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CAN’T BE HAPPENING February 15, 2014

Posted by wmmbb in CLIMATE CHANGE.

Political power decides reality until the point is reached when reality defines political power. Something like this seems to be playing in relation to the extreme weather events and climate patterns that are becoming so apparent that they can no longer be ignored.

Mostly, reality has been constructed by technology and the social relations that are created. There are lags and leads. Printing and paper replace the scribes and the authority of Christendom falls apart. The planet is faced with a different set of circumstances in which the ecosystem is under stress from climate change, and may collapse. Denial one reaction to fundamental change.

Two months of persistent rain is wet even by English Standards, and there seems no sign of the rain and coast storms letting up. David Cameron is sounding quite the socialist. He does not deny the efficacy of big government of its’ “existential justification” in the face of the flooding and the coastal storms. In fact, he is prepared to end the austerity program and throw money at the problem. He cannot and the media apparently cannot mention Climate Change. That would be contrary to those who move the levers behind the curtains.

The BBC reports:

More heavy rain and gale-force winds are sweeping across southern Britain as engineers try to reconnect more than 16,000 properties still without power.

South-west England has seen torrential rain, with strong winds in the Isles of Scilly and snow on higher ground.

Seventeen severe flood warnings remain in place in parts of Gloucestershire, Somerset, Berkshire and Surrey.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the government would “fight at every front to help people” hit by floods.

He told BBC Breakfast that money would be no object in a “massive national effort”, saying: “I want people to know that the government absolutely stands behind this relief effort.”

Climate scientists do not want to make rash statements. George Marshall observes:

There has always been an intense political debate around climate change which is why scientists are always very careful to stress that any single extreme event is not, by itself, proof that we are changing the climate. Increasingly, though, according to a major report released by the Met Office on Monday, they argue that our current experience fits into a far more ominous long term pattern of weather extremes all around the world.

In a recent DEFRA poll the vast majority of people now believe that flooding will become ever more frequent in the future, although they are less sure that this is because of climate change.

Surely this uncertainty should encourage debate not close it down? After all, there seems to be plenty of conjecture about who to blame for the floods – the Environment Agency, budget cuts, river conservation, property developers – but never, it seems, our own carbon pollution.

Maybe this is the problem. Climate science suggests that we may all be responsible and, let’s face it, we would far prefer to find other people to blame.

Through my work with the communications charity, the Climate Outreach Information Network, I have found that ordinary people – often far from being dedicated environmentalists – report a deep anxiety and guilt around the issue and actively avoid thinking and talking about it.

Yet when climate scientists are asked they change the frame from the weather explaining there are larger patterns in play. Nicole Davis reports in The Guardian:

The Met Office and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology have released a report shedding light on the endless downpours and have begun to explore whether climate change is a contributing factor.

Why has the weather been so wet?

Dame Julia Slingo, the Met Office’s chief scientist said on Sunday that the UK had seen the “most exceptional period of rainfall in 248 years”.

The report reveals that while downpours and storms have not been out of the ordinary, their frequency has been.

“Each one of these individual events has not been particular outstanding, they’ve been broadly along the lines of what we would expect for a typical winter storm in the UK,” said Simon Parry from the CEH and co-author of the report. “What’s been notable about it, and different from what we’ve seen in the past, is the persistence.”

That, according to Professor Adam Scaife from the Met Office and another author of the report, is down to a series of deep low pressure systems linked to the jet stream – wind that blows from west to east across the Atlantic. “When the jet stream is strong then the storms are strong,” said Scaife.

“It’s normally stronger in winter than it is in summer but this year it has been exceptionally strong and that is absolutely bound to the storminess because the jet stream steers the storms but it also feeds off them.”

Why the abnormally strong jet stream?

The report highlights two key factors the authors believe have contributed to the effect.

The first is a persistent high pressure system lurking over a patch of the Pacific Ocean, off the west coast of North America. This high pressure system is sending a chill across the US.

“The air tends to rotate in a clockwise fashion around the high pressure system,” said Scaife. “That is going to drag the air from up near the Arctic down over North America.”

As a result, Canada and North America have been held in an icy grip for weeks. And further east, as the cold air from North America meets the warm air from the tropics, a large temperature gradient – the rate at which temperature changes with distance – is created.

“The storms feed off that temperature gradient – the stronger that gradient the more conducive it is to growing storms,” said Scaife. “As the storms grow they also flux momentum into the jet stream,” he added, “and of course sitting downstream at the end of that path is us.”

