The strong El Niño of late 2015 to early 2016 helped boost global temperatures to their warmest on record in 2016, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson.

“However, if there was no El Niño during that period, I still suspect that 2016 would have still ranked as the second warmest year on record globally due to the steady increase in greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which trap heat closer to the surface,” Anderson said.

So far, 2018 is on pace to likely be the third warmest year on record, behind 2016 and 2017.

“What’s interesting is that 2018 started out under La Niña conditions, which usually has a cooling influence on global temperatures, but it was not nearly enough to cancel out the warming from the release of man-made greenhouse gases,” Anderson said.

However, since late April 2018, sea-surface temperatures across much of the east-central tropical Pacific returned to neutral levels following the La Niña of 2017-18, meaning neither La Niña or El Niño present.

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“Looking back at the data, years with moderate to strong El Niño’s continue to trend warmer. If this upcoming El Niño reaches at least moderate strength and persists at least 9 months, then I think that 2019 can end up in the top two warmest on record globally,” Anderson said.

The global temperature impacts of El Niño are sometimes delayed. Therefore, 2020 may end up warmer than 2019 even though this upcoming El Niño may be well over by that time.

Global ocean water temperatures in October 2018 ranked as the second warmest on record for October. Oceans can store a lot of heat, thus the world’s oceans may remain near or at record warmth through 2019, which will further add to the warming influence of the global air temperature.

It is certainly possible that 2019 may be the warmest year on record, Anderson said.

“I am not ready to say it will be the warmest on record yet. Though I am fairly confident that it will at least rank in the top three regardless of the strength of the El Niño,” Anderson said. “Ask me again in March.”

global warming heat 2016

In this May 23, 2016, file photo, a man bath his son on a hot afternoon in a slum in Mumbai, India. For the third straight year, Earth set a record for the hottest year, NOAA and NASA announced. NASA says 2016 was warmer than 2015 – by a lot. It’s mostly global warming with a little assist from the now-gone El Nino. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool, File)

The impacts of El Niño have been more severe in recent years due to global warming, and these impacts may be worse as temperatures continue to rise, according to a recent study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, published on Aug. 22.

Emerging research suggests that the typical atmospheric responses to La Niña and El Niño are changing and that the expected weather in the United States may not follow the traditional ENSO pattern.

The AccuWeather Long-Range Team closely follows the on-going research linking climate change to the long-term trends in ENSO patterns, according to AccuWeather Long-Range Meteorologist Max Vido.

“When creating our seasonal forecasts for the U.S., we take into account the long-term climate trends when predicting temperature and precipitation anomalies compared to the 30-year normal (1981-2010),” Vido said.

The team has become increasingly vigilant of how the global weather pattern during more recent El Niño and La Niña events can differ from the traditional expected patterns.

“So, instead of assuming a certain ENSO phase will lead to a particular seasonal weather pattern to areas of the U.S., we acknowledge how the once traditional impacts could be different. This is all factored into our seasonal forecasts,” Vido said.

global temperature 1880- present

(Data source: NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). Credit: NASA/GISS)

As of November 2018, El Niño has not officially begun and questions remain about the strength and longevity of this El Niño.

The years 2014, 2015 2016 and 2017 all rank in the top four warmest years on record globally, ocean and land combined, with data going back to 1880, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

“It’s not hard to see that with the potential added boost from another El Niño that 2019, or even 2020, is a pretty good bet to take out some of those years from the top four list,” Anderson said.

Seventeen of the 18 warmest years in the 136-year record all have occurred since 2001, with the exception of 1998, which was a strong El Niño year, according to Anderson.

Research shows that the warming climate will have a profound affect on extreme weather events, such as heat waves, wildfires, droughts, flooding and violent storms.

The U.S. government released a report in November 2018 that highlights these impacts. The report examines the effects that climate change will have on health, local communities, the economy and infrastructure.

