Owen Jones: Labour can’t turn it around by peddling misery. It must exude hope

From Clement Attlee to Ronald Reagan, the lesson of election success is clear: even in dark days, voters still crave optimism

What do Ronald Reagan and Spain’s radical Podemos party have in common? Little, you might imagine. The former was an unapologetic champion of letting the market run riot; the latter is, in part, a rebellion against that dogma. But both defined their contrasting philosophies in a similar way: with hope, optimism and empowerment. Reagan won two landslide elections; while less than two years after it was founded, Podemos – though still not in government – became one of Spain’s three major parties.

A cursory glance at opinion polls would suggest that, for any progressively minded person, talk of hope and optimism currently means delusion and denial. Labour has six weeks to chip away at a colossal Tory poll lead. The defeatist approach is to think it’s too late and people have already made up their minds.

Related: The myth of Ronald Reagan: pragmatic moderate or radical conservative?

Britain’s official leave campaign waged a campaign of fear, but its slogan – “Take back control”– cut through

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The Oldspeak Journal Biologist: “We’re losing them right now, we’re losing them really quickly, much more quickly than I think any of us ever could have imagined.”- Coral Reefs Rapidly Dying Worldwide

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Fish swim around bleached coral in the Great Barrier Reef in a photo taken on November 29, 2012. Rising oceanic acidity due to accelerated climate change has been killing the Reef and its inhabitants. (Photo: Robert Linsdell)

Oldspeak: “Species, ecosystems, glaciers, sea ice and humans themselves continue to absorb and pay for this human experiment of industrialization gone horribly awry. Many are paying with their very existence…Thanks to ACD, Earth has lost approximately half of all its coral reefs in just the last three decades. A quarter of all marine species depend on reefs. Reefs provide the sole source of protein for more than one billion people, and they are now vanishing before our eyes.”-Dahr Jamail

“Dahr Jamail is back with another devastating climate dispatch. Bearing witness to horrific realities here and now, and those to come. Climactic changes in general are happening decades faster than expected and with increasing severity around the globe. As Glaciologist Jeffrey Kargel obeserved; In general, drastically changing conditions do not help civilisation, which thrives on stability.” Civilization also depends on other species and rich biodiversity for survival, biodiversity that is rapidly being lost. Scientists have observed “Human survival, for urban and rural communities, depends on other life on Earth, climate change is impelling a universal redistribution of life on Earth.” Vast, ancient incubators of  most of the world’s biodiversity, oceans & forests, are dying as I type. As these and other essential life-support systems continue to destabilize & collapse while irreplaceable resources like water and arable land are depleted, human survival & that of much of life on Earth becomes that much less likely. Earth’s 6th mass extinction proceeds apace. We are not immune. Read it and weep.” -OSJ

By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

I’ve been writing these climate dispatches every month for over three years, and each successive dispatch becomes more difficult to write than the last, as the impacts of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) become increasingly severe.

Species, ecosystems, glaciers, sea ice and humans themselves continue to absorb and pay for this human experiment of industrialization gone horribly awry. Many are paying with their very existence.

Two months ago, I spent some time researching and writing in Australia. I visited the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), where I reveled in the majesty of intact towering coral structures flourishing with marine life. Yet I was also devastated during this visit — again and again, I happened upon bleached out and silently dead areas of barren coral wasteland, which not long ago teemed with living beings. Roughly 20 percent of the coral on the outer reef were already bleached, and on their way towards death.

While snorkeling on the reef during the last afternoon I was there, the signal from the boat to return was given. It was late afternoon, and time to head back to land. I took several long deep breaths, supersaturated my lungs with sea air, and dove down 30 feet to the coral. I swam alongside mostly intact coral structures in all their brilliant colors, teeming with fish. Having interviewed and snorkeled with GBR experts all day, I was preparing to break the story of this year’s GBR bleaching event. I knew the reef was likely on its way out of existence, stunning as that may seem, given that the GBR is the single largest coral ecosystem on the planet, spanning 1,400 miles and easily visible from space. Coral reefs can rebuild from bleaching events, but typically need 10-15 years between events in order to recover. This was the second mass bleaching event in the last two years, and there was no sign of a let up.

