January 19, 2012
There is no doubt in the mind of major reinsurance company Munich Re that climate change is increasing the severity and frequency of extreme weather events and that this will have a major impact on the insurance industry.
And just maybe, where the science has not been able to make an impact on the world taking action on climate change, just maybe money and insurance premiums ( or lack thereof ) might get the point across.
One of my little life rules is to listen to people who are smarter than I am.
Insurers employ some of the world’s smartest people to figure out what bets to make on what’s going to happen, or not happen, in the future. They have to get it right, because, if they don’t, they make a lot of bad bets, and go out of business.
Early on, in the 1990s, larger insurance companies, re-insurer giants like Munich Re, - the insurance companies that insure insurance companies – recognized that climate change was an existential threat to their business model.
The standard climate denier response is that
a) disasters are costing more because more people live in desirable areas where disasters occur, so individual events are more costly.
b) Greedy insurance companies are using the nonexistent threat of climate change to overcharge hapless consumers. (funny how free market tea baggers can turn on a dime and blame the damn capitalists)
The problem with “a” is – if true, we should be seeing an increase in disaster costs across the board, as much from say, earthquakes, as from extreme weather - - as noted below.
But that’s not what we see. It is extreme weather events that are exacting the rising toll, exactly as predicted by scientists.
Moreover, the fact is, I believe in markets, and what they tell us. I believe in markets much more than the climate denialists who claim to revere the market system. If evil companies want to charge you more for nonexistent threats to your beach house – the market will soon bring us groups of equally smart actuarial experts who will come in and undercut those prices — and make billions by charging only for “real” risks – ignoring phony climate change – because it doesn’t exist, right?
Except, we don’t see that, either.
Insurance companies don’t care if you believe in climate change or not: Your premiums are going up anyhow.
NPR reported Monday that home insurance premiums are going up across the board in response to the record number of tornadoes, floods, fires, blizzards and other heavy weather that hit the country in 2011.
The piece features insurance executives at major firms such as Allstate and State Farm saying they are raising rates as much as 10%.
The president of the Insurance Information Institute, a New York-based industry association, says the weather caused about $35 billion of insured damages last year in the U.S. in events that caused a total of $70 billion in economic losses.
Climate change is not mentioned in the piece, but scientists who have been studying the climate and atmospheric conditions for decades say global warming may be contributing to more severe drought, bigger storms and increased precipitation.
The insurance execs interviewed allude to this by noting that in the past certain areas of the U.S. were targeted for higher rates because of earthquakes or frequent hurricanes or flooding. Now? There are so many disasters year upon year that the whole country is being reassessed for risk.
Transcript excerpt below
January 18, 2012
January 16, 2012
The 6 minute video above taken from a longer talk given by Eugenie Scott, of the National Center for Science Education, for the Glasgow Skeptics society. The longer, original version is here.
Texas and Louisiana have introduced education standards that require educators to teach climate change denial as a valid scientific position. South Dakota and Utah passed resolutions denying climate change. Tennessee and Oklahoma also have introduced legislation to give climate change skeptics a place in the classroom.
In May, a school board in Los Alamitos, Calif., passed a measure, later rescinded, identifying climate science as a controversial topic that required special instructional oversight.
“Any time we have a meeting of 100 teachers, if you ask whether they’re running into pushback on teaching climate change, 50 will raise their hands,” said Frank Niepold, climate education coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who meets with hundreds of teachers annually. “We ask questions about how sizable it is, and they tell us it is [sizable] and pretty persistent, from many places: your administration, parents, students, even your own family.”
Against this backdrop, the National Center for Science Education, an Oakland-based watchdog group that supports the teaching of evolution through advocacy and educational materials, plans to announce on Monday that it will begin an initiative to monitor the teaching of climate science and evaluate the sources of resistance to it.
Challenges to climate change education are common in the classroom, according to a poll of science educators conducted by the National Science Teachers Association. Although 60% of respondents to the on-line poll reported that they were not concerned about how climate change is taught in their school, 82% reported having faced skepticism about climate change and climate change education from students, 54% reported having faced such skepticism from parents, and 26% reported having faced such skepticism from administrators.
January 16, 2012
The video above excerpts from C-Span footage a classic in the history of climate science – a bare knuckle beat-down by climate scientist Ben Santer on one of science denial’s leading misleaders, Pat Michaels. The cross post from Skeptical Science below goes into more detail on Michael’s long history of data mangling.