California wildfires’ carbon emissions equal to a year of power pollution

The analysis “shows just how bad catastrophic fires are for the environment and for the public’s health,” U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said.
 / Source: Associated Press
By Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Wildfires in California in 2018 released the rough equivalent of about 68 million tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide — about the same amount of carbon emissions as are produced in a year to provide electricity to the state, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Friday.

The carbon dioxide figure — based on data analyzed by the U.S. Geological Survey — is more than 15 percent of all emissions produced by California in a year, according to Zinke.

“We know that wildfires can be deadly and cost billions of dollars, but this analysis from the U.S. Geological Survey also shows just how bad catastrophic fires are for the environment and for the public’s health,” Zinke said in a statement.

This year included California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire — a blaze in November that took out nearly 14,000 homes in a rural Northern California county and killed at least 88 people. Another fire that started the same day in Southern California killed three people and destroyed 1,500 structures, including the homes of celebrities in tony Malibu.

Those two fires produced emissions equivalent to roughly 5.5 million tons of carbon dioxide, Zinke said.

The 2018 emissions figure for California wildfires is “strikingly high, significant in the context of overall statewide emissions, and likely a record value for single-year direct carbon emissions from wildfires in California history,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“It is an alarming number, but we live in a fire-prone state,” said Dick Cameron, director of science for land programs at the California chapter of the Nature Conservancy.

Zinke used the carbon figure he released Friday to continue to push for the thinning of forests. Cameron said that would help but that climate and home construction were also significant factors in the destructiveness of the fires.

Cameron cautioned that wildfire emissions were still a relatively small component of climate changing greenhouse gases. In California, cars and other transportation account for more than 40 percent of total emissions.

California Wildfires: Where Is the Climate Change Outrage?

Unprecedented droughts, fires and floods are not the “new normal”: Climate change gets nonlinearly worse from here on out. Like an avalanche, the physics of warming determines that a little more warming doesn’t create a little more extremeness, but a lot more. Until we reduce greenhouse gas warming, it gets a lot worse every year. Reducing emissions alone does not reverse warming until after 2300. To reduce warming, we must eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, plus remove near 1,000 gigatons of already emitted greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, according to the new 1.5°C report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change.

Meanwhile, a third unprecedented wildfire in California has happened in the last 12 months. At the time of writing, nearly 12,000 structures and 71 lives have been lost in Paradise, California, to the “Camp Fire” that began November 8. Before that, the July 2018 Mendocino Complex Fire burned 459,000 acres and set a record for the state’s largest fire. But the largest fire record before that was set by Thomas Fire, which burned 281,000 acres in December 2017. More than 10,000 structures have been lost in 2018 so far in the state, and more than 9,300 structures were lost in 2017.

The record-setting increases of these unheard-of extreme weather events continues to horrify the public. What will it take to allow us to treat climate change like it is the most important issue our society has ever faced, as top scientists say it is?

This list of California's worst fires was compiled from Cal Fires top 20 lists for the largest, most destructive and deadliest wildfires back to 1914.
This list of California’s worst fires was compiled from Cal Fires top 20 lists for the largest, most destructive and deadliest wildfires back to 1914.

Research from the University of California, Irvine tells us that, “The occurrence of extremely large Santa Ana (wind-caused) fires has increased abruptly since 2003.” Since then, burned area in the most extreme fires has increased by 70 percent and structures lost have increased by more than 200 percent, according to Cal Fire statistics (see list above). California’s population however, increased by only 12 percent since 2003. Why has this out-of-balance increase in fire behavior occurred?

A Longer Warm Season

Many of these recent astounding fires in California are human-related, but why has damage and burned area increased so much lately, when firefighting efforts have also proportionally increased?

Human-caused ignition is a compelling argument, but if so, impacts would be only slightly elevated from pre-2003 times because of the 12 percent population increase. Area burned since 2003 has nearly doubled and structures burned has nearly tripled, however. The reason for all of these catastrophes is plain and simple: It’s warmer now.

