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Temperature change
The green band shows how global average temperature would have changed over the last century due to natural forces alone, as simulated by climate models. The blue band shows model simulations of the effects of human and natural forces (including solar and volcanic activity) combined. The black line shows the actual observed global average temperatures. Only with the inclusion of human influences can models reproduce the observed temperature changes. (Figure source: adapted from Huber and Knutti 2012).
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has in the past nine months released its three-volume Fifth Assessment Report on climate. In February the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and The Royal Society jointly released Climate Change: Evidence and Causes. And today, the third National Climate Assessment opened its pages to the public. Put together by more than 300 contributors, it's a compilation of peer-reviewed climate science published over the past several years. A reader-friendly, 800-page report focusing on the climate chaos that already is underway. It includes descriptions of how climate change is affecting and likely will affect Americans in eight regions.

Altogether, thousands of pages of analysis in these reports, with graphics and charts and tens of thousands of grim words that just a tiny sliver of Americans will read and a large portion of the nation's corporate and political leaders will ignore or ridicule despite the ominous world portended. You don't have to wait to see what numbskullery will greet the report. Check out the comment threads below any newspaper's story on it.

But the myopia—fueled by decades of outright lies of industry-funded propaganda, the smearing of scientists and the funding of campaigns that has led to the election of scores of climate change-denying members of Congress—will not make the situation vanish. The report says plainly:

“What is new over the last decade is that we know with increasing certainty that climate change is happening now. Observations unequivocally show that climate is changing and that warming of the past 50 years is primarily due to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases.”
The White House is using the third assessment during events this week as one element in a belated, aggressive effort that began last June with the president's climate speech at Georgetown University. Later this week, for example, the administration will conduct a summit meeting focused on improving energy efficiency in buildings and announce some new installations of solar power. Obama will also be interviewed by television meteorologists.

There's more to read below the fold.

In comments Monday, special adviser to the president John Podesta said the report will serve as the basis of "practical, usable knowledge" for state and local decision makers to take action.

Percent changes in the amount of precipitation falling in very heavy events (the heaviest 1%) from 1958 to 2012 for each region. There is a clear national trend toward a greater amount of precipitation being concentrated in very heavy events, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest.
Percent changes in the amount of precipitation falling in very heavy events (the heaviest 1%) from 1958 to 2012 for each region. There is a clear national trend toward a greater amount of precipitation being concentrated in very heavy events, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest.
From the introduction onward, the assessment does not pull any punches about what we face and what is already happening:
The observed warming and other climatic changes are triggering wide-ranging impacts in every region of our country and throughout our economy. Some of these changes can be beneficial over the short run, such as a longer growing season in some regions and a longer shipping season on the Great Lakes. But many more are detrimental, largely because our society and its infrastructure were designed for the climate that we have had, not the rapidly changing climate we now have and can expect in the future. In addition, climate change does not occur in isolation. Rather, it is superimposed on other stresses, which combine to create new challenges. [...]

Over recent decades, climate science has advanced significantly. Increased scrutiny has led to increased certainty that we are now seeing impacts associated with human-induced climate change. With each passing year, the accumulating evidence further expands our understanding and extends the record of observed trends in temperature, precipitation, sea level, ice mass, and many other variables recorded by a variety of measuring systems and analyzed by independent research groups from around the world. It is notable that as these data records have grown longer and climate models have become more comprehensive, earlier predictions have largely been confirmed. The only real surprises have been that some changes, such as sea level rise and Arctic sea ice decline, have outpaced earlier projections.

"The findings in this National Climate Assessment underscore the need for urgent action to combat the threats from climate change, protect American citizens and communities today, and build a sustainable future for our kids and grandkids," the White House said.

Suzanne Goldenberg at The Guardian wrote:

Scientists who worked on the report said they hoped the findings would focus Americans on the need to cut emissions that cause climate change, and to plan for the future consequences of climate change.

“I think maybe this report will be the turning point when people finally realise that this is about them,” said Susan Hassol, the chief science writer on the report. “It's about them and their lives … Earlier, they had seen it as a distant threat—distant in time, distance in space, this is about poles, this is about island nations. They haven't seen it as a threat in their own backyard.”

On key finding of the report is the increase in the rate of torrential downpours. Climate scientists have long predicted this would be an impact of the changes from global warming, but they themselves have been surprised at just how fierce such storms have been. Justin Gillis at The New York Times notes:
For instance, large parts of Nashville were devastated by floods in 2010 after nearly 20 inches of rain fell in two days. Last year, parts of Colorado flooded after getting as much rain in a week as normally falls in a year. This March, a landslide killed dozens after heavy rains in Washington State. Just last week, widespread devastation occurred in the Florida Panhandle from rains that may have exceeded two feet in 24 hours; the exact total is unclear because the official rain gauge at Pensacola was knocked out by the storm. [...]

On rising sea levels, the new report went beyond warnings issued recently by the United Nations. That body’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in September that by the end of the century, sea levels could rise by as much as three feet globally if emissions continue at a rapid pace. The American scientists said the rise could be anywhere from one to four feet, and added that six feet could not be entirely ruled out. Along much of the East Coast, the situation will be worse than the global average because the land there is sinking, the scientists said.

The task for climate activists and for any politicians seeking action, including President Obama, is that these three big reports and hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific articles released in the past year run smack up against attitudes of Americans with other things on their mind. A Gallup Poll in March found, as it has for decades, that the environment in general and the climate in particular are low priorities across the nation. And, when it comes to climate chaos, the percentage of Americans who "worry a great deal" is at a 13-year low point.
There is a 26-point difference between Democrats and Republicans on this: 36 percent of Democrats worry a great deal and only 10 percent of Republicans do. But the overall percentage of Americans for whom climate change is a high priority remains a minority, which makes it easy for the powers-that-be to continue on their merry way.

Countering the campaign of words and deeds and money that the fossil-fuel industries and their marionettes in government have imposed on us will require a steady, focused effort and stepped-up work by activists.

Are we up to it? We know one thing for certain: Just a sliver of our current crop of leaders, Democrats as well as Republicans, are.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Tue May 06, 2014 at 08:15 AM PDT.

Also republished by Kitchen Table Kibitzing, Climate Change SOS, and Daily Kos.

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