I swam with the coral, taking the scene into my soul, staying down until my lungs burned for air. I swam longer, holding my hands out towards the coral, feeling it, knowing this was most likely to be my farewell to the brilliant corals of the dying Great Barrier Reef.

Swimming up to the surface a deep gasp refilled my lungs. I peeled off my mask and wiped my tears, then began my swim back to the boat.

Several weeks later Eyewitness News in Australia reported on scientists giving the GBR a “terminal prognosis” unless ACD is slowed dramatically. By April, scientists were in shock, realizing that two-thirds of the entire reef was now bleached out. Some of them declared the GBR had reached a “terminal stage,” describing the situation as “unprecedented.”

Thanks to ACD, Earth has lost approximately half of all its coral reefs in just the last three decades. A quarter of all marine species depend on reefs. Reefs provide the sole source of protein for more than one billion people, and they are now vanishing before our eyes.

Scientists are now speculating that an era of terminal global coral bleaching might have already arrived, decades earlier than previously expected. The recent bleaching events are so severe, there is no analog in the thousands of years of ancient coral cores scientists use to study past bleaching events.

“This isn’t something that’s going to happen 100 years from now. We’re losing them right now,” marine biologist Julia Baum of Canada’s University of Victoria told the AP. “We’re losing them really quickly, much more quickly than I think any of us ever could have imagined.”

Meanwhile, the World Meteorological Organization released its annual State of Global Climate report, stating that record-breaking ACD impacts have pushed the planet into “uncharted territory.”

“Earth is a planet in upheaval due to human-caused changes in the atmosphere,” glaciologist Jeffrey Kargel told The Guardian of the report. “In general, drastically changing conditions do not help civilisation, which thrives on stability.”

As the reefs are dying, ice is rapidly melting away in the globe’s northernmost regions. Arctic sea ice has set a low record for the third year in a row, and March data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center showed that that month was the sixth in a row of near-record or record-low sea ice extents.

To add a startling layer of context for all of this, a report titled “Future climate forcing potentially without precedent in the last 420 million years” was published in the journal Nature Communications. The study found that if fossil-fuel use continues unchecked, the atmosphere could revert “to values of CO2 not seen since the early Eocene (50 million years ago)” by the middle of the 21st century.

Dana Royer, a paleoclimate researcher and coauthor of the study, told Climate Central, “The early Eocene was much warmer than today: global mean surface temperature was at least 10°C (18°F) warmer than today. There was little-to-no permanent ice. Palms and crocodiles inhabited the Canadian Arctic.”

Earth

The rapidly changing climate is already taking a palpable toll on human health. In February, scientists warned that increasingly severe droughts across the US over the next three decades may double the size of epidemics of the West Nile Virus. “We thought epidemics would coincide with the most ideal temperatures for (virus) transmission,” Marm Kilpatrick, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said in a statement released to the media.

“Instead, we found that the severity of drought was far more important nationally.”

study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science has warned that ACD will damage the US’s ability to maintain agricultural productivity, as rising temperatures and increasing droughts that plague areas where US food is grown are only going to increase. The study has warned that, without changes, US agricultural productivity will, by 2050, fall back to 1980 levels (for a population that was 114 million less than today’s).

Another recent study showed, distressingly, that as the planet warms, some mammals might actually shrink in size. The study provided evidence that the amount those mammals shrink is directly related to how warm the planet becomes.

In the Arctic, signs of major shifting are afoot. Botanists studying the area have warned that ACD has taken root within the plants on which many Indigenous communities depend. Botanists, along with Indigenous peoples in Nunavik, have noted that Labrador tea, which they rely upon to treat ailments like skin problems, coughs and colds, is far weaker now than it used to be, hence, far less medicinal.

