How Vulnerable is California to Climate Change?

heatwaveBy UC Davis News Service

The State’s third major assessment on climate change explores local and statewide vulnerabilities to climate change, highlighting opportunities for taking concrete actions to reduce climate-change impacts.

The third assessment, like its two predecessors, reflects a powerful collaborative process. Guided by a Steering Committee of senior technical staff from State agencies and outside scientific experts, 26 research teams from the University of California system and other research groups produced more than 30 peer-reviewed papers. They offer crucial new insights for the energy, water, agriculture, public health, coastal, transportation, and ecological resource sectors that are vital to California residents, businesses and government leaders.

Scientists examine California’s vulnerability to climate change

As climate change threatens to reshape California’s landscape, University of California, Davis, researchers are helping to inform policymakers about the state’s vulnerability and provide strategies for adaptation.

The UC Davis research appears in a report, “Our Changing Climate,” released today by the California Natural Resources Agency and the California Energy Commission. The report is the third assessment from the California Climate Change Center since 2006.

UC Davis scientists authored nine of the 35 studies contained in the report. The UC Davis work addresses climate change impacts on native fishes, agriculture, urban planning, water management and other issues:

  • Peter Moyle, a wildlife, fish and conservation biology professor in the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, studied the predicted effects of climate change on native fishes. His team found that most native fishes will suffer population declines, and some will likely go extinct. Fishes requiring cold water are particularly vulnerable. Meanwhile, non-native fishes are expected to increase, although they will also experience habitat loss during severe droughts.

“California’s unique native fishes are already in steep decline, and climate change is making the situation worse,” Moyle said. “This is likely to increase the complexity of managing California’s water supply. Preventing predictable extinctions is possible but will require planning now for increased water temperatures and more variable flows.”

  • James Thorne, a researcher in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy, helped create a model that simulates how rainfall interacts with the landscape. Thorne’s research group looked at hydrologic data from the past and present to help predict what may happen in the future. That model was used for other studies in the report, such as those regarding fire and agriculture, allowing cross comparisons among the researchers’ work.

Thorne also looked at six different policy options for urban growth, including smart-growth, infill and “business as usual” approaches.

“If we want the most lands preserved for a variety of different purposes – agricultural and biodiversity protection, reduced fire threats – the infill policy was best,” Thorne said.

  • Studies by Louise Jackson, a professor of land, air and water resources, complemented Thorne’s growth policy conclusion. Her group’s case study focused on greenhouse gas emission mitigation and adaptation to climate change in Yolo County. They found that “channeling much or all future urban development into existing urban areas” will help preserve agricultural land and open space, reduce Yolo County’s greenhouse gas emissions and enhance agricultural sustainability. Their research also found that farmers concerned about climate change were more likely to voluntarily adopt practices that would conserve water and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Jackson’s group also developed an agricultural vulnerability index for California that identified four areas as especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change: the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta; Salinas Valley; the corridor between Merced and Fresno; and the Imperial Valley.

  • Jay Lund, director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, examined climate change adaptations for managing water in the San Francisco Bay Area. His group’s research suggests that Bay Area urban water demands can be largely met even under severe forms of climate change, but at a cost. The cost includes buying water from agricultural users, using more expensive alternatives such as water recycling and desalination, and some increased water scarcity. A shared connection of public water systems, or interties, recently completed for emergency response, greatly aids adaptation, the study reports.
  • Joshua Viers, associate director of the Center for Watershed Sciences, co-authored a study analyzing “water year” classifications. These indices determine whether a year is considered wet, dry or in-between, as well as how much water is allocated and who gets it.

“Unfortunately, the method to distinguish different water year types is indexed to historical climatic conditions and is intended to represent an equal chance for any given year,” said Viers. “Our science suggests that future climatic conditions are not likely to represent this history, and thus water management agencies may need to reconsider these arbitrary indexing thresholds going forward to achieve a more equitable situation.”

Viers also co-authored a study about climate change’s impact on hydropower production in the Sierra Nevada. It found that an 11 F increase in air temperature would reduce hydropower in the area by about 10 percent, and that most reductions would occur in the northern Sierra Nevada. The central Sierra Nevada would adapt better to changes in runoff, while hydropower generation in the southern watershed would decrease.

Other institutions, including UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, Stanford, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researched climate change impacts on electricity consumption, sea level, wildfires and coastal flooding.

This assessment will provide a foundation for the state’s 2012 Climate Adaptation Strategy, with completion expected in December 2012. Comprised of scientific studies from several academic institutions, the assessment is directed by the Governor’s Office and intended to help state and local communities protect public health, grow the state’s economy, ensure energy reliability and safeguard the environment.