Patrick Michaels is a research fellow at the Cato Institute think tank, the chief editor of the website World Climate Report, has been given a climate blog at the business magazine Forbes, and his articles are frequently re-posted at climate “skeptic” blogs like Watts Up With That (WUWT). Despite his clear conflict of interest (Michaels has estimated that 40% of his work is funded by the petroleum industry), many people continue to rely on him as a reliable source of climate information. This is an unwise choice, because Michaels also has a long history of badly distorting climate scientists’ work. In fact, not only does Michaels misrepresent climate research on a regular basis, but on several occasions he has gone as far as to manipulate other scientists’ figures by deleting parts he doesn’t like.
Patrick Michaels is a serial deleter of inconvenient data.
Skeptical Science has previously documented the most high-profile example of Michaels’ serial data deletions, which involved James Hansen’s 1988 study projecting future global warming. James Hansen is a scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), and one of the world’s foremost climate scientists.
Climate scientists aren’t in the business of predicting how human greenhouse gas emissions will change in the future – that is a policy question. Instead, climate scientists predict how the climate will change in response to a series of possible emissions scenarios (for example, continuing with business-as-usual emissions, dramatically cutting our emissions starting in the year 2020, etc.). In 1988, Hansen used the NASA GISS climate model to predict how the planet would respond to three possible scenarios. Scenario A assumed continued exponential (accelerating) greenhouse gas growth. Scenario B assumed a reduced linear rate of growth, and Scenario C assumed a rapid decline in greenhouse gas emissions around the year 2000. Hansen believed Scenario B was the most likely to come to fruition, and indeed it has been the closest to reality thus far. In the summer of 1988, Hansen presented his results in testimony before U.S. Congress.
Ten years later, with the Kyoto Protocol international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the works, Patrick Michaels was invited to testify before Congress about the state of climate science. He spoke of Hansen’s 1988 study, and in the process, grossly misrepresented its projections and accuracy by deleting Scenarios B and C, wrongly asserting that the planet had warmed “more than four times less than Hansen predicted.”
January 13, 2012
As climate change alters the temperatures of reptile habitats around the globe, tests of one lizard species suggests warmer nests could make some reptiles smarter.
When researchers incubated the eggs of Bassiana duperreyi, a mountain-dwelling Australian skink, at warmer-than-usual temperatures, they grew up to perform especially well on a learning task.
Herpetologists knew reptiles incubated in warmer nests developed differently, but linking hotter egg temperatures to increased intelligence is a first.
“We have 16 to 17 years of data on the effects of incubation temperature on skinks. We know the hotter guys are bigger, faster, absorb more [egg] yolk,” said herpetologist Joshua Amiel of the University of Sydney, whose research was published Jan. 11 in Biology Letters. “But hardly anyone has given a look at the effect on reptile learning.”
After incubating two different sets of eggs at different temperatures — the warmer set mimicking natural incubation settings of skinks at lower elevations, the cooler set mimicking higher elevations — Amiel and Shine tested the hatchlings.
They sent each lizard running by touching its tail, then measured how long it took to find the open shelter and how often it tried to enter the blocked door. Warm-incubated lizards learned to find the open flower pot much more readily than their cool-incubated siblings. In the wild, improved learning abilities likely increase chances of survival.
As global temperatures continue to shift, Amiel thinks some reptile species living in warming climates may become innately smarter. In cooling climates, they could become less intelligent.
The fact is, there’s evidence that some of these creatures are already here, living among us.
January 11, 2012
Readers of these pages will know that Dr. Katharine Hayhoe is a powerful voice for climate sanity in the United States, and particularly threatening to the climate denial noise machine, in that she is an evangelical Christian, and carries the facts of climate science into communities that very often have been subjected to intense disinformation campaigns.
Dr. Hayhoe came to the attention of a wider audience this week, when it was revealed that she had been tasked to write a chapter on climate for a new book coming out under GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich’s name – and that, in the heat of a tea-party troglodyte dominated primary campaign, she, her chapter, and her message, had been unceremoniously dumped from the project.
Now Dr Hayhoe is the target of the kind of hate and intimidation campaign that has become the hallmark of the professional climate denier community.
Dr. Hayhoe made headlines after the Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich came under pressure and dropped plans to have her write an opening chapter on climate change for his upcoming book.
Now, her teaching duties at Texas Tech University have resumed and the sting from the Gingrich snub is fading. But the hate mail is still pouring in, dozens of insulting e-mails every morning.
“It’d be a lot easier to stay home. It’s not easy having people standing up and screaming at you. It’s not easy opening your mail in the morning and seeing a hundred e-mails, each one more hateful than the last,” Dr. Hayhoe said Monday, in her first interview with a Canadian news outlet.
“That’s not easy. And it’s not the science that motivates me. It’s what comes from the heart.”