Warming has immense implications relative to increasing extremes. Basic physics tells us that warming increases evaporation nonlinearly. That is, a little warming creates a lot more drying of fuels. A longer warm season allows drying to compound, amplifying already-increased extreme fire behavior.

Anthony Westerling at the University of California, Merced, published US forest wildfire statistics across the country from 1970 through 2012 in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B in May 2016. Here’s what he had to say:

  • US wildfire season has increased by more than 60 percent since the 1970s, from 138 days to 222 days, because of earlier onset of spring.
  • The average burn time has increased nearly 800 percent, from six days to 52 days, because of deeper drying.
  • Burned area increased 1,271 percent.
  • Human-caused ignition has played a very small role in increasing wildfire trends.

The fingerprint of warming is unmistakable. It’s not increasing population. It’s not increased human-caused ignition sources. Is there anything else that it could be?

President Trump wrongly blames California’s forest management for the increase in extreme fires. Brian K. Rice, president of the California Professional Firefighters, has responded, saying that, “[N]early 60 percent of California forests are under federal management and another one-third under private control. It is the federal government that has chosen to divert resources away from forest management, not California.” Forest management doesn’t even apply to almost all of Southern California. For example, the Woolsey Fire in Thousand Oaks is in scrub typical of southern California, not timberlands.

The prevailing academic thought on forest management is that more dead fuels litter our forests from the Smokey-Bear-era of fire suppression efforts, and this allows more extreme fires. This is good science and certainly played a role in increasing burn behavior before climate warming rose above natural variation 10 or 15 years ago when these unprecedented extremes began to become so numerous.

Today, however, warming has consequences. One of them is that warming creates a drier world; and in a drier world, wildfire is more extreme. Another of these consequences is increased duration of Santa Ana wind events on a warmer planet. The Santa Ana wind that created the Thomas Fire was the longest Santa Ana wind event on record. Santa Ana winds are hot, dry, down-sloping winds from the continental interior that blow offshore in southern and central California, can reach speeds in excess of 70 mph and generally occur in the fall.

If all of the above is not enough to say that climate disruption caused these catastrophes, why do catastrophes happen?

Catastrophes happen when natural event extremeness exceeds a threshold, and extreme fire behavior is just one of these thresholds. Flooding, wind damage, drought mortality, beach erosion, beetle kill, permafrost melt, ice sheet collapse, Gulf Stream shutdown — all of these things are not a problem until a threshold is crossed. We have crossed that threshold with wildfire and all of the above-mentioned impacts because our leaders have delayed action on regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

Without passing through a catastrophic threshold, catastrophes don’t happen. It’s time to stop believing these events are only enhanced or plausibly caused by climate change.

A little bit of warming makes a lot of difference. Nicholas J. Nauslar’s research on Southern California fires tells us that we’ve seen the most acute fire weather in more than two decades, the longest duration Santa Ana wind event in the 70-year record, the most extreme drought on record, the lowest fuel moisture on record and the driest March through December since 1895.

Pushing Back Against the Fairness Bias

The good news is that emissions can be managed; there’s plenty of science that says so. But we have been delayed for 30 years by economic, social, psychological and political forces that have prevented our leaders from acting.

There are players, or organizers of the climate change denial and delay movement, who are directly responsible, as is so well described as the “climate change counter-movement” by professor of sociology and environmental science Robert J. Brulle from Drexel University in 2014, and then detailed by Ruth McKie in 2018 at De Montfort University in 2018. These players have egregiously given license for citizens and leaders to dispute, deny and delay. It’s not just the political conservatives, but they brought it to the table.

The perceived debate, so roundly and unwittingly promoted by the media’s false balance, has influenced our society from stem to stern. This “false balance” is where journalistic norms of presenting both sides of the story equally and fairly allow inaccurate information to be presented with the same weight as accurate information. When all but just a few individual climate scientists agree but a little more than half of Americans believe climate change is human-caused, there’s some powerful deceit going on.