To read the full reports, click here

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32 thoughts on “How Vulnerable is California to Climate Change?”

  1. Frankly

    Climate change should be a miniscule concern compared to our fiscal problems. First, we cannot predict the weather. Second, we cannot control the weather. Third, hungry people generally don’t give a shit about the environment.

  2. wdf1

    Washington Post, 8/8/12: U.S. has hottest month on record in July 2012 NOAA says ([url]http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/post/us-has-hottest-month-on-record-in-july-2012-noaa-says/2012/08/08/0fae675c-e169-11e1-98e7-89d659f9c106_blog.html[/url])

  3. civil discourse

    Jeff Boone wrote: “Climate change should be a miniscule concern compared to our fiscal problems”

    Yes, adapting our economic engines to the changing weather patterns has nothing to do with future fiscal & civil stability.

    And studying ice cores shows us nothing about past atmospheric composition. It is all a grand mystery, and we should instead focus on presidential candidate tax debates.

  4. wdf1

    JB: [i]Climate change should be a miniscule concern compared to our fiscal problems.[/i]

    8/7/12, phys.org: The economic cost of increased temperatures ([url]http://phys.org/news/2012-08-economic-temperatures.html[/url])

  5. Frankly

    Interesting that this little article focuses only on the negative economic impacts from climate change. What about the positive view? For example, agriculture grows in areas that used to be too cold. Or extended growing seasons?

  6. Rifkin

    [i]”(Climte change) is likely to increase the complexity of managing California’s water supply.”[/i]

    It seems to me this is the foremost area where the state of California needs to focus most of its efforts, attention and money–[u]managing future water needs[/u].

    A great amount of that will harm wildlife: That is, we will have to take water which is now keeping fish and bird populations healthy and divert that to urban uses. There will come a point not too long in the next 25 or 30 years that it will become too expensive to go on flooding rice fields all winter long, as we do now.

    That water we are now using for birds and fish is going to have to be stored in reservoirs as we will get less and less water from snowmelt every summer.

    Obviously, if water is priced correctly, urban users are going to have to pay a lot more for water and they will in turn conserve a lot more (or waste less). My guess is that in places like Davis, there will be no front or rear lawns at private residences 50 years from now.

    While the increasingly hot temperatures are a certainty, and while the environmental and other consequences of that–such as a loss of a lot of forests in California to wildfires–are easily predictable, a big unknown is what the human population of this state will be in 50 years. The biggest driver of our population growth over the last 40 years has been the high birth rate in Mexico. But that is no longer a problem. The Mexican birth rate is today no higher than the birth rate in California.

    So if our total population stabilizes some time in the next 20 or 25 years–at say 50 million people–it will be easier to deal with climate change than it would be if there are 70 million residents here in 2040 and the population keeps expanding.

  7. Rifkin

    Beyond increasing our capacity for water storage and using our water more efficiently, the second big area that our state needs to address is a rising sea level.

    This issue has been comprehensively studied in this 2009 report ([url]http://www.pacinst.org/reports/sea_level_rise/report.pdf[/url]), which runs 115 pages. Here is one of the key findings: [quote]Under medium to medium‐high greenhouse‐gas emissions scenarios, mean sea level along the California coast is projected to rise from 1.0 to 1.4 meters (m) by the year 2100. … A 1.4 meter sea‐level rise will put 480,000 people at risk of a 100‐year flood event, given today’s population. Populations in San Mateo and Orange Counties are especially vulnerable. In each, an estimated 110,000 people[/quote] Here is another of the key findings in that report: [quote]A wide range of critical infrastructure, such as roads, hospitals, schools, emergency facilities, wastewater treatment plants, power plants, and more will also be at increased risk of inundation in a 100‐year flood event. This infrastructure at risk includes:
    o nearly 140 schools;
    o 34 police and fire stations;
    o 55 healthcare facilities;
    o more than 330 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA)‐regulated hazardous waste facilities or sites, with large numbers in Alameda, Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Los Angeles counties;
    o an estimated 3,500 miles of roads and highways and 280 miles of railways;
    o 30 coastal power plants, with a combined capacity of more than 10,000 megawatts;
    o 28 wastewater treatment plants, 21 on the San Francisco Bay and 7 on the Pacific coast, with a combined capacity of 530 million gallons per day; and
    o the San Francisco and Oakland airports.[/quote]

  8. Frankly

    If climate change will result in all or most of these sky is falling problems, then we absolutely should focus on fiscal discipline so we have resources to deal with them.