Another effect in the report is the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO). This is where a band of fast-moving winds that blow around the equator change direction.

“You see roughly every 14 months the winds reverse and instead of blowing form the east towards the west they flip and the blow from west to east,” said Scaife.

The last time this happened was in early 2013. And while the equator is hundreds of miles away, the effects of QBO can be felt closer to home.

As the drought continues in California, the East Coast is affected by a massive snow storm. ABC News reports:

A huge snow storm that wreaked havoc in the southern United States is now blanketing the densely populated north-east, paralysing the nation’s capital.

The weather system has affected Americans in about 22 states, from Texas in the normally mild-weathered south, to Maine in the north-east.

The storm dumped more than 30 centimetres of snow on Washington DC, shutting down the federal government, before descending on New York, where a state-wide emergency was declared.

And then there is the case of Adelaide. ABC News reports:

Adelaide has gone from setting summer heat records to having its wettest day since 1969, with emergency services issuing a Watch and Act message on Friday about the risk of widespread flash flooding.

The latest wave of extreme heat ended in the past day, when rain swept in.

The State Emergency Service says heavy rain across the Mount Lofty Ranges and the state’s mid-north mean there is an elevated risk of flash flooding.

Flooding has been reported across the city on Friday and many roads became chaotic as they turned into deep streams and became gridlocked with traffic.

Sao Paulo is not getting precipitation in either snow or rain. Emily Atkin reports in Climate Progress

If it doesn’t rain in Sao Paulo, Brazil in the next 45 days, the system that provides half the city’s drinking water will run dry.
Sao Paulo is South America’s largest city, and is currently experiencing its worst drought in 50 years. So far, the drought has hurt corn and cotton crops, driven up prices of sugar and orange juice, interrupted production of beer and paper, and left cattle and goats to starve.

And it is not just Sao Paulo:

Sao Paulo’s drought mimics other severe droughts that are happening across the world, including California, where extreme drought has put seventeen rural communities in danger of running out of water in 60 to 120 days. In Iran, only five percent of the water remains in the biggest lake in the Middle East, though their long drought ended about two years ago.

A January study in the peer-reviewed journal Nature by drought researcher Aiguo Dai shows that across the world from 1923 to 2010, there has been a global trend of increased dryness, which is directly linked to climate change. Dai’s paper predicts “severe and widespread droughts in the next 30–90 years over many land areas resulting from either decreased precipitation and/or increased evaporation.”

Climate Change is mostly not mentioned, nor is it put as the frame of extreme weather, the incidence of which seems to be increasing and becoming more intense. The carbon polluters, like bankers, exercise extraordinarily political power which tends to make them exempt from moral and legal sanctions. They can thank obsequious politicians, such as Tony Abbott and perhaps formally David Cameron, and the media, including the cowered ABC, for failing to speak and report the truth. As Michael T Klare observes:

Climate change is not the product of unfortunate meteorological phenomena; it is the result of burning massive quantities of carbon-based fuels and spewing the resulting gaseous wastes into the atmosphere. As long as governments, corporations, and consumers prefer carbon as an energy source, the war on climate change will be lost and the outcome of that will, in turn, be calamitous.

. . . The gravitational pull of carbon is immensely powerful. It cannot be overcome by symbolic gestures or half measures. The pressures to keep burning fossil fuels are too great to be overcome in piecemeal fashion. Rather, these forces must be met head-on, with the institutionalization of equally powerful counter-forces that make fossil fuels economically unattractive.

It looks like in England and in Sao Paulo, climate change has become a political problem, even if it is not recognized. If science and scientists were taken seriously, proactive measures would already be in place. Something has to give. “We have not choice but to address climate change, or it address us” (as it has been doing):



1. OzFenric - February 15, 2014

It would be hilarious if it weren’t so terrifying. Whole cities, regions, even countries can run dry, can run out of drinking water for their populaces; can be submerged and flooded out regularly; can be buried in snow for a quarter of the year. And yet, politicians will deny the connection to the underlying cause. They’ll seek to import water, build desalination plants, invest in snow ploughs, rebuild their cities on stilts, and it will still be no more than “natural disasters”.

I suspect that the term “natural disaster” ought to be retired because it gives the authorities a denialist term. If it’s a natural disaster, it might/could/would have happened anyway. “We always have floods/Australia has always burned/the downpours and storms are not out of the ordinary”. Perhaps we should start referring to extreme climate as “transition events”.

wmmbb - February 15, 2014

One course of action is to participate in the divestment from the carbon economy, starting with the Banks, who reportedly have large investments in coal mines.

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