Posts Tagged ‘Climate’
I am aware that my arrival last week helped re-elect President Obama.
Superstorms like me don’t play politics but it should be clear by now that your refusal to tackle global warming has serious consequences. Higher sea levels and amped-up hurricanes like me are just two of them. There is an awful price to pay for burning coal, oil, and natural gas I’m sorry to say.
Putting hundreds of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere is trapping more of the sun’s heat energy. CO2 is the planet’s natural heating blanket but those extra hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2 has made that blanket thicker. And it is getting thicker every year.
Nearly 200 people were killed in the 10 days I traveled from Jamaica to Canada. Most of the deaths were American. The US remains by far the largest emitter of CO2. With a fraction of the world population, the US is responsible for nearly 30 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions from 1860 to 2009. On a person by person basis, Americans have one of the biggest CO2 ‘footprints’.
Some of you have known for a long time how dangerous CO2 is. The first international conference to address the climate-disrupting impacts of burning coal, oil, and natural gas was held 24 years ago. Called “The Changing Atmosphere: Implications for Global Security” your politicians and scientists concluded:
“humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war”.
They accurately warned of a dangerous temperature increase without action to reduce emissions. (Conference summary statement)
Knowing all this your oil, coal and gas corporations were allowed to grow to become the world’s most powerful and profitable industry. You gave, and continue to give, those corporations who are making the planet less habitable billions of tax dollars in subsidies.
Now there is so much CO2 in the atmosphere the entire planet is .8C (1F) hotter and that temperature will at least triple. This additional heat energy being trapped by the extra CO2 amounts to exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year. This has spawned more and more destructive extreme weather events. This ‘new normal’ will only worsen as more CO2 is released.
The refusal to tackle global warming has led to nearly 400,000 deaths and more than $1.2 trillion is being lost every year mainly due to damage to food production and from extreme weather linked to climate change. Air pollution caused by the use of fossil fuels is also separately contributing to the deaths of at least 4.5 million people a year. These deaths and costs will only worsen with every additional tonne of CO2.
In human terms CO2 is forever. Your countries’ emissions today will disrupt the climate of your children, grand children and great grandchildren. To minimize the severity and intensity of flooding, droughts, destructive storms and crop failures your CO2 footprint needs to grow smaller and virtually disappear over the next few decades.
The US CO2 footprint has been getting smaller in recent years. The recession, closures of old coal plants and more natural gas has resulted in fewer emissions. Others are doing their part. The British are 18 percent below their emission levels in 1990 and aim to get down to 34 percent by 2020. The US is still well above its 1990s levels. This ongoing failure to act has cost the US its global leadership position.
This does not appear to be your future. The fossil fuel industry is too powerful and has instilled a fear of change amongst many of you. What you should be truly fearful of is the worsening of powerful storms that kill, the floods that destroy and droughts that will cause hunger for your children and your children’s children.
As you sow so shall you reap.
[Reposted from 7:58 am October 29, 2012]
Hi, this is Sandy. People are calling me ‘Frankenstorm’, ‘Superstorm’ and even ‘Weatherbomb’.
I don’t mean to hurt anyone but the record moisture in the atmosphere and heat in the ocean has given me uncontrollable power. I probably will cause billions of dollars of damage in Washington, New York City Boston and other parts of the Northeast. And I will kill some people, I already have. At least 66 people died when I swept through Jamaica and Cuba a few days ago.
I am a force of nature but you have to understand this is not all my fault.
I was born a only a week Monday in the warm waters of the southwestern Caribbean sea as a cluster of thunderstorms — what you call a tropical depression, the first stage of a hurricane. One unusual thing about my birth was that it was so late in the hurricane-tropical storm season. But this is happening more and more often as the climate becomes warmer and large parts of the ocean stay warmer longer.
The air and sea are warmer because hundreds of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) from burning coal, oil, and natural gas are now in the atmosphere. You should know that CO2 is the planet’s heating blanket that has kept the planet warm by trapping some of the sun’s heat.
Those hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2 you humans have put in the atmosphere means the CO2 blanket is thicker and capturing more heat from the sun. The amount of extra heat-energy being trapped is like exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year.
Most of that extra heat has gone into the oceans which is why land temperatures around the world have only risen 0.8 degree C (1.0F) on average. The oceans are getting warmer and warm water expands – that’s why pots boil over. That’s one reason why sea levels are rising. The other reason is melting glaciers and ice sheets.