  9. Rifkin

    Here is a graph of the most likely scenarios for sea-level rise on the coast of California:

    [img]http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-drhGkVF110c/UCLCimQxukI/AAAAAAAAAnY/Qyy3j2DzRjw/s1600/sea+level+rise+in+California.JPG[/img]

  10. Rifkin

    JEFF: [i]”If climate change will result in all or most of these sky is falling problems, then we absolutely should focus on fiscal discipline so we have resources to deal with them.”[/i]

    Agreed.

    However, there is a problem, due to the biased reporting by all conservative media outlets, led by Fox News: They have deceived a large share of conservative Americans into thinking that climate change is a ruse. The vast majority of conservatives do not even believe the basics on climate change.

    Never mind that there is a strong scientific (not political) concensus which agrees that climate change is real, that it is caused by human activities which have increased greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and that there are real and difficult effects from a hotter planet and those effects will get worse over time.

    The reason that the biased right-wing media is such a problem is that it has eviscerated the part of our population which, if their heads were screwed on straight, would favor fiscal discipline for just the reason you have declared.

    But the right-wing of our country is still busy quoting climate skeptics like Rush Limbaugh, as if Limbaugh or commentators on Fox News ([url]http://mediamatters.org/blog/2009/12/08/fox-news-fiddles-with-climate-change-polling/157839[/url]) have any idea what is and is not science.

    [img]http://www.people-press.org/people-press/files/legacy/417-2.gif[/img]

    [img]http://www.people-press.org/people-press/files/legacy/417-3.gif[/img]

  11. Don Shor

    This summary of research is especially useful because it focuses on adaptation. There’s a lot to read in there, but Rich has highlighted some of the key areas of interest: water planning, and land-use issues related to sea level rise. Adaptation is a process of identifying the risks, planning for the outcomes, and investing in infrastructure.
    To me, that means we should be moving forward with the reservoirs that have been in the planning stage. It means the fisheries experts should be listened to when it comes to Delta planning decisions; IMO that will likely lead to the bypass plumbing, but others will probably disagree. It means some water districts face reduced water supplies and should be planning now for what their water sources will be 50 – 100 years from now.
    That is adaptation. Most of the arguments about policy at the federal and international level have to do with mitigation. We don’t have to worry about that. We don’t have to agree about the magnitude or pace of climate change in order to know we need to plan for it. But as Rich points out, a significant percentage of the population doesn’t even believe it’s happening. That’s a problem.

  12. Frankly

    Rich, I think most educated right-wingers that push back on climate change are doing so for ideological reasons. The rest are enflamed reactionaries that can’t seem to reconcile nature as being a necessary component of their human life similar to the environmental wackos that can’t seem to reconcile humans into their picture of vision of a desired natural world.

    Personally, I don’t trust the politicians exploiting the use of the theories. I also do not trust all the scientists as the hacked emails from East Anglia university proved to warrant. Lastly, I don’t buy the absolutism of the warming trend being man-made since the evidence is only circumstantial and it does not explain other know periods of earth warming and cooling. Also, I don’t think it is a requirement that we all have to accept the anthropogenic claim. Why does it matter?

    What I certainly do accept is that there is a warming trend and that we should be putting 90% of our effort in adaption planning, and 10% in mitigation… but without causing any job-killing impacts.

  13. Frankly

    Rich, instead of bashing Fox News and insulting non-believers for being stupid, how about acknowledging the need and benefits for skepticism? After all, it only takes one thoughtful leading lemming to save the rest from doing the wrong thing.

    You know how the media and Hollyweird will run with the sensational stories of global catastrophe.

    Algore’s movie showed the convenient lie of sea levels rising 20 ft.

    From a 2007 IPCC report:
    [quote][b] Sea-level Rise Rates Larger Than Previously Projected [/b]

    Sea-level rise as a consequence of global warming is a foregone conclusion. It only remains to be seen how much and how quickly. The 2007 IPCC report projected global average sea-level rise of 7 to 23 inches by the 2090s. This calculation did not take into account compelling new evidence of recent rapid melting in Greenland and Antarctica, that if continued could lead to sea-level rise of 5 or 6 feet this century (Read New Science Demonstrates Need for Aggressive Cap on Carbon Pollution ). That much sea-level rise would cause havoc for coastal communities and ecosystems, especially as population and development in coastal regions continue to grow.[/quote]

    What is it? 7 inches, 23 inches, 6 feet, 20 feet?