Another man pointed out that, “Willows used to be stubby and sort of short, like knee high. They can now be eight feet tall, and are growing like wildfires for the last 10 to 15 years, maybe longer.” He also noted that ponds are drying up, along with the ducks who used to use them. Instead, he said, pelicans and snakes are appearing. “Before, they never existed here,” he said. Native people living in the Arctic are also noting that tree rings are wider, because the growing season is now longer.

Meanwhile, down in Australia, more than 1,000 kilometers of mangrove forests “died of thirst” during a single month from extreme conditions, including record high temperatures, driven largely by ACD.

Speaking of forests in trouble, scientists have warned that the Amazon jungle is facing a possible death spiral due to the deadly trifecta of industry, agriculture and ACD impacts.

A recent study, titled “Biodiversity redistribution under climate change: Impacts on ecosystems and human well-being,” has shown that ACD is literally reshuffling the areas and ranges of plants and animals around the planet, with profound consequences for humanity. “Human survival, for urban and rural communities, depends on other life on Earth,” the scientists wrote in their study that was published in the journal Science. “Climate change is impelling a universal redistribution of life on Earth.”

Positive feedback loops are one of the most important things to understand about abrupt ACD. The most well-known example of one of these is the melting Arctic sea ice. Intact sea ice reflects most solar heating back into space. As the ice melts, more of the ocean absorbs that heat, which melts more of the ice, which causes more heating, and on it goes.

In Canada, a recent scientific study has unearthed another climate feedback loop — this one coming in the form of vast expanses of farmland being exposed by melting snow and ice over longer amounts of time that then make a larger contribution to greenhouse gases and ACD. According to the study, the thawing of previously frozen cropland is burping nitrous oxide into the atmosphere at rates much greater than previously thought, which means that agriculture’s role in generating greenhouse gases has been greatly underestimated.

On a similar note, recent research has shown that ACD could thaw far more permafrost than was previously expected. The study showed that more than 40 percent of Earth’s frozen tundra could unfreeze if global temperatures continue trending upward.

Water

This month, the signs of how rapidly ACD is progressing in the watery realms are glaring and painful.

A report published in March shows that, according to the UN, the world is facing the widest and deepest humanitarian crisis since the end of WWII, as 20 million people face starvation and famine in Somalia, Nigeria, Yemen and South Sudan, with no end in sight.

Underscoring this crisis, another report from this spring has provided evidence that the Middle East and North Africa risk becoming uninhabitable within a few decades, due to lack of accessible fresh water, which has already fallen by two-thirds over the last 40 years.

The 22 countries impacted by this growing water crisis are home to nearly 400 million people, who are also impacted by lack of adequate water for agriculture and food production for their populations that are continuing to grow rapidly.

According to the report, per capita availability of fresh water across this region is already 10 times less than that of the world average, and ACD-driven higher temperatures may shorten growing seasons across the region by 18 days. At current trends, this would reduce agricultural yields another 27 percent — meaning a decrease of 55 percent by 2100, despite rising populations.

Meanwhile, conditions in the ocean are looking increasingly grim.

An algae bloom the size of Mexico in the Arabian Sea reminded people there of a 2008 bloom that killed 50 tons of fish that were starved of oxygen. The fish that inhabit the Gulf of Arabia sustain 120 million people.

As mentioned in the beginning of the dispatch, the Great Barrier Reef is struggling to survive amidst yet another major coral bleaching event. “We didn’t expect to see this level of destruction to the Great Barrier Reef for another 30 years,” Terry Hughes, director of an Australian government-funded center for coral reef studies at James Cook University told the New York Times. “In the north, I saw hundreds of reefs — literally two-thirds of the reefs were dying and are now dead.”

Even the once-pristine Maldives are seeing their coral succumbing to mass bleaching.

And there are no signs of this disturbing trend slowing down. A study published in March revealed that Earth’s oceans are now warming 13 percent faster than they were in 1990, and the rate is accelerating. Another report showed that the rate of oceanic warming has nearly doubled over two decades, and the heat being added to them is reaching into even deeper waters.

