9 january 2013

[4C note: for the graphics in this article, see the Reader Supported News publication.]

Frankenyear 2012: Hottest on Record

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment, Reader Supported News, 09 January 2013

Can we sue the Koch brothers and all the other dirty-energy, climate change-denying moguls yet for the billions they are costing us in climate disasters every year because of their poisonous carbon emissions?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that:

"2012 marked the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States with the year consisting of a record warm spring, second warmest summer, fourth warmest winter and a warmer-than-average autumn. The average temperature for 2012 was 55.3°F, 3.2°F above the 20th century average, and 1.0°F above 1998, the previous warmest year."

The temperatures set records in 19 states and they were warmer than average in all of the lower 48.

Frankenyear was also the 2nd most destructive on record, lashing the nation with 11 catastrophes that reached at least $1 bn. in losses - including hurricanes, drought, wildfires, tornadoes and the great storm surge in New York City. Hurricanes are fed by warm water, and warmer water makes them more destructive and longer-lasting. It was the unusual warmth of the ocean off the New York coast that allowed Sandy to strike up there with such force. The average surface temperature of the earth has increased one Centigrade degree (1.8 Fahrenheit degrees) in the past century, and is heading for a calamitous 4 C. degrees increase in this century.

It was the 15th driest year on record. In summer of 2012, a massive drought smothered 61% of the country. Hawaii likewise was extremely dry, with drought in 63.3% of the state. On the mainland, wildfires raged through 9.2 million acres of forest, the third highest on record. The Mississippi River is so low that bigger river ships can't go out on it, stretches of it are deserted like a 'ghost town,' and some of it could be closed altogether as it heads below 3 feet in depth. Ironically, the Mississippi carries a lot of hydrocarbons like petroleum, the very fuels that are causing its current travails.

ABC reports, and actually does a snippet mention of man-made climate change, though in the recommendations for what to do, they focus on things like buying flood insurance and 'becoming more energy efficient' instead of simply calling for vastly lowered carbon dioxide emissions.

Climate is extremely complex. We may yet see some cold years. There is some thinking that the melting of ice at the poles could temporarily cool the oceans and reduce temperatures for a while. But the longer term trend is not only toward hotter, it is toward a kind of hotter that human beings may find it difficult to survive.

What can be done to forestall this coming set of global disasters?

1.Tax carbon emissions.
2.Close all coal plants as soon as humanly possible.
3.Move rapidly, as Germany and Scotland are, toward wind, and solar, and wave and other renewables ( geothermal, new hydroelectric, etc.). Any government subsidies, stimulus, tax breaks that could possibly be provided for this would save trillions in climate damage down the road (and not that far from now).
4.Call out corporations, states, and countries that decline to reduce their emissions on a short time scale; as public attitudes change, especially on the bench, it may be possible to begin suing them successfully for the property damage they are doing (English law in the Lockean tradition is very good about protecting property).
5.Disinvest from Big Oil and Big Carbon generally.
6.Municipalities and counties should take matters into their own hands, as with Sacramento, CA and now Boulder, Co.. They should abandon electric utilities that depend heavily on coal, and generate green electricity for their city.

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