    Without the skeptics, soon the Himalayas are underwater. I think that scene is depicted in a recent movie. You might say that this is just a movie, but a lot of the non-Fox News-watching folk are ignorant enough to believe what they see and hear in movies.

    Viva La Fox News! if only to provide a balance of stupid people.

  14. Rifkin

    JEFF: [i]”Rich, I think most educated right-wingers that push back on climate change are doing so for ideological reasons.”[/i]

    Obviously they are not pushing back for scientific reasons. They seem to value their ideology over all else, including facts, including reason. And the uneducated right-wing ideologues are …. if not stupid, easily misled by the right-wing media, principally by the radio right.

    JEFF: [i]”The rest are enflamed reactionaries that can’t seem to reconcile nature as being a necessary component of their human life similar to the environmental wackos that can’t seem to reconcile humans into their picture of vision of a desired natural world.”[/i]

    This analogy does not work when it comes to climate change, because the right-wing view here is based on a denial of science which ends up having a wrong-headed policy.

    Unfortunately, because only the left-wingers seem to be aroused by climate change, the policy prescriptions we get from them are often idiotic, given that left-wing ideology never makes much sense.

    What our country needs is for the right to grow up, stop spewing the crap that the Koch Brothers and the coal miners are saying, and get into the game with some reasonable answers.

    Frankly, we cannot do all that much as a country about climate change (it is, after all, a global problem*); and California can do nothing. But if we had sensible people who understand economics participating in finding answers, we would all be better off.

    *My belief is that the best “global” solution will be to seriously tax carbon effluence and put that money into three principal areas: one, subsidize low or zero carbon forms of energy, including nukes, solar, wind, and perhaps natural gas (but only where its mining does not lead to more high carbon fuel production); two, subsidize carbon sequestration technologies and R&D, so that we may be able to burn fossil fuels, including coal, without increasing greenhouse gas emissions; and three, invest in new infrastructure projects which will help people in the long run adjust, as best as possible, to likely problems caused by increased climate.

    The only way a carbon effluent tax can really be successful is if every major country and most minor countries agree to an enforceable treaty which taxes carbon. The taxes would be collected by each nation and kept inside of each nation. In other words, we would not be collecting any tax for Mexico; and India would not collect any tax for the U.S. All of the effluent taxes we pay would stay here in the United States. The enforcement mechanism would have to be through the WTO. If a country, say China or Argentina, failed to live up to the global agreement, then the WTO would punish it with appropriate fines and all other WTO signatories would take away most-favored-nation trading status from the outlaw regimes and could increase other tariffs against the offenders. As such, every WTO signatory would have a very strong reason to be a part of the global effluent tax regime.

  15. Rifkin

    JEFF: [i]”Personally, I don’t trust the politicians exploiting the use of the theories.”[/i]

    Exploiting?

    Jeff:[i]”I also do not trust all the scientists as the hacked emails from East Anglia university proved to warrant.”[/i]

    This is Fox News hooey, Jeff. Rise above it.

    JEFF: [i]”Lastly, I don’t buy the absolutism of the warming trend being man-made since the evidence is only circumstantial …”[/i]

    You are dead wrong. There is no scientific case to be made against the consensus of the thousands of climatologists who have researched this issue for the last 40+ years. There is reason to debate some long-term consequences, in the sense that the further we look out, the more variables, the more unknowns come into play. But the fact that climate change is being driven by man’s activities is without any doubt. You might want to check out the recent words of Prof. Mullens, whose research was funded by the Koch Brothers, until he found that the so-called skeptics were dead wrong.

    JEFF: [i]”… and it does not explain other know periods of earth warming and cooling.”[/i]

    Actually, you are dead wrong here, too. All of the climate science is based on an examination of climate change over thousands of years and millions of years. They have compared that with changes going on today to see man’s role in the current situation. You seem to have no idea what the scientists today are really saying. My advice is you take off your ideological blinders and read the actual science.

    JEFF: [i]”Also, I don’t think it is a requirement that we all have to accept the anthropogenic claim. Why does it matter?”[/i]

    There are two reasons it matters. One, it is 100% true. So rejecting it is rejecting a scientific fact. And two, it matters because it should affect how we approach the problem going forward. If man is causing this, then man needs to change. So the quesiton is: how best ought man change, so that all future men are harmed the least.

    JEFFL [i]”What I certainly do accept is that there is a warming trend and that we should be putting 90% of our effort in adaption planning, and 10% in mitigation… but without causing any job-killing impacts.”[/i]

    Your percentages are fine, if that is your opinion. However, I fret that your opinion is based on serious and willful ignorance of climate science. When push comes to shove, you still seem to have your ideological blinders on, and those blinders are telling you that all the scientists are really just left-wing nuts.