Earlier this month, a report revealed that approximately one-third of the Arctic Ocean is, in an astonishingly rapid transition, becoming more like the Atlantic Ocean as warm waters streaming into the Arctic are altering both its productivity and chemistry.

Yet another issue besetting the Arctic due to runaway ACD is ocean acidification, according to another recently published study on the subject. It’s quite simple actually: As increasing amounts of sea ice melt, an increasing amount of ocean is exposed to the CO2-loaded atmosphere. More CO2 is therefore absorbed into the once-pristine waters, thus increasing their acidification, with dire consequences to the biome.

NOAA reported in February that sea ice in both the Arctic and Antarctic had shrunk to record lows, and it became clear that ACD was on pace to wipe out an Ice Age remnant, Canada’s Laurentide Ice Sheet. It is worth noting that this has not happened in 2.6 million years.

In early April more than 400 icebergs drifted into North Atlantic shipping lanes, an unusually large swarm for that time of year. These kinds of numbers are usually not seen until late May, and the average number of icebergs for the time of year this occurred is around 80. The massive flotilla of icebergs was released thanks to the melting of the Jakobshavn, the largest glacier in Greenland. Scientists reported recently that Jakobshavn is now even more vulnerable to ice losses than previously believed.

Scientists also pointed out that the dramatic melting of the Arctic sea ice is already affecting weather patterns around the world by generating more extreme weather events.

Fire

In an astonishingly short period of time, Peru has gone from experiencing record wildfires to record flooding. “We’ve rarely seen this kind of rapid and quick change in climatic conditions,” Peru’s Civil Defense Institute member Juber Ruiz told The Guardian.

The wildfires burned furiously from September through November, as the Peruvian Amazon experienced its driest period in two decades, and more than 100,000 acres of rainforest and farm land burned. Then, in January, the droughts gave way to record-setting rains, which killed dozens and destroyed more than 12,000 homes as more than 175 districts around the country had to declare a state of emergency.

In March, in the US, a wildfire near Boulder, Colorado signaled an early kick-off to wildfire season when it forced the evacuation of 1,000 people.

At the time of this writing, wildfires across the US were already off to a furious start, with more than 2 million acres having burned. That number of acres burned is approximately 10 times the average for the time of year it was tabulated, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Air

recently published study, led by climate scientist Michal Mann, has shown that the ACD-fueled jet stream is linked to extreme weather events like massive floods and intense heatwaves. Jet streams are fast-flowing major air currents in the atmosphere that have a major impact on climate and weather patterns. The study showed that greenhouse gas buildup in the atmosphere is slowing down planetary atmospheric waves, resulting in regional summer climate extremes, examples of which include the deadly 2003 European heat wave, extensive wildfires across Siberia in 2010, and record-breaking flooding in Pakistan in 2010.

Looking at the Canadian north, another recent study has revealed a massive thawing area of permafrost covering 52,000 square miles (an area the size of Alabama), where expansive areas of permafrost are literally disintegrating before the eyes of the scientists studying them. As they disintegrate, they are releasing massive amounts of stored carbon into the atmosphere. The study, carried out by researchers with the Northwest Territories Geological Survey found that the permafrost collapse is intensifying and causing landslides into rivers and lakes that can eventually lead to the choking off of life far downstream. Similarly expansive Arctic landscape changes are already evident across huge areas of Alaska, Siberia and Scandinavia, and scientists already estimate that there is twice as much carbon in the world’s permafrost as there is already in the atmosphere.

Another major study released recently has predicted that ACD will bring air temperatures to Vancouver, Canada similar to — and even exceeding — those in San Diego, California, “in the coming decades.” The study predicts that daytime temperatures in metro-Vancouver will increase 6C by the 2080s, and the city will have to transform itself with requisite air conditioning, melted ski slopes and infrastructure to deal with new sewage problems.

