Extreme weather is changing minds on climate

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Less than a year after extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy and severe droughts ravaged American communities, it was welcome news that President Obama included climate change adaptation as a central component of his new Climate Action Plan. Extreme weather is on the rise, and last year showed us far too often what can happen when we are not prepared.

Considering the trend, perhaps it is little wonder that a recent study from Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies is the latest to affirm a trend that’s been developing for some time: clear majorities of Americans increasingly believe extreme weather events are linked to climate change.

You can read the full report here, but here are a few highlights:

  • Nearly six in ten Americans believe climate change “is affecting weather in the United States.”
  • Just 10% of Americans don’t believe climate change is real.
  • Two out of three Americans believe the nation’s weather has grown worse in the past few years.
  • A large majority of Americans – 85% – say they experienced extreme weather in the last year.

That last point in particular may help explain why we’re seeing more people make a connection. Traditional messages about the dangers of a warming planet – a scary future for our grandchildren, rising sea levels, etc. – have long resonated with the environmental movement, of course. But they usually fall on deaf ears when directed at conservatives and moderates. Many people simply don’t relate to something that seems as big and remote – as “global” – as climate change.

But the increase in extreme weather means more and more people are able to see the impact firsthand, on their families and communities, of events like Hurricane Sandy and last year’s drought in the Midwest. It’s these real-world, observable, and sometimes local impacts that appear to be changing minds among Americans who used to be skeptical about climate change.

It’s good that more people are seeing the connection. But we still have a long way to go. The issue of climate change and its causes are still sharply divided along partisan lines. More than twice as many Democrats as Republicans believe there is scientific consensus that climate change is largely caused by human activity.

Still, the tragic and devastating consequences of extreme weather do appear to be conveying the dangers of climate change to new people. And hopefully Obama’s plan will prompt more conversations among all people – whatever their political stripes about the reality of climate change and what’s needed to stop it.

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Benjamin Schneider

Benjamin Schneider

Benjamin Schneider is a communications manager at Environmental Defense Fund, focusing on climate and clean air issues.  

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Recently This climate change has caused a devastating Cloud Burst in Uttarakhand,India. Many pilgrims were killed due to huge flow of river Ganga. Its a National crisis for India now.

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Ruby On Rails Developer

Flooding in China, extreme heat in Western US, out of control fires in Arizona (killed 19 firefighters), extreme heat in Alaska.

I would point out however that all this could be proving is that if you repeat a falsehood loud enough and long enough without counterbalancing it with the truth, eventually people start to believe it.

Of the 12 worst hurricanes in US history, the Florida Keys Hurricane in 1935, the Sea Islands Hurricane near Savannah Georgia in 1893, the Cheniere Caminada Hurricane of 1893, the San Felipe-Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928 and the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, all occurred BEFORE all the “troublesome” co2 levels that started in the 1980’s. “Honorable mention” should also be given to 1957’s Hurricane Audrey, 1969’s Hurricane Camille, and 1972’s Hurricane Agnes. In short, most of the worst hurricanes in US history can’t even remotely be connected to excessive atmospheric co2 levels.

The worst drought conditions the US ever faced was the dust bowl period of the 1930’s. We also had droughts in the Great Plains from 1950-1956 and the Northeastern Drought of 1962-1966. Again, all occurring BEFORE all the worrisome levels of atmospheric CO2 was reached in the mid ‘80’s.

Of the worst blizzards in US history, the Great Blizzard of 1888 over New England, the Great Blizzard of 1899, The White Hurricane of 1913, The Children’s Blizzard over the Dakota’s in 1888, the Great Appalachian Storm of 1950, the Knickerbocker Storm of 1922, the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940, and 1975’s Super Bowl Blizzard again, all BEFORE we “polluted the planet” with excessive CO2 in the mid-80’s.

In short, extreme weather “Happens” and, at least IMHO, it’s the height of arrogance to think that MAN has the ability and power to change the weather on a global scale for any length of time.

So then, why the hysterical alarmism over anthropogenic climate change? Follow the money; billions of dollars in government (and private