Everyday Life and ‘Global Weirding’

May 24, 2011

As Joplin, Missouri, gleans through horrific wreckage, the rest of us must beware of a new life style.

From Reuters:

Heavy rains, deep snowfalls, monster floods and killing droughts are signs of a “new normal” of extreme U.S. weather events fueled by climate change, scientists and government planners said on Wednesday.
“It’s a new normal and I really do think that global weirding is the best way to describe what we’re seeing,” climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University told reporters.
“We are used to certain conditions and there’s a lot going on these days that is not what we’re used to, that is outside our current frame of reference,” Hayhoe said on a conference call with other experts, organized by the non-profit Union of Concerned Scientists.

The much-used catch tip, ‘new normal,’ is much, much worse than it sounds.

(Illustration found here).

And this new normal is becoming more and more apparent, even if barely seen.
The city of Chicago, Ill., is trying to cope.
From the New York Times:

Climate scientists have told city planners that based on current trends, Chicago will feel more like Baton Rouge than a Northern metropolis before the end of this century.
So, Chicago is getting ready for a wetter, steamier future.
Public alleyways are being repaved with materials that are permeable to water.
The white oak, the state tree of Illinois, has been banned from city planting lists, and swamp oaks and sweet gum trees from the South have been given new priority.
Thermal radar is being used to map the city’s hottest spots, which are then targets for pavement removal and the addition of vegetation to roofs.
And air-conditioners are being considered for all 750 public schools, which until now have been heated but rarely cooled.
“Cities adapt or they go away,” said Aaron N. Durnbaugh, deputy commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Environment.
“Climate change is happening in both real and dramatic ways, but also in slow, pervasive ways. We can handle it, but we do need to acknowledge it.
We are on a 50-year cycle, but we need to get going.”

The crisis-problem might be climate change is coming faster than anticipated, in what’s called “the velocity of climate change,” where some places might be overwhelmed by a warming environment than others, these changes could be unsurmountable in the time left.
Last week, in a response to this kind of chatter, 17 Nobel laureates published a memorandum, calling for “fundamental transformation and innovation in all spheres and at all scales in order to stop and reverse global environmental change.”
From Real Climate and the gist of the Stockholm Memorandum:

Science makes clear that we are transgressing planetary boundaries that have kept civilization safe for the past 10,000 years. […]
We can no longer exclude the possibility that our collective actions will trigger tipping points, risking abrupt and irreversible consequences for human communities and ecological systems.
We cannot continue on our current path.
The time for procrastination is over.
We cannot afford the luxury of denial.

Even as a study confirms that Arctic storms are getting stronger and crazier — “One of the most ominous threats of global warming today is from rising sea levels” — those peoples way-down under have already experienced this threat.
The Australian Climate Commission issued a report Monday saying that sea rise due to climate change will bring massive problems to the region.
Although the rise looks dinky, the result is enormous.

“A plausible estimate of the amount of sea-level rise by 2100 compared to 2000 is 0.5 to one metre,” the report says.
”While a sea-level rise of 0.5 metre … may not seem like a matter for much concern, such modest levels of sea-level rise can lead to unexpectedly large increases in the frequency of extreme high sea-level events,” it said.
The sea-level forecast is higher than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s top range of 0.18m to 0.76m.

As we witness these changes, the unwashed mass of US peoples are ignorant.
From a Yale University study from last year (h/t Skeptical Science):

The report titled “Americans’ Knowledge of Climate Change” found that only 57 percent know what the greenhouse effect is, only 45 percent of Americans understand that carbon dioxide traps heat from the Earth’s surface, and just 50 percent understand that global warming is caused mostly by human activities. Large majorities incorrectly think that the hole in the ozone layer and aerosol spray cans cause global warming.
Meanwhile, 75 percent of Americans have never heard of the related problems of ocean acidification or coral bleaching.

Americans also recognize their own limited understanding.
Only 1 in 10 say that they are “very well-informed” about climate change, and 75 percent say they would like to know more about the issue.
Likewise, 75 percent say that schools should teach children about climate change and 68 percent would welcome a national program to teach Americans more about the issue.

Please, before we go screaming into the night.

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