Melting permafrost has created a formation in the Siberian Arctic known as the “doorway to hell,” a giant half-mile-long and 282-foot-deep crater that continues to grow in area and depth. Scientists, worried about what this means for the future of permafrost across the Arctic, are studying the crater, which continues to grow with each successive year and release more and more stored carbon as it does.

Very early spring in the US saw heat spreading across Colorado and other locations, with that phenomenon contributing to increased wildfire risk. The untimely heat extended from the Central US to the Desert Southwest. There, cities like Phoenix experienced summer-like heat long before they used to reach those temperature levels.

Other temperature anomalies continued: The science news service Phys.org reported that even without an El Niño warming ocean waters this year, Earth warmed to its second hottest temperature ever during February, second only to — you guessed it — last year. Earth also experienced its second hottest winter in the history of record keeping. It is worth noting that in the past, Earth did not approach record warm temperatures without an active El Niño — but this year it did just that, and on every single continent.

Thus far, 2017 is in the running to be one of the hottest years on record — following three consecutive years of record-breaking temperatures — due to the highest volume of heat-trapping gases filling Earth’s atmosphere in all of the past 4 to 15 million years, coupled with a dramatic warming of Pacific Ocean surface waters. These forces, and this warming, are obviously continuing into 2017.

How will the US government respond to these clear and terrifying trends?

Denial and Reality

As usual in the Trump era of US politics, there is no shortage of news on the ACD-denial front.

In March, during this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), multiple seminars attempted to make the case that more CO2 in the atmosphere is actually a good thing. One of the presenters told a reporter from Breitbart, “The Earth is in a far better place today” because of increased CO2 levels.

Meanwhile, Trump has been active in reversing Obama’s ACD policy legacy, meager as that was to begin with. Trump called Obama’s ACD policies “stupid,” and has gone on to scrap funding for ACD research, slash the EPA’s budget by 31 percent, appoint an oil and gas man (Scott Pruitt) as the head of that embattled agency, promote coal, and reverse Obama’s plan to close heavily polluting power plants.

Trump’s anti-ACD-mitigation efforts are on track to ensure the US misses its (non-binding) Paris Climate Agreement target of emissions reductions, with one analyst pegging the target shortfall at more than one billion metric tons of CO2.

The corporate media has consistently maintained complicity in active ACD denial. According to a study by Media Matters, the major networks spent a grand total of 50 minutes on ACD coverage during the entirety of 2016. That pathetic amount was a 66 percent drop in coverage from 2015.

Meanwhile, geoengineering advocates are entering the Trump administration, and bringing with them their plans to spray sun-reflecting chemicals into the atmosphere. Advocates of geoengineering argue for planetary-scale manipulations of Earth systems in order to cool the Earth. Most scientists oppose the philosophy and practice of geoengineering, given the high likelihood of unintended consequences that will ultimately only intensify the impacts of ACD.

Back in the real world, in an example of how topsy-turvy things have become, 17 Republican lawmakers have backed a resolution urging action on ACD, and Trump’s Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis has cited ACD as a national security challenge.

To close out this month’s dispatch on a sobering note, consider the results of a recent study published in Nature Geoscience: For the second year in a row, CO2 in the atmosphere — the primary driver of ACD — is now rising at the fastest rate ever recorded.

 

 

 

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Owen Jones: Labour has a real Brexit alternative. Now it must get the message to voters | Owen Jones

The party will ensure that workers, consumers and the environment are protected. There will be no blank cheque for a reckless Tory Brexit

Labour will rip up Theresa May’s Brexit plan but respect the referendum result. The benefits of the single market and the customs union will be on the table. EU nationals will be protected from day one. Human beings won’t be bargaining chips. The great repeal bill will be scrapped; Labour will introduce a EU rights and protections bill instead. All workers’, consumers’ and environmental rights will be protected. Much of the country craves unity: Labour will offer it. A “Brexit that brings people together,” not a “reckless Tory Brexit”. MPs will get a final say. If they reject the deal, Labour will return to the negotiating table.