All of us are influenced by false balance, from laypersons to advocates to leaders. Even climate scientists are impacted by the false balance because climate scientists are specialists. They focus on their own research agenda, whether it be ocean biochemistry, ice sheet geomorphology, dendrochronology, paleotempestology or scores of other disciplines.

Climate scientists don’t know it all, and many scientists don’t even know climate science. Scientists get their non-specialist information from the media, in general, just like the rest of us.

Logic will give us the correct answer, but we must be able to trust logic when the media is telling us differently. Logic will allow us to overcome the “fairness” bias propagated by the climate change counter-movement, so that the exact science can be understood by non-experts, and we can begin to address climate change before it becomes nonlinearly worse.

4 Lies DTSC Told You About The #WoolseyFire

by Melissa Bumstead

From: Change.org
Los Angeles, CA

NOV 14, 2018 — 

DTSC Lie #1: “The Woolsey Fire, which burned 93,000 acres and hundreds of homes to the ground, started near one of America’s worst nuclear meltdowns, the Santa Susana Field Lab (also known as Rocketdyne).”

TRUTH #1: The fire started at Santa Susana, not just near it.This photo was taken shortly after the Woolsey Fire began near the Rocky Peak/Bel Canyon areas. Cal Fire states that it was dispatched from “E Street and Alfa Road”, which is only accessible by driving through the Santa Susana Field Lab, it is ON the lab land.

DTSC Lie #2: “We don’t have any idea how the fire started.”

TRUTH #2: An incident report from Edison Electric Company was made right next to the start of the fire, just minutes before it reportedly started. The incident was reported at the Chatsworth Substation, located on the Santa Susana Field Lab, on Thursday, November 8, 2018 at 2:22pm. The start of the Woolsey Fire was reported near E Street and Alfa Road, on Thursday, November 8, 2018 at 2:24pm… two minutes later. The official cause of the fire is still under investigation.

DTSC Lie #3: “No facilities housing hazardous materials were burned at the Santa Susana Field Lab during the Woolsey Fire.”

TRUTH #3: We have a photo of the historic rocket stands – which were surrounded by vegetation and soil containing radionuclides and carcinogenic TCE – burning. It is speculated that 500,000 gallons of carcinogenic TCE were dumped into the soil near these rocket stands.

What’s more, the fire started just 1,3000 feet away from the Sodium Reactor Experiment, where the infamous nuclear meltdown took place. It was surrounded by landscape and vegetation that absorbed the leaked radiation and likely contains the thousands of pounds of radioactive sodium coolant from the meltdown that were “lost.” We don’t yet know if the Hazardous Waste Management Facility in Area IV of the lab burned, but even if it didn’t we know that Areas I and II did, and there is enough radioactive vegetation and soil to concern even the most conservative toxicologist.

DTSC Lie #4:  “Our scientists and toxicologists have reviewed information about the fire’s location and do not believe the fire has caused any releases of hazardous materials that would pose a risk to people exposed to the smoke.” (Statement issued 11/9/2018 at 1:30 am through the DTSC Community Update).

TRUTH #4: This update from DTSC was sent only ten hours after the fire started. In the same update, DTSC states that their air monitoring network is inaccessible – so how were they able to make a decision about hazardous materials so quickly and without any data?

>> Will you help us spread the truth? Click here to share this update. 

Image credit: KTLA

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also: https://qz.com/1461195/did-the-woosley-fire-disturb-a-nuclear-waste-site-california-says-no-and-a-group-of-doctors-say-yes/

Did the Woolsey fire disturb a nuclear waste site? California says no, and a group of doctors say yes

By Zoë Schlanger & Daniel Wolfe

As the Woolsey fire tore through more than 90,000 acres of Southern California over the weekend, it scorched land at a closed-down lab where the US government and private companies tested nuclear weapons and rocket engines for decades beginning in the 1940s.

