Showing posts with label climate change. Show all posts
Showing posts with label climate change. Show all posts

Monday, July 16, 2012

It's raining metaphors

Now that the US is suffering unprecedented extreme weather events, including heatwaves, drought, wildfires, storms and floods, their mainstream media is paying attention to climate change.

It helps that NOAA just released an important new report that shows the connection between specific extreme weather events and climate change.

ClimateProgress reports that all mainstream media have reported the connection between extreme weather and climate change. 

Bill Blakemore on the American ABC News website gives journalists a lesson in how to talk about the link between climate change and extreme weather. He uses three metaphors that have the stamp of approval from real scientists.

Here's a quick overview.

The Parable of the Pot. He uses a pot of boiling water to illustrate that turning up the heat results in more bubbles in the water. Scientists won't say that any particular new bubble is caused by turning the heat up, but they will say that the probability of more bubbles is increased when you turn up the heat.

Baseball Player on Steroids. This short animation shows that when a baseball player takes steroids his run rate is higher (featured earlier on this blog here). You can't say that any individual run is due to the steroids, but the player gets higher run totals due to the steroids. They ban steroids to prevent this. In the same way, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent extreme weather events.

Loaded Dice. This analogy shows that climate change increases the odds of extreme weather events. It has been used consistently since 1988 when James Hansen took two painted dice to his presentation to Congress. We featured it earlier on Thisness of a That, here.

Blakemore offers a phrase that everyone can use to describe the link between climate change and extreme weather events without using the 'cause' word,
This exactly fits the pattern long predicted of increasingly frequent severe weather events.

In contrast, Dan Lashey from the National Resource Defence Council argues that we can come right out and say: Carbon pollution causes extreme weather. He notes that cigarette packs no longer say tobacco 'may cause harm', they say: Smoking causes lung cancer.

If newspapers can report that 40 people died because of a heatwave, I don't see why they can't report that an extreme weather event was caused by global warming (or climate change or carbon emissions). 

We can expect to see more variations on these statements as mainstream media tackles the task of connecting the dots between climate change and weather.

UPDATE: Paul Krugman uses the Loaded Dice analogy in this piece in the New York Times where he concludes: 
... large-scale damage from climate change is no longer a disaster waiting to happen. It’s happening now. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Audrey walks her dogs in Paris

When Audrey walks her dogs, she follows an elegantly economical route to the park, pausing only to admire and be admired. But not Tozer and Chic. They're erratic and energetic, sniffing to the left, sniffing to the right, circling trees, running ahead or pulling back.

Tozer and Chic are Temperature Change and they are all over the place. Up one day and down the next.  Without Audrey (Climate Change) they would get nowhere and we'd be seeing the same weather patterns our grandmothers saw.

However, Audrey is making sure they get to the park. The trouble is – the park is a wasteland of drought, extreme weather, rising sea levels and ocean acidification.

Check out this neat animation of a dog and his owner. It illustrates the difference between variance (i.e. weather) vs. trend (i.e. climate). It shows that there are hot years and cold years, but climate change is driving the graph upwards with more record highs than ever before.

Source: Video from Siffer, Teddy TV. Animator: Ole Christoffer Hager

And check out this 2-minute gem where Richard Alley graphs temperature change for different periods of his life. It shows the same upward trend. It's getting hotter.

And finally, I need to apologise to Audrey for making her the villain of this piece. To redeem myself, I invite you to enjoy some eye candy of the delightful Audrey Hepburn and her beloved dogs, none of which was called Tozer or Chic as far as I know.

Audrey in Rome with her dog called Famous. 1961.

H/T Hager video: Climate Bites

Monday, May 14, 2012

Thank God the alarm worked, it saved our lives.

Are you an 'alarmist' and a 'warmist'? That's what climate change deniers call scientists, politicians, activists and anyone in the general public who accepts the evidence for climate change.

When they call everyone who accepts the science an 'alarmist', they try to say that we're like the boy who cried wolf. They want to discredit the warnings made by responsible people who recognise the evidence.

Where they are wrong is that the wolf is very real. Multiple strands of evidence point to the warming planet and the role of greenhouse gas emissions. There is abundant evidence for:

Alarms do much more than wake you up in the morning, though that is useful. Burglar alarms and car alarms protect property and many alarms save lives. Smoke detectors; tsunami warning systems; heart attack alarmsshark alarms; patient monitoring alarms all save lives by warning against imminent danger.

So next time you're called an 'alarmist', stand tall, point to all the evidence that says climate change is a real threat, and mention that alarms are good things – they save lives.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Connect the dots

A good Connect the Dots puzzle is one where you don't see the picture until you have done the work of joining the dots. If you don't do the work, you don't see the picture.

Climate scientists connected the dots on changing weather patterns decades ago. They warned that the planet was warming and the consequences would be catastrophic. Many governments paid attention and began to implement policies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Then vested industry groups began campaigns of misinformation and doubt that obscured the picture and prevented many from connecting the dots. 

Right now, the extreme weather events of the past 12 months are causing more people to connect the dots between record-breaking weather events and the long term trend of climate change. For many, the picture is emerging more clearly.

This new awareness will be leveraged by's Connect the Dots campaign that encourages grassroots events on 5 May 2012 around the world.
Climate Impacts Day is a global day of action taking place on May 5, 2012. On that day, we will issue a wake-up call, and connect the dots between climate change and extreme weather. We will educate, protest, create, document, and volunteer along with thousands of people around the world.

You can use their event finder to locate an event near you, or to start your own event.

See Bill McKibben's articulate 'Connect the Dots' piece in the Washington Post

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The clothes dryer effect

Just as a clothes dryer uses warm air to evaporate more easily, so our warming planet is drawing more moisture into the atmosphere. This moisure is leading to more extreme weather.

A report released in March 2012 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirmed that a strong body of evidence links global warming to an increase in heat waves, a rise in episodes of heavy rainfall and other precipitation, and more frequent coastal flooding. 

We're lurching from one weather extreme to another. The United States saw a February freeze followed by record breaking warm Spring weather where farmers are planting six weeks early.  Across Europe, people died by the hundreds during a severe cold wave in the first half of February, but a week later revelers in Paris were strolling down the Champs-Élysées in their shirt-sleeves. Australia has gone from a 10 year drought to record breaking floods.

Scientists say that the loss of Arctic ice is part of the story.
The question really is not whether the loss of the sea ice can be affecting the atmospheric circulation on a large scale, the question is, how can it not be, and what are the mechanisms?
Jennifer A. Francis, a Rutgers University climate researcher

Thomas C. Peterson, a researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, used the clothes dryer analogy in this NYT article.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spring is cancelled

To say that an unusually cool summer debunks climate change is like saying that a cold patch in late April (or September in the Southern Hemisphere)  means that Spring is cancelled.

Or as Bill Maher puts it:
One major reason [people don't believe in climate change] ...  is that we had a very long snowy winter, which is the same as saying the sun is not real, because last night it got dark.

Mike Haseler fell for this error on his Scottish Sceptic blog.