  16. Frankly

    Rich: [i]”When push comes to shove, you still seem to have your ideological blinders on, and those blinders are telling you that all the scientists are really just left-wing nuts.”[/i]

    I am reading the Steve Jobs book per your recommendation. Good read. I am only about 100 page in. What a fascinating, gifted, brilliant, weird, jerk he was! I love the story of his incremental epiphanies that led to his inventions… including the one where he determined the value combining humanities and technology.

    I was also interested in the following quote related to his time in India:
    [quote]The people in the Indian countryside don’t use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead, and their intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the world. Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion.[/quote]
    Now, I am not from India, but I do tend to work off intuition much of the time. I also have a lot of experience understanding and dealing with natural human motivations. My intuition related to this causes me to be very suspicious of consensus with a topic as complicated as climate change.

    I also read a lot of science. I am no scientist, but am keenly interested in new scientific discoveries and theories. Over the years reading all this science, I have seen many cycles through theories that have changed 180 degrees… and more than once.

    My primary intuitive sense is that the theories of man-made global warming is being overplayed and will cause an overreaction benefiting the reactionaries, environmental wackos and loony far left… and causing more damage to the economy and more human suffering. I think instead of trying to drag more people into this group-think party – you and others should welcome skeptics. First, it will add credibility to the theories as being intellectual and not political. Second, it will open the door for dialog over solutions.

    You and others are pursuing this topic as a winner-take-all blood sport. As you can see, that approach is not working. It is not Fox News causing the retreat; it is NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, NPR and everyone demanding everyone else bow down to the science Gods that have deemed anthropogenic global warming and indisputable disaster occurring with every hot, cold, windy, wet or dry day.

  17. wdf1

    JB: [i]Interesting that this little article focuses only on the negative economic impacts from climate change. What about the positive view? For example, agriculture grows in areas that used to be too cold. Or extended growing seasons?[/i]

    Any change is going to involve money to adapt. The more change taking place over a shorter period of time, then likely the more money that will be needed to adapt. Do we further build up the levees in New Orleans or do we let the city flood? Either way costs money. The positives to global warming are not likely to provide the same rate output of benefit.

  18. Rifkin

    [i]”I am reading the Steve Jobs book per your recommendation.”[/i]

    I am just about finished reading John Lewis Gaddis’s nearly 700 page biography of George F. Kennan. I have read hundreds of biographies in my 48 years (almost all of them after age 16). Largely because Kennan was one of the most interesting and gifted human beings* to have lived in the last 100 years and also because he lived such a long life and was involved in so many momentous events in American and world history**, and lastly because Gaddis (many of whose books I read as an undergraduate) is a fine writer who had access to all of Kennan’s papers, [b]the Kennan bio is the best single-volume biography I have ever read.[/b] It is beaten by Robert A. Caro’s many volume biography of Lyndon Johnson, of which the latest volume (“The Passage of Power”) is sitting on my desk***, not yet read. But for a single volume work, I can think of nothing quite as good that I have ever read.

    Notably, Lewis’s book is not hagiography. Kennan was flawed, and his warts are shown. He was also mercurial, and wrong about many things. And throughout his life he kept paying the price for saying impolitic things, many of which he was wrong to have ever thought or said. So as a reader, you may like Kennan, and certainly you will respect his intellect, but you will likely find yourself thinking, [i]how could someone so smart be so dumb sometimes.[/i]
    —————
    *Kennan was a truly gifted writer of prose. His books twice won National Book Awards and Pulitzer Prizes, largely on the strength of his eloquent style. He also was a first-rate poet. I generally dislike poetry, particularly amateur attempts at it. But the poems Kennan wrote, largely in his diary for his own pleasure, are very, very good.

    **Kennan first became famous for devising our “strategy of containment” to avoid on the one hand appeasement of the USSR and war with them on the other. But Kennan was also the father of the Marshall Plan and quite a few other landmark US policies.

    ***Another book I have sitting on my desk waiting to be read is called, “Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West.” The author is Blaine Harden, who conributes to The Economist and who I have met in person. It’s only 181 pages, but I am told there is a lot packed in it. If it lives up to its promise, I’ll alert you to that.

  19. Rifkin

    [i]”My primary intuitive sense is that the theories of man-made global warming is being overplayed and will cause an overreaction benefiting the reactionaries, environmental wackos and loony far left… and causing more damage to the economy and more human suffering.”[/i]

    What you need to do, in my opinion, is bring doubt on your own conclusion. You should drop by Bryan Weare’s office at UC Davis and interview him about climate change. Prof. Weare is not a lefty. He is not motivated by politics. He is a scientist, a climatologist, a total professional.