These are Labour’s key lines on Brexit, unveiled today by Keir Starmer. They now have to be repeated ad infinitum: preferably in a pithier, snappier form than above. What the Tories get – particularly under the ruthlessly effective Lynton Crosby – is message discipline. If you want a message to cut through, you have to repeat it, over and over and over and over again, until your opponents are pleading with you to shut up. If you don’t define yourself, you’ll be defined by your opposition. We all know Tory lines off by heart – clearing up Labour’s mess, long-term economic plan, that kind of thing – as do voters, who often repeat them verbatim on the doorstep. The Tories clearly define both themselves and their opposition.

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The Oldspeak Journal Scientist: “Its pretty depressing that it’s only a couple of years since the 400 ppm milestone was toppled” – Global CO2 Emissions Just Breached 410ppm, Level Unseen In Millions Of Years

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Oldspeak:” Just 4 years ago, we watched Earth’s CO2 levels rocket past 400ppm and now quite a short time later we’re at 410ppm, and levels are ACCELERATING. “The rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last ice age…This is a real shock to the atmosphere.” The changes to Earth’s climate are occurring at a pace that cannot be adapted to with known current technology. We are experiencing an atmosphere that has not existed on earth for millions of years. Can we really expect carbon levels to “level off” any time soon, given the current political and economic conditions? And if by some miracle that even happens,  the effects of are expected to extend hundreds of years into the future. Pretty depressing, indeed. Happy 4/20! PUFF PUFF GIVE KIDS!” -OSJ

 

Written By Brian Kahn @ Climate Central:

The world just passed another round-numbered climate milestone. Scientists predicted it would happen this year and lo and behold, it has.

On Tuesday, the Mauna Loa Observatory recorded its first-ever carbon dioxide reading in excess of 410 parts per million (it was 410.28 ppm in case you want the full deal). Carbon dioxide hasn’t reached that height in millions of years. It’s a new atmosphere that humanity will have to contend with, one that’s trapping more heat and causing the climate to change at a quickening rate.

In what’s become a spring tradition like Passover and Easter, carbon dioxide has set a record high each year since measurements began. It stood at 280 ppm when record keeping began at Mauna Loa in 1958. In 2013, it passed 400 ppm. Just four years later, the 400 ppm mark is no longer a novelty. It’s the norm.

“Its pretty depressing that it’s only a couple of years since the 400 ppm milestone was toppled,” Gavin Foster, a paleoclimate researcher at the University of Southampton told Climate Central last month. “These milestones are just numbers, but they give us an opportunity to pause and take stock and act as useful yard sticks for comparisons to the geological record.”

Earlier this year, U.K. Met Office scientists issued their first-ever carbon dioxide forecast. They projected carbon dioxide could reach 410 ppm in March and almost certainly would by April. Their forecast has been borne out with Tuesday’s daily record. They project that the monthly average will peak near 407 ppm in May, setting a monthly record.

Carbon dioxide concentrations have skyrocketed over the past two years due to in part to natural factors like El Niño causing more of it to end up in the atmosphere. But it’s mostly driven by the record amounts of carbon dioxide humans are creating by burning fossil fuels.

“The rate of increase will go down when emissions decrease,” Pieter Tans, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said. “But carbon dioxide will still be going up, albeit more slowly. Only when emissions are cut in half will atmospheric carbon dioxide level off initially.”

Even when concentrations of carbon dioxide level off, the impacts of climate change will extend centuries into the future. The planet has already warmed 1.8°F (1°C), including a run of 627 months in a row of above-normal heat. Sea levels have risen about a foot and oceans have acidified. Extreme heat has become more common.

All of these impacts will last longer and intensify into the future even if we cut carbon emissions. But we face a choice of just how intense they become based on when we stop polluting the atmosphere.

Right now we’re on track to create a climate unseen in 50 million years by mid-century.

