Science

Climate Risks: Lessons from 2010’s Extreme Weather


Update: Dr. Jay Gulledge is featured on National Journal's Energy & Environment Expert Blogs. Click here to read Dr. Gulledge's take on Climate Risks Here and Now

Last fall I posted a blog about the unusual number and severity of extreme weather events that have been striking around the globe for the past several years. That entry focused on the alternating severe drought and heavy flooding in Atlanta in 2007-2009 as an example of the roller coaster ride that climate change is likely to be. As every dutiful scientist does, I stopped short of blaming those individual weather events on global warming, but I am also careful to point out that it is scientifically unsound to claim that the confluence of extreme weather events in recent years is not associated with global warming; I’ll return to this question later.

Tempestuous 2010

The weather of 2010 continues the chaos of recent years. In the past six months, the American Red Cross says it “has responded to nearly 30 larger disasters in 21 [U.S.] states and territories. Floods, tornadoes and severe weather have destroyed homes and uprooted lives …” Severe flooding struck New England in March, Nashville in May, and Arkansas and Oklahoma in June.

Workshop Highlights Federal Efforts to Mainstream Adaptation to Climate Change

Last week we held a workshop at the Newseum in Washington, DC, entitled Federal Government Leadership: Mainstreaming Adaptation to Climate Change. The workshop was intended to build on our recent report highlighting the important role of the federal government in climate change adaptation and the recent National Academies’ report—Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change—which emphasized that the federal government should not only serve as a “role model,” but also play a significant role as a “catalyst and coordinator” in identifying vulnerabilities to climate change impacts and the adaptation options that could increase our resilience to these changes.

"Facts are Stubborn Things ..."

In his defense of soldiers in the Boston Massacre trials, John Adams went on to say “… and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

No matter what we may wish were happening, no matter what spin some may try to sell, the clear evidence of climate change continues to mount.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has just released its annual report on the state of the climate, and the facts speak volumes about the pervasiveness and speed of actual climate change, not model projections. 

"Climategate" Scientists Exonerated

I posted previously on the controversy surrounding emails that were hacked from a computer server at the University of East Anglia’s (UEA) Climatic Research Unit (CRU) in the U.K. The emails revealed the private exchanges of several prominent climate scientists dealing with their science and their reactions to climate change deniers who requested access to their private computer files and intellectual property. The contents of the emails suggested to the untrained eye that the scientists had manipulated data and tried to undermine the scientific peer-review process. From my reading of the emails, I judged that nothing of the sort had happened. Since my last writing on the topic, five separate independent investigations (3 in the United Kingdom and 2 in the U.S.) of the matter have concluded that there was no mishandling of data or other wrongdoing beyond some foot-dragging in response to Freedom of Information requests by climate change deniers. The clear message from these investigations is that proper scientific methods were followed and the integrity of climate science remains solid as a rock. 

Hurricanes and Oil Will Mix: Managing Risk Now

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 
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Capitol Hill briefings on the 2010 hurricane season, which forecasters predict will produce between 14 and 23 named hurricanes - the most active season since 2005, when Hurricane Katrina and 27 other named storms swept the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Key discussion topics include risks an active hurricane season pose for energy-related infrastructure, for inland areas as storm surges push oil from the Gulf spill beyond beaches and marshland, and for stakeholders dealing with flooding in coastal communities in the Gulf and along the East Coast. 

This briefing will be held at two separate times and locations to accommodate House and Senate staff.

Wednesday, June 30

12:00 Noon to 1:30 PM
Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2325

3:30 to 4:45 PM
Capitol Visitors Center, Room SVC 202

Seasonal forecasters predict that 2010 will produce between 14 and 23 named hurricanes -- the most active season since 2005, when Hurricane Katrina and 27 other named storms swept the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.  As economic challenges continue and oil spews from the damaged Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf, the growing impacts to the region's economic recovery and unique ecosystems are staggering.  What risks does an active hurricane season pose for other energy-related infrastructure, for inland areas as storm surges push oil beyond beaches and marshland, and for stakeholders dealing with flooding in coastal communities in the Gulf and along the East Coast?  Can recent advances in hurricane prediction help manage these risks? Might related climate change impacts exacerbate them in the future? What does an increasing scale of catastrophic loss associated with hurricane activity mean for critical services provided by the insurance sector? Please join our panelists as they address these questions and discuss research results, institutions, and processes in place to help manage potential catastrophic risk of this hurricane season. 


AGENDA
   
Opening remarks by Senator Mary Landrieu, Honorary Host (3:30pm briefing only)

Moderator:

  • Heidi Cullen
    CEO and Director of Communications, Climate Central


Panelists:

  • Greg Holland
    Director, NCAR Earth System Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research
  • Rick Luettich
    Professor & Director, Institute of Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Rowan Douglas
    CEO, Global Dynamics, Willis Re and Chairman, Willis Re Research Network

 

RSVP to Gloria Kelly at gloriak@ucar.edu or (303) 497-2102 by Monday, June 28

Sponsored by the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the Congressional Hazards Caucus Alliance, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), and the Weather Coalition.