    Like you, I was originally skeptical of global warming theory. But (starting in the early to mid-1990s) I began reading articles in Nature, the National Geographic, The Atlantic and other publications which first did not make me believe in global warming so much as they made me doubt the authenticity of those who then were the leading skeptics. What I did not know in 1994 was that the oil companies, led by Exxon (whose stock, by the way, I own a lot of, because it is a profitable company), were bankrolling almost all of the “skeptics” back then. Not only were they publishing pseudo-science to bolster their doubts about global warming, but they were fiercely trying to discredit legitimate scientists with nonsense attacks that never held up.

    Eventually, by the late 1990s, it was clear that the climate science was much better, much stronger and completely convincing. So even if my original intuition said this was left environmental wacko stuff, the evidence was too strong to hold that line. Yes, the lefty wackos were relishing the politics of it; and the righty wackos were convinced it was all lefty nonsense. But the science trumped wackoism on all sides. There simply is no room left for genuine skepticism, once you examine the facts.

    Three things are without any doubt any longer: one, there is global warming; two, the global warming going on is due to human activities; and three, there are serious consequences from the global warming we have had and there will be much more problematic consequences down the road.

    No fair-minded reader of the science could conclude anything other than those three statements. That part of the debate is proven.

    There may be debate as to how bad the effects will be in 20, 30 or 75 years. There is certainly debate as to what, if anything, we should do to alter human activities, now and in the future. There will always be debate when it comes to specific weather events, as to how much of a role, if any, climate change is to be blamed for them.

  20. jimt

    Yes, the science of global warming has been conflated with the politics of global warming in the mainstream press.

    Most of the science that has been done; and the conclusions reached; have been done independent from political considerations. However, the press picks it up and conflates the science with what the policies should be and what the politics are; making it appear that global warming investigations have been a branch of political science instead of physical science! Indeed, the science can be evaluated independent from political considerations. When an understanding of the science and the way the atmosphere and climate works has been reached; then intelligent discussion on policies and politics can proceed.

  21. Frankly

    Rich, Good post. You are persuasive. I will keep an open mind and continue to search my own understanding of the facts. In the meantime I will continue to bristle with every stupid ass talking head theorizing that every weather event is caused by humans. I already have enough to feel guilty about according to the rules of social consciousness.

  22. civil discourse

    I think most climate scientists bristle every time they hear NPR or Fox News mention anything related to their field.

    Luckily, there is an entire conversation about climate change not happening in the mainstream media that is nuanced, intelligent, and not politicized.

    Some of the scientists mentioned in this article are part of that conversation.

  23. David M. Greenwald

    Folks:

    A few days ago this site was hacked. We have restored some functionality but there are clearly some problems that remain. On top of that problem, I have been in the process of moving and have not been around as often as I would normally be.

    Please contact Don Shor at donshor@gmail.com and describe the problems in as much detail as possible. He will forward them to me and I will get them to the tech team.

  24. wdf1

    JB: [i] I think instead of trying to drag more people into this group-think party – you and others should welcome skeptics. First, it will add credibility to the theories as being intellectual and not political. Second, it will open the door for dialog over solutions.

    You and others are pursuing this topic as a winner-take-all blood sport.[/i]

    Rifkin does a good job of summarizing the nature of much climate science skepticism. It goes beyond reasonable and healthy skepticism that is discussed in the science community, and is reminiscent of the skepticism of the negative health effects of smoking that was ginned up by the tobacco companies for decades, and which is notably directed at keeping the topic out of any productive political discussion.

    It’s fine that there are skeptics around because it keeps us honest. But when that skepticism is driven more by money than evidence, logic, and rational discussion, we’re all screwed.

  25. Frankly

    I agree, but I think that is an overblown concern… especially given the complexity of the models used to compute these theories. You and others are defending them similar to how a pious religious believer defends his scripture. You believers don’t leave much room for debate and discussion. That drives some of my skepticism. Are you just going to ignore what we discovered from the hacked emails from East Anglia?

    We are also screwed when science is exploited for politics. That should be a much bigger fear.

    I think you are targeting the wrong bogie man. It is not Exon or Fox News driving down the number of people that believe in the scientific theories of global warming; it is Al Gore and Barak Obama.

  26. wdf1

    JB: [i]You and others are defending them similar to how a pious religious believer defends his scripture. You believers don’t leave much room for debate and discussion.[/i]

    And you operate a bit too dualistically — us v. them, Democrats v. Republicans, believers v. non-believers. The world isn’t that simple.