The Santa Susana Field Lab (SSFL), in the Simi Hills right on the border of Ventura and Los Angeles counties, is now a federal Superfund site. It was the site of several nuclear accidents, including the worst nuclear meltdown in US history when, in 1959, facility operators intentionally vented nuclear material from the site’s  “Sodium Reactor Experiment” to prevent it from overheating and exploding. By the time the leaks were closed, the site had released 459 times more radiation than was leaked during the better-known 1979 meltdown at Three Mile Island.

The lab property, now owned by airplane manufacturer Boeing, stretches for 2,800 acres in the Simi Hills, and remains contaminated with toxic materials. Thousands of people live within two miles of the site, and roughly half a million live within 10 miles, according to an investigation by NBC 4 Los Angeles.

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control said that, as of Friday (Nov. 9), they believed there was nothing to worry about at the Santa Susana site in relation to the Woolsey fire. “Our scientists and toxicologists have reviewed information about the fire’s location and do not believe the fire has caused any releases of hazardous materials that would pose a risk to people exposed to the smoke,” the department said in a statement.

But some physicians disagree.

“We know what substances are on the site and how hazardous they are. We’re talking about incredibly dangerous radionuclides and toxic chemicals such a trichloroethylene, perchlorate, dioxins and heavy metals,” Robert Dodge, a physician and the president of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, said in a statement. “These toxic materials are in SSFL’s soil and vegetation, and when it burns and becomes airborne in smoke and ash, there is real possibility of heightened exposure for area residents.”

Weighing in with satellite imagery tells a similarly two-sided story. These images show that the fires did spread to the compound, but they didn’t take down structures. With near-infrared imagery, dense vegetation appears red while burn scars from the Woolsey fire contrast as dark brown.

The physicians’ group also took a swipe at the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, noting that the state agency is the subject of an independent review commissioned by the California state legislature to investigate its handling of toxic-site cleanups.

The Santa Susana Field Lab has never been completely cleaned up, and residents believe cancer occurs at higher than normal rates in the area. People who worked at the lab in the 1950s and who developed cancer are part of a designated US Centers for Disease Control “special exposure cohort” and may be eligible for compensation for their nuclear materials exposure.

The site is adjacent or nearby to several Southern California residential communities, including Simi Valley, Chatsworth, West Hills, Canoga Park, Woodland Hills, Thousand Oaks, and Moorpark. Several of these communities suffered fire damage, and California’s state fire department estimates 370 structures in total have been destroyed in the blaze so far.

CNN Meteorologist Explains Why President Trump Is So Wrong About California’s Wildfires

https://earther.gizmodo.com/cnn-meteorologist-explains-why-president-trump-is-so-wr-1830377986

President Trump sits across from Russian President Vladimir Putin during lunch at the Elysee Palace on November 11, 2018 in Paris, France.
Photo: German Government Press Office (BPA)/Getty Images

President Donald Trump tweeted some incredibly ignorant things over the weekend about the wildfires that have so far killed at least 31 people in California. Firefighters have explained repeatedly why the president is so wrong, but CNN meteorologist Tom Sater broke it all down on Sunday to show why President Trump has no idea what he’s talking about.

“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” President Trump tweeted on Saturday. “Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”

Sater started his segment on CNN by explaining that he enjoys covering the weather because, outside of climate change issues, it’s “neutral” and doesn’t often intersect with politics. But when the president says something this terrible, even guys like Sater clearly have to speak out against it.

Screenshot: CNN

“This is wrong on so many levels,” Sater explained. “This has nothing to do with forest management.”

“We’re not looking at dense forest here,” Sater said while gesturing at a photo of Paradise, California, where the town has been completely wiped outby the fires over the past few days. “Especially down in Malibu!”