That introduction to the sharp-elbowed world of politics was the latest blow for the 39-year-old, who already had a taste of hostile audiences from public speaking at Christian schools, seniors homes, farmers’ group and book clubs.
She was prepared to deal with emotional, unfriendly reactions. But she wasn’t expecting what came with the name recognition, she said.
“There’s a well-organized campaign, primarily in the United States but also in other countries, including Canada and Australia, of bloggers, of people in the media, of basically professional climate deniers whose main goal is to abuse, to harass and to threaten anybody who stands up and says climate change is real – especially anybody who’s trying to take that message to audiences that are more traditionally skeptical of this issue.”
It was even more shocking because she didn’t see herself as a “Godless, tree-hugging activist” but a scientist who also happened to be a member of an evangelical Bible church. She is also married to a pastor.
“The attacks’ virulence, the hatred and the nastiness of the text have escalated exponentially. I’ve gotten so many hate mail in the last few weeks I can’t even count them.”
On one occasion, after appearing on Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox TV, she received nearly 200 hate e-mails the next day.
January 10, 2012
Did you hear the one about how great it is that we are emitting heat trapping gases? Turns out, the story goes, that we are warding off an impending ice age. Thank God for Peabody Coal!!
Notwithstanding the obviously inconsistent narrative (greenhouse gases have no effect/thank god they’re saving us from an ice age), this is yet another of those peripheral news stories that takes on a life of its own thru the climate denial magic mirror megaphone. Someone asked me this at a sports bar last night, so apparently its gotten a little traction.
Since this has potential to be another pesky BS denial meme, let’s nip it in the bud right now. First listen to the BBC Today Show interview with study author, Luke Skinner, above. Then read on.
Human emissions of carbon dioxide will defer the next Ice Age, say scientists.
The last Ice Age ended about 11,500 years ago, and when the next one should begin has not been entirely clear.
Researchers used data on the Earth’s orbit and other things to find the historical warm interglacial period that looks most like the current one.
In the journal Nature Geoscience, they write that the next Ice Age would begin within 1,500 years – but emissions have been so high that it will not.
“At current levels of CO2, even if emissions stopped now we’d probably have a long interglacial duration determined by whatever long-term processes could kick in and bring [atmospheric] CO2 down,” said Luke Skinner from Cambridge University.
Dr Skinner’s group – which also included scientists from University College London, the University of Florida and Norway’s Bergen University – calculates that the atmospheric concentration of CO2 would have to fall below about 240 parts per million (ppm) before the glaciation could begin.
The current level is around 390ppm.
January 9, 2012
Since we have such an active community of armchair oceanographers and spreadsheet Glaciologists here, I thought it would be useful to speak to the real thing, the people who actually spend time on the ocean, on the ice sheets, do the measurements, and come back to share that knowledge with us. I had just that opportunity at the American Geophysical conference in December.
I spoke to Josh Willis, Oceanographer with NASA at the Jet Propulsion Lab – Josh is one of best known young ocean scientists on the planet. He pointed me to the recent Kemp et al study of tidal marshes on the US East coast, which has produced a long record of sea level over the last 2000 years, complete with a very Hockey-stickish uptick during the last 200 or so.
Jason Box of the Byrd Polar Center at Ohio State was there, presenting evidence of acceleration in Greenland ice loss over the last 200 years.
His bottom line – “If we talk 10 years from now, my expectation is that Greenland will be losing roughly double what it is now.”
I round out the video with takes from old pros lead NASA scientist Jim Hansen and Admiral David Titley, the US Navy’s Chief Oceanographer.
I spent 15 years as a paramedic first responder in urban and rural areas of Michigan, wearing a flack jacket down to the east side of Saginaw to grab-and-go with gut-shot gangbangers, hip deep in an icy ditch at 3 in the morning, dodging drunken fists while trying to tape down a bloody IV, and covering people with my body while volunteer firemen hosed down the carcass of a blazing Blazer.
Here’s one thing I learned.
There are a whole lot of ways gas powered vehicles can and do explode and catch fire, even a bunch that have nothing to do with a tank full of premium Iraqi high test.
So when I read the current nonsense narrative about the made-up, media-mythical non-problem of fires in electric cars, it merely serves to reinforce my long-held belief that our elite journalists not only don’t care about what’s real and what’s important, they don’t have the slightest idea how one would even determine it.
January 6, 2012
A lot of people have seen Science Fiction giant and chemist Isaac Asimov’s video talk from 1989 ( posted below the fold here) – but he was talking about climate change and sea level rise much earlier – as this 1977 radio interview shows.