    I have strenuously argued for the validity of the very same things Rifkin has pointed out as valid: [quote]Three things are without any doubt any longer: one, there is global warming; two, the global warming going on is due to human activities; and three, there are serious consequences from the global warming we have had and there will be much more problematic consequences down the road.[/quote]
    I also agree with Rifkin about where you could have reasonable points of disagreement: [quote]There may be debate as to how bad the effects will be in 20, 30 or 75 years. There is certainly debate as to what, if anything, we should do to alter human activities, now and in the future.[/quote]

    [i]Are you just going to ignore what we discovered from the hacked emails from East Anglia?[/i]

    Yes. Because the issue is unconvincing in the scheme of things. It has been used as a code for a reason to oppose anthropogenic global warming without exploring what the discussion was about.

  27. Frankly

    On the East Anglia question… I think it calls into question the reported strength and benefits of scientific peer review. It was evidence of unethical motives and group-think behavior.

    [i]one, there is global warming[/i]

    Agree

    [i]two, the global warming going on is due to human activities[/i]

    I will agree that it contributes, but not that it has been proven to be THE ONLY explanation. I think there is reason to suspect other contributing causes: e.g. solar activity, planetary gravitation changes, ocean currents upwelling, changes/seasons of the earth’s core, water vapor changes not derived from carbon… and last but not least (on my list), changing weather patterns that have occurred throughout the known history of the globe that cannot be explained by human activity. The room for debate is not to argue about what science knows; it is to argue about what science does not yet know. The fact that scientists are taking a stand that they know everything should make the hairs stand up on the napes of our necks.

    [i]three, there are serious consequences from the global warming we have had and there will be much more problematic consequences down the road.[/i]

    Here is where I have my biggest problem. For scientists to go down this path of global warming alarmism and demand puts them square in the crosshairs of a great political debate. The theory is just too big and the proposed “solutions” too profoundly consequential to accept lightly. The fact is that science does NOT KNOW that there will be problematic consequences down the road. It can only theorize. It certainly cannot predict the extent.

    A secondary problem exists if all these definite premonitions prove incorrect… or that there is another smoking gun contributor previously not understood or that the earth somehow adjusts to this supposed closed-loop system that scientists have programed into their models. The impact to the credibility of the entire scientific community would be so devastating that we should expect a cover-up to ensue. In fact, based on the emails from East Anglia, there is evidence that this is exactly how some scientists would react.

  28. jimt

    Jeff,

    You make some good points. I’m a research Hydrologist; and though not directly involved in climate change research, do ocassionally attend technical presentations by leaders in climate change research.

    Among the community that does the research, there is an implicit understanding that the only way to intelligently discuss estimates of the human contribution to climate change is in terms of probabilities. However, it is rare to see the mainstream media language to pick up on this statistical language of hypothesis testing, confidence intervals, stochastic model simulations, etc. The reason this statistical language is used by the scientists is that there are still major uncertainties associated with assessing the human impact on the historical record of observed climate change. There is a fairly broad consensus that most of the major players (i.e. physical parameters and processes) have been identified; but that the relative importance of each player and the relationships between players, including feedback and feed-forward interactions, is not yet completely understood, or even poorly understood in some cases.
    For example, the dynamics of aerosols in the energy balance of the atmosphere is extremely complex and difficult to study, and is not well understood; although it is known that these aerosols do have a major influence on the energy balance of the atmosphere. It is known that energetic particles in the solar wind can interact with constituents in the atmosphere, affecting the dynamics of aerosol formation and dissociation; some of these aerosols of which can act as condensation nuclei for raindrop formation. In turn, the transmission of solar wind energetic particles to the atmosphere is influenced by the status of the van Allen radiation belts encircling the earth, as well as perturbations in the Earths magnetic field and many other physical, chemical, and radiative factors in the atmosphere.
    Another example is the effect of warming on circulation of Ocean currents–one hypothesis is that flooding of northern Atlantic with low density meltwater from Greenland glacial melt could slow down the circulation of the Gulf Stream current, and thus have a cooling influence on much of Europe even while global mean temperatures continue to increase. Another example is that shifts in oceanic and atmospheric currents near Antarctica could shift weather patterns over Antarctica, resulting in more precipitation over Antartica. Of course, all precipitation in Antartica is in the form of snow; none of which melts; this extra precipitation would be effectively locked up in Antarctica; resulting in a transfer of water from the oceans to Antarctic ice, and would be a factor to decrease global sea levels (perhaps offsetting factors that act to increase global seal level elsewhere in the world, such as Greenland melt/net ice loss).

