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New Report Highlights Climate Crisis’ Threat to Hampton Roads

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A new report takes a closer look at which cities will be hurt by global warming-fueled sea level rise. As Brad Plumer reports, Virginia is in the climate crisis crosshairs:
Things don't look good for India. But the United States doesn't get off easy, either. If you look at exposed assets rather than total population, then Miami, New York-Newark, New Orleans and Virginia Beach all climb higher on the list, with $7 trillion in assets vulnerable to severe coastal flooding by 2070. [...]

Take Miami. A three-foot sea-level rise, experts have noted, would likely put all of Miami Beach underwater and turn downtown Miami into an island, channeled off from the rest of Florida. Yet the state isn't doing all that much to prepare for this eventuality. Instead, it's racing to subsidize new developments along the coasts, through state-run insurance and funding for coastal protection. By contrast, cities such as London and Amsterdam are taking more prudent steps to guard against future flooding - and, as the OECD report notes, are likely to cope with sea-level rise better.

That's not an isolated case. In general, the United States has been slow in preparing for rising sea levels. In many cases, we're actively making things worse, as Steve Nash laid out in this excellent article in the New Republic. This is one area in particular where climate-change denial can do a lot of damage - it's awfully hard to prepare for a problem that no one can agree even exists.

So we're not doing climate mitigation, like cutting carbon pollution. And as an event just last month at NASA's Langley Center in Hampton pointed out, we're not doing climate adaptation, either, like coastal restoration & limiting development in areas just above sea level. Basically, if you were consciously trying to leave the worst possible situation for the next generation, you'd be doing exactly what people like Gov. Bob McDonnell are doing now - deny the problem & delay solutions. And note the 2070 date - we're no longer talking about forecast impacts on some future generation, but real changes happening within the lifetimes of the children in your family right now. Amazing that the same people who profess such a concern with our budgetary national debt have no qualms about leaving our kids stuck with a multi-trillion-dollar climate liability.

Can We Outrun the Climate Firestorm We’re Stoking?

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FirestormIs it time to stop talking about the low end of climate change predictions? Until now, I've thought of our climate choices as "mild disruption," "wrenching calamity," and "civilization-threatening catastrophe," depending on how quickly and seriously we act to cut carbon pollution. But reading Jeff Goodell's Rolling Stone article on Australia's grim future, I wonder if our continued inaction is putting that first option in the rear view mirror.

The United Nations International Panel on Climate Change issued its 4th Assessment in 2007, predicting a low carbon emissions scenario would see a rise in temperatures by 2100 of about 2 degrees Celsius (about 3 degrees Fahrenheit). The UN continues to cite that 2 degrees C as its goal for maximum temperature rise.

But since that report nearly five years ago, global carbon pollution has continued to rise steadily. And with Washington talking about sticking a new tar sands pipeline in our oil addicted veins, now experts are wondering if we'll act fast enough to avoid the dreaded high emissions scenario:

Last Month Was America’s 2nd-Hottest August On Record

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droughtThe latest State of the Climate report is out from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. The top news:
  • August of 2011 was the 2nd-hottest ever in the United States
  • Globally, August was the 8th-hottest on record
  • So far, 2011 is Earth's 11th-hottest year on record
On top of that, not only did Texas' June through August break the record for hottest three-month stretch for any state, but Oklahoma's June through August is #2 on the list. The Dust Bowl's been pushed to third - by more than a full degree.

What's the impact of that extreme heat, and with it extreme drought? As the Texas Forest Service put it, "No one on the face of this Earth has ever fought fires in these extreme conditions." Watch how fast the winds of Tropical Storm Lee whipped one wildfire through Texas (in real time):

A Decade of Global Warming-Fueled Extreme Weather

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Full and flowing 9-9-11 Burke LakeI moved to Virginia in June 2002. Just since then, some of the records set in Washington, DC and at National Airport in Arlington:Capital Weather Gang looks at some of this week's highest rainfall totals, with Fort Belvoir's 8.82" ranking among the highest on record. Joe Romm has a good look at this month's East Coast flooding through a historic lens as we continue getting triple-teamed by tropical storms. The scary part is we're still in the very early stages of climate change. What kind of extreme weather world will our children face even a couple of decades from now?

But no need to cut our climate pollution, right John Boehner, Eric Cantor & Mitch McConnell? Best to just keep waiting it out, cashing coal & oil checks, and blaming ... uhhh, moon volcanoes! Cosmic rays!

Rick Perry: Galileo Also Got Harassed By Ignorant Politicians Like Me

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Rick PerryAt last night's Republican presidential debate, the harshest blow may have been landed by Rick Perry ... against Rick Perry.

The Texas governor, already infamous for his climate science ignorance, somehow dug his own hole even deeper last night. Perry mangled an analogy and managed to compare himself to the religious and/or political figures who found Galileo's sun-centered model of the solar system to be an inconvenient truth:

"Galileo got outvoted for a spell," said Perry, in attempting to argue that the issue of climate change remains "unsettled." But what Perry fails to realize is the fact that the scientific community actually agreed with Galileo. It was the clergy who outvoted him, accusing him of being a heretic. "By the time Galileo was publishing on heliocentrism, the idea was already circulating and widely accepted in scientific circles, including Jesuits," explains Joshua Rosneau from the National Center for Science Education. "He wasn't outvoted by scientists, he was outvoted by the political and religious leadership of his country."