Warmer air can also hold more moisture. Measurements show there is now 4 to 6 percent more water vapour (moisture) in the air making rainfalls heavier.
I was born in water 28C (80F) or better. To grow stronger I need warm water and lots of moisture in the air. There was plenty of both last week and by Monday evening my wind speeds were strong enough to be called a tropical storm. By Wednesday I was stronger still and named Hurricane Sandy, the 10th hurricane of 2012. There have been 19 tropical storms so far making this year tied for third busiest hurricane season in history.
Hurricanes live on warm water and moist air which is why I lost strength going over the mountains and hills of Jamaica and Cuba. But the huge area of near-record warm waters from Florida all the way up the east coast gave me the energy to stay at hurricane strength and grow in size. In fact I’ve become so big I may be one of the biggest ever recorded.
This should not be a surprise. More heat trapped by the extra CO2 means more fuel for storms and more moisture for heavier rains and more flooding than in the past. Higher sea levels means storm surges will be more damaging.
Hurricanes and typhoons are a way in which the Earth has re-distributed heat for millions of years. Think of us as giant pressure-relief valves. With more heat in the atmosphere it shouldn’t be surprising that we’ve become bigger and more powerful.
I said I was a force of nature, many say an Act of God. But that’s no longer true is it?
[Reposted from October 29, 2012 - Haiti needs help please donate to The Lambi Fund of Haiti, a disaster relief organization helping farmers - Sandy destroyed thousands of acres of crops.]
Hard to believe I was born only a week ago south of Jamaica. I grew very quickly over the hot Carribbean sea and last Wednesday swept into Jamaica west of Kingston with winds of 130 kph. Damage was extensive cutting power to half the country. One person died.
Last Thursday I was in Cuba, another poor country that can least afford to be damaged. Cuba is well organized to cope with powerful hurricanes. Just 35 deaths through 16 hurricanes and tropical storms since 2001.The US has fared far worse with fewer storms.
But I was a Category 2 when I arrived over Santiago, Cuba’s second largest city. Eleven people died, 3000 buildings destroyed, 30,000 lost their roofs. A billion dollars in damages. It will be a long recovery. The power is still out today.
In the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic more people died and thousands of homes were damaged.
Worst off was the most vulnerable of all: Haiti.
More than 50 people died in the southern Haiti including the area around Port-au-Prince. This where most of the 370,000 Haitians who are still living in flimsy shelters because the 2010 earthquake destroyed their homes. My flooding and high-winds destroyed many of those shelters as well their crops.
I hope you will help them. They have no resources to recover. Please remember no matter what comes in the next two days they will still be worse off.
As the last of my winds and rains ebb I wish you a complete and climate-wise recovery. Our planet is not as it once was. You have seen some of the changes in your lifetime: the superstorms, floods, drought, heat waves, and the melting of the Arctic.
Other changes are invisible such as the 30 percent increase in the acidity of the oceans. This rising acidity is harming coral reefs, fish and many other inhabitants of the oceans. One third of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from burning fossil fuels has been absorbed by the oceans. When CO2 dissolves in seawater it makes them more acidic.
All of these changes and far more with only 0.8C (1F) rise in global temperature. You want to believe all of this is natural. It is true I am part of nature but I have felt and fed off the extra heat energy in the oceans and additional moisture in the air you have unintentionally put there. The air, oceans, landscape have changed. Some call this time of major human impacts on the planet “The Anthropocene”. A big word to describe a big change: the era when humanity is influencing every aspect of life on the planet.
This reality means humanity’s childhood is over. That means accepting that we are all part of nature. It means accepting that humans are no more important to the planet than any other form of life. And it means understanding that in order for humanity to flourish, nonhuman life must be able to flourish as well.
My winds destroyed tens of thousands of trees. You may kill as many to clear wires, homes and property. Some will want to kill many more trees in cities, towns and along roads to prevent future disruption and damage. I say move the wires, keep the trees. Trees cool the planet, slow winds, trap climate-heating CO2, filter air pollutants and provide you and many other creatures with life-giving oxygen. Where trees flourish, humans flourish.
And for humans to flourish end the wasting of invaluable reserves of oil, gas and coal by burning them. Fossil fuels are a one-time gift of the planet’s long history and made from plants and trees that flourished over 100 million years ago. Paints, plastics, fertilizers, asphalt, cosmetics, clothes, medicines, inks and thousands more products are made from fossil fuels. Potential and future uses stretch the imagination.
Goodbye and Kia orana. (May you live well)