With appreciation to the House Committee on Science and Technology and the Senate Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Press Release: New Publication Highlights Urgent Need for Strong U.S. Energy-Climate Policy

Press Release
May 19, 2010
Contact: Tom Steinfeldt, 703-516-4146

 


New Publication Highlights Urgent Need for Strong U.S. Energy-Climate Policy
Pew Center on Global Climate Change Makes Compelling Case for Action

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change released The Case for Action: Creating a Clean Energy Future, a straight-forward synthesis of the urgent need to enact a strong U.S. energy and climate policy. The Case for Action adds to the growing chorus of expert research and analysis that underscores the need for effective policy action.

The new Pew Center publication coincides with the release of America’s Climate Choices, a Congressionally-mandated study by the National Academies that represents its most comprehensive assessment of climate change. America’s Climate Choices examines the science supporting human-induced climate change and options for reducing and adapting to climate change impacts.

“The case for action has never been stronger,” said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. “The science is clear: Further delay will only make the impacts of climate change more severe and the costs of action more expensive. With a strong energy and climate policy, the United States will be in position capitalize on its competitive advantage and lead the 21st century clean energy economy.”

In compelling, straight-forward language, The Case for Action explains why the United States needs to act now to reduce the risks of climate change, strengthen our energy independence, protect our national security, and create new jobs and economic opportunities.

The United States has the opportunity to drive the global climate effort through renewed leadership at home and abroad. Comprehensive national energy and climate legislation can spur the development of new technologies and new job markets, setting the United States on course to become a global clean energy leader. Globally, it is critical that the United States continue working with the international community to develop a binding but flexible framework that ensures all of the world’s major economies take steps to meet the climate challenge.

For more information about global climate change and the activities of the Pew Center, visit http://www.c2es.org.

# # #

The Pew Center was established in May 1998 as a non-profit, non-partisan, and independent organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. The Pew Center is led by Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

Statement: National Academies Release Climate Change Assessment

Today the National Academies released its most comprehensive assessment of climate change entitled America’s Climate Choices.

Statement of Eileen Claussen
President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

May 19, 2010

I commend the National Academies for producing America’s Climate Choices – a landmark study that puts an authoritative stamp on strategies to tackle climate change.

Fulfilling a Congressional mandate, the National Academies have provided U.S. policymakers and the American public with an independent, comprehensive assessment of the science of human-induced climate change and what is required to reduce and adapt to its impacts.

“These reports show that the state of climate change science is strong,” said Ralph J. Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Sciences. The study emphasizes that our current understanding of human-induced climate change is supported by many independent lines of evidence that have weathered intense debate and serious exploration of alternative explanations.

The study underscores that, more than ever, we have credible and convincing evidence that human activities are driving our changing climate. “Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for – and in many cases is already affecting – a broad range of human and natural systems,” the report says. Further delay in addressing these risks will only make climate change impacts more severe and the costs of action more expensive.

The urgency is reflected by impacts beginning to happen in our own backyards – more heat waves across the Midwest; wildfires in California and other western states; sea-level rise encroaching on the eastern seaboard. Effective national strategies to limit the causes and adapt to certain unavoidable changes to our climate are urgent. Scientific uncertainty is no longer an excuse to delay action. The case for action is clear and we must find the political will to reduce our nation’s greenhouse emissions and adapt to unavoidable changes already in motion.

Pew Center Contact: Tara Ursell, 703-516-4146

The Case for Action: Creating a Clean Energy Future

Download the report (pdf)

 

The Case for Action: Creating a Clean Energy Future
May 2010

The United States needs strong action now to reduce the risks of climate change, strengthen our energy independence, protect our national security, and create new jobs and economic opportunities. The Pew Center on Global Climate Change believes that the case for action has never been stronger. With a strong energy and climate policy the United States can lead the 21st century clean energy economy.

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Comprehensive Climate Science Reports Released Today

Today the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released three of its long-awaited “America’s Climate Choices” (ACC) reports. A fourth report will be released later this year, as will an overarching synthesis report. The three reports released today focused on advancing the science of climate change, adapting to unavoidable climate change, and limiting the ultimate extent of climate change. The reports and background information on the study are accessible from the ACC web site.

Collectively, the ACC reports are the most comprehensive study the NAS has conducted on climate change. The project was mandated by Congress and requested by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration in 2008. Unlike past NAS efforts, the ACC reports emphasize how the nation can move forward on solving the climate change problem.

NAS president Ralph J. Cicerone said, “These reports show that the state of climate change science is strong.” The study emphasizes that our current understanding of human-induced climate change is supported by many independent lines of evidence that have weathered intense debate and serious exploration of alternative explanations: “Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for – and in many cases is already affecting – a broad range of human and natural systems,” the report says.

A statement about the ACC by our center's president Eileen Claussen is available here.

We will be sure to let you know when the remaining pieces of the ACC report come out later this year.

Jay Gulledge is Senior Scientist and Director of the Science & Impacts Program

National Security & Climate Change

As stated by the Department of Defense in its Quadrennial Defense Review Report in February 2010, “climate change, energy security, and economic stability are inextricably linked.” The impacts of climate change are expected to act as a “threat multiplier” in many of the world’s most unstable regions, exacerbating droughts and other natural disasters as well as leading to food, water, and other resource shortages that may spur mass migrations. The primary driver of climate change—greenhouse gas emissions from the use of fossil fuels—is central to many of the U.S. military’s activities: the military is the world’s top consumer of energy, and many of its activities are dedicated to protecting fossil fuel supplies. Alternative, low-carbon sources of energy will not only reduce the impacts of climate change, but they will also lessen both the human and economic strain of U.S. military operations.

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