“Forest management has nothing to do with mountain winds coming down the passes at 70 miles per hour. Or humidity levels in one hour dropping Thursday from 35 percent down into single digits, dryer than most deserts,” Sater continued.

Los Angeles County firefighter looks on as the out-of-control Woolsey Fire explodes behind a house in the West Hills neighborhood on November 9, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo: Getty Images

“It’s like taking funds from the National Hurricane Center until you stop all these hurricanes, it’s the same notion,” Sater said. “But more importantly, people died in their homes, they found bodies outside their homes, in their vehicles trying to flee, outside their vehicles just trying to run away.”

You can watch the rest of the segment on YouTube, where Sater explains how firefighters are “working their tails off,” both in the northern part of the state to battle the Camp Fire and in the southern part of the state to fight the Woolsey Fire.

It’s not exactly news that President Trump is a blathering idiot. But when you’ve got the weather guy riled up you know something is very, very wrong. President Trump has always been a danger to national security. But his latest statements are particularly galling, even for Trump.

People are dying, and he’s threatening to pull funding. There are only two options: He’s either too dumb to be president or he’s too callous to the suffering of his fellow Americans to be president. Either way, America is suffering because he’s president. And that suffering isn’t going away anytime soon.

President Trump’s tweet on California wildfires angers firefighters, celebrities

(CNN)President Donald Trump’s tweet blaming “gross mismanagement” for the devastating California wildfires is sparking a backlash from top firefighters’ associations, politicians and celebrities.

In a series of tweets Saturday, Trump said the state’s deadly wildfires are a result of poor forest management and threatened to cut federal aid.
“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” Trump tweeted. “Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”
He doubled down Sunday in another tweet, again blaming forest management.
“With proper Forest Management, we can stop the devastation constantly going on in California. Get smart!” Trump tweeted.

Official: Tweet is ‘ill-informed’

Trump’s first tweet drew the ire of the leaders of firefighters’ organizations, who accused the President of bringing politics into a devastating disaster.
The Camp Fire in Northern California has killed 23 people and burned 108,000 acres. The Woolsey Fire near Los Angeles has killed at least two and has scorched 83,275 acres. The Hill fire in Ventura County has ravaged 4,531 acres.
“His comments are reckless and insulting to the firefighters and people being affected,” said Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters.
The president of the California Professional Firefighters said the message is an attack on some of the people fighting the devastating fires.
“The President’s message attacking California and threatening to withhold aid to the victims of the cataclysmic fires is ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as the men and women on the front lines,” Brian K. Rice said.
“In my view, this shameful attack on California is an attack on all our courageous men and women on the front lines.”
Rice also said Trump’s assertion that California’s forest management policies are to blame “is dangerously wrong.”
“Wildfires are sparked and spread not only in forested areas but in populated areas and open fields fueled by parched vegetation, high winds, low humidity and geography,” he said.

‘Fires do not respect politics’

State Sen. Henry Stern, a Democrat from Los Angeles, said fires aren’t about politics or jurisdictions.
“Fires do not respect politics, though, so I would beg the President to pursue a major disaster declaration and not make this a political incident,” Stern said. “We have many parties, many views out here, and it’s really not about politics, it is about people.”
A number of celebrities also responded to Trump’s tweet Saturday.
“This is an absolutely heartless response,” singer Katy Perry tweeted. “There aren’t even politics involved. Just good American families losing their homes as you tweet, evacuating into shelters.”
Actor Leonardo DiCaprio also weighed in, blaming the fires on climate change.
“The reason these wildfires have worsened is because of climate change and a historic drought,” he tweeted. “Helping victims and fire relief efforts in our state should not be a partisan issue.”
In between Trump’s tweets blaming forest management, he also paid tribute to those affected by the fire.
“More than 4,000 are fighting the Camp and Woolsey Fires in California that have burned over 170,000 acres,” Trump tweeted. “Our hearts are with those fighting the fires … The destruction is catastrophic. God Bless them all.”