The example of Galileo would actually make a great metaphor for climate change scientists, not the deniers. Following his Galileo blunder, Perry parrots the familiar political reasoning behind brushing off the theory of climate change, one supported by the vast majority of environmental scientists--97 percent of them, in fact. Perry warns of putting "America's economic future in jeopardy, asking us to cut back in areas that would have monstrous economic impact on this country." But a study by the National Academy of Science and funded by Congress said bluntly that the "the environmental, economic, and humanitarian risks posed by climate change indicate a pressing need for substantial action to limit the magnitude of climate change and to prepare for adapting to its impacts." Despite what Perry claims, climate change continues to be debated not by scientists but by politicians.

Even as his own state of Texas is ravaged by global warming-fueled wildfires, exactly in line with the predictions of climate scientists, Rick Perry still denies reality. Think it has anything to do with the more than $11 million Perry has raked in from oil companies? Heaven forbid.

Another Climate Denier Scandal: Will Media Ever Treat Them Skeptically?

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A paper came out a couple of months ago questioning climate science. It quickly became the great shining hope of the climate science denial crowd. An actual scientific paper! Accepted by an actual scientific editor! And published in an actual scientific journal!

But a review of the paper by Roy Spencer and William Braswell published in Remote Sensing is dashing the hopes of climate deniers on the rocks of reality:

  • The paper itself? "Fundamentally flawed" and contains "false claims."
  • The editor? Apologized for accepting the paper and resigned.
  • The journal? Editorialized that the paper "should not have been published."

The question has become, how many scandals will it take for the media to apply any degree of skepticism to what climate science deniers say? Deniers hype "Climategate" - independent investigation finds no wrongdoing. Deniers attack Michael Mann - independent investigation vindicates Mann. Deniers tout work of Edward Wegman - independent investigation finds Wegman's work riddled with plagiarism & inaccuracies.

Instead, the media breathlessly hypes whatever lies the deniers push, but barely mentions the independent investigations that reveal the truth. And the scientific consensus on climate change remains as inconvenient as ever - Earth is warming, man-made carbon pollution is to blame, and we're running out of time make the transition to clean energy as climate disasters multiply.

“A Climate of Deception: How Fox News Distorts the Climate Debate”

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Let's just hope that the scandals enveloping Rupert Murdoch and Company will ultimately bring down Faux "News," aka "Mouthpiece of Big Oil and Big Coal" (not mention "Mouthpiece of the Republican Party"). Just on the climate science issue alone, Rupert Murdoch et al deserve whatever happens to them, as well as our schadenfreude at watching it happen to them.

By the way, why is it that the Faux isn't doing the flip of what they did during "snowmageddon," running wall-to-wall coverage of the ongoing, year-after-year, relentless heat waves (and rapidly melting polar ice caps) we're experiencing on our planet, but this time using it to prove that there IS global warming (which also happens to be the correct answer)?  Because, again, Faux "News" isn't "news," it isn't "fair and balanced," it isn't truthful or honest, it's just the Big Lie in the year 2011.

Dangerous Friday Forecast: Heat Index of 116 in DC, 118 in...

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Can I use the term "breaking news" to describe a weather forecast for a sunny day? Yup. That just happened.

Last month, I asked If June Is This Hot, What Will July & August Be Like? Now we have the answer from Jason Samenow of WashingtonPost.com's Capital Weather Gang:

NOAA has upped its peak heat index prediction for D.C. Friday to a stunning, sweltering 116 degrees. Remarkably, it predicts there is a 90 percent chance it will reach at least 110 and a 100 percent chance of at least 105. Earlier today, NOAA was predicting a maximum heat index of 109 Friday.

And poor Richmond, Va.! NOAA projects its heat index will soar to a stifling 118 degrees.

So far, 2011 has been the 11th-warmest year on record. And from NOAA's State of the Climate update, a stat even The Green Miles didn't know:

Should Coal-Fired Pollution Get a Tobacco-Style Warning Label?

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Ohio Valley VistaJust the particle pollution from coal-fired power plants kills 13,000 Americans each year through heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer, birth defects & premature death, according to the American Lung Association. That number doesn't even consider threats from other pollutants like arsenic & mercury or the dangers of coal mining.

And carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants is a prime driver of global warming, which is fueling more climate-connected extreme weather events that have helped turn 2011 into the Year of the Natural Disaster.

All that leads Tom Toles to ask in today's Washington Post: Cigarettes come with warning labels - why not coal-fired power plants?

Washington Post’s Romney & Climate Story Stiffs Science

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romnyThe Washington Post has a story this morning about how Mitt Romney acknowledges the science, at least in general terms, that man-made carbon emissions are driving global warming.

Let's count the "experts" quoted:

  • GOP workers & activists: 3
  • Polluter-funded front groups: 2
  • Rush Limbaugh: 1
  • Climate scientists: 0
As Media Matters reported this week, when it comes to reporting on climate science, climate scientists are the last people the media seeks out.