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The Oldspeak Journal Human Climate Impact Now Reaches High Into Stratosphere, Disrupting Giant Jet Streams, As Earth Warms

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Over the Gulf of Alaska: The long band is probably the remains of a jet stream cloud. Image: Courtesy of NASA Johnson Space Center via Wikimedia Commons

Oldspeak: “Warming driven by carbon dioxide emissions from car exhausts and power stations, they argue, tends to make these giant oscillating waves stall in their journey around the hemisphere – to create enduring episodes of high and low pressure and lingering hazards of drought and flood.” –Tim Radford

“Yep, heedless human activities are fucking with multiple critical planetary cycles; the water cycle, the biogeochemical cycle come most readily to mind.  Add this one to the list. To anyone living in Syria, California, Bangladesh or Saudi Arabia this isn’t really news, it’s been the new normal for some time now. Devastating 1,000 year floods. Crippling and persistent drought. Extreme climactic changes in the blink of any eye. Expect this trend to continue & the weather events to intensify as human & natural carbon emissions are steadily increasing globally with no end in sight.” -OSJ

 

Written By Tim Radford @ Inside Climate News:

The warming of the atmosphere by greenhouse gases is slowing the jet streams which drive the northern hemisphere’s weather, scientists say. 

LONDON, 9 April, 2017 – Researchers have once again linked a sequence of devastating climate events to global warming fuelled by prodigal human use of fossil fuels. And this time, they believe they have identified the agency behind the blazing summers that have claimed lives and destroyed livelihoods repeatedly during this century.

They argue in the journal Scientific Reports that human impact on the climate now reaches high into the stratosphere, to influence the behaviour patterns of the giant jet streams that carry heat and moisture around the northern hemisphere, and keep the weather on the move.

Warming driven by carbon dioxide emissions from car exhausts and power stations, they argue, tends to make these giant oscillating waves stall in their journey around the hemisphere – to create enduring episodes of high and low pressure and lingering hazards of drought and flood.

“The unprecedented 2016 California drought, the 2011 US heatwave and 2010 Pakistan flood as well as the 2003 European hot spell all belong to a most worrying series of extremes,” says Michael Mann from Pennsylvania State University in the US.

“Human activity has been suspected of contributing to this pattern before, but now we uncover a clear fingerprint of human activity”

“The increased incidence of these events exceeds what we would expect from the direct effects of global warming alone, so there must be an additional climate change effect. In data from computer simulations as well as observations, we identify changes that favour unusually persistent, extreme meanders of the jet stream that support such extreme weather events.

“Human activity has been suspected of contributing to this pattern before, but now we uncover a clear fingerprint of human activity.”

Professor Mann has repeatedly confirmed the link between human action and climate change. His co-author Dim Coumou of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and the VU University in Amsterdam in the Netherlands has separately linked storm tracks to surface temperature extremesmade a connection between torrential rains and planetary warming, and confirmed too that less stormy weather is not necessarily a good sign, because it could be the harbinger of heat waves.

And the researchers now have support for their their suspicions: the jet streams that sweep the hemisphere in huge atmospheric waves, plunging between Arctic and tropics, bring changes of weather.

If they should stall, one region may be committed to long drought, dangerous hot weather (as in Russia in 2010 and Texas in 2011) and even forest fires as in California in 2015) – or, in some cases, catastrophic and sustained rainfall of the kind that flooded Pakistan in 2010.

Questions remain

No single extreme event could ever be satisfactorily and conclusively linked to a long-term trend like global warming. But once scientists register an increasing frequency of such events, they can start to use climate simulations to see if such events become more likely in a warming world.

“The more frequent persistent and meandering jet stream state seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon, which makes it even more relevant,” said Dr Coumou. “We certainly need to further investigate this – there is some good evidence, but also many open questions.”

And Professor Mann said: “The warming of the Arctic, the polar amplification of warming, plays a key role here. The surface and lower atmosphere are warming more in the Arctic than anywhere else on the globe.

“That pattern projects onto the very temperature gradient profile that we identify as supporting atmospheric waveguide conditions.” – Climate News Network

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