    All that said, Rifkin’s stated conclusions are in the main accurate, although perhaps the degree of certainty is a bit overstated. Yes, it is likely that human activities are the major factor in observed climate change over the past ~160 years; but there is not 100% certainty of this yet. At the same time, it is highly unlikely that human activities have had no influence on the climate change; it is nearly a certainty that there has been some impact, even if only comparable to that from natural variations in climate.

    The bottom line for me is that we are, given the net sum of human activity, playing an experiment with the global climate system; we don’t know yet exactly how it will turn out, but we and our descendants will be stuck with the results of this experiment, there is no replay/reset button.

  29. jimt

    An important lesson from the geologic record that I forgot to mention is:

    The Earth’s climate system is not necessarily stable.

    This statement is demonstrated from the geologic record of past changes in climate. In some cases, these climate changes were influenced by relatively minor changes in those environmental conditions that are related to climate-forcing factors (such as carbon dioxide levels).

    So we know that some past changes in climate have occurred in the absence of large environmental changes, i.e. in the presence of environmental changes that might be considered small on a global scale. Is it plausible, then, that some of the environmental changes that have occurred as a result of mans activities (e.g. deforestation of a large percentage of the global land surface, addition of huge quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere), might now be having an influence on climate, and be playing a role in the observed record of warming over the last 160 years?

  30. medwoman

    Jeff wrote

    [quote]I will agree that it contributes, but not that it has been proven to be THE ONLY explanation. I think there is reason to suspect other contributing causes: e.g. solar activity, planetary gravitation changes, ocean currents upwelling, changes/seasons of the earth’s core, water vapor changes not derived from carbon… and last but not least (on my list), changing weather patterns that have occurred throughout the known history of the globe that cannot be explained by human activity.[/quote]

    I do not follow this scientific field closely largely because so much of my time is spent following my own field, but a couple of points stand out for me because of the analogy with points that arise in my field.

    1)I am unaware of any one reputable who is making the claim that human activity is THE ONLY explanation.
    However, it is the only explanation that we have the ability to impact significantly. Therefore, in terms of
    mitigation and or accommodation, it is the one that we should be focused on.
    The analogy in my field ? Patient’s will sometimes come to me saying that they do not do their health care
    screenings ( mammography for instance) because their mother had cancer and they are afraid of what they
    will find and because they have heard on the news that “it doesn’t work anyway”or because they think that
    “the health care providers are just recommending it to make money.” These patients frequently
    also do not exercise and are 50 -100 lbs overweight (both independent increased risks of breast cancer).
    Can we change her genetic risk factor ? Of course not. To me, this means that we ( as a patient/doctor
    team) should focus on what she can control: a sensible dietary and exercise plan which over years will
    reduce her statistical lifetime risk of developing breast cancer and procede with screening mammography
    which is 80 -90 % ( not 100% )effective in early detection which enables less invasive treatment at an earlier
    stage.
    I do not pretend to know what the analogous prudent steps would be in the realm of climate change,
    but I am sure that the best course of action is not to ignore or down play the issue because of ideologic
    disagreements or lack of perfection of current approaches.

    2) As for the positive vs negative outcomes argument, or is the glass half full vs half empty.
    I think it is important to note the positives, value them and be grateful for them .
    To me, the issue is to focus on
    those things that are not so rosy so as to potentially improve them without destroying the 1/2 full side.
    The 1/2 full’s are already doing fine. That side of the equation does not need our intervention. For me,
    part of our charge as reasoning humans is to recognize what we can change for the better and what we
    cannot and to judiciously move to improve that which we can.

  31. wdf1

    JB: [i]On the East Anglia question… I think it calls into question the reported strength and benefits of scientific peer review. It was evidence of unethical motives and group-think behavior. [/i]

    Climatic Research Unit email controversy ([url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climategate[/url])

    It was way overblown. The incident has been used to reject anthropogenic global warming, but that only demonstrates ignorance of the larger picture. For the sake of argument, if you discount the data in question, you are still left with a measured warming trend, a measured steady increase in CO2, and the strongest correlation is between those two.

    Sure there are other reasons why temperatures can increase, but those reasons don’t correlate to what we’re seeing.

  32. wdf1

    Interesting article in the Enterprise, posted today. May require subscription account password to read.

    We are all climate change idiots ([url]http://www.davisenterprise.com/forum/opinion-columns/we-are-all-climate-change-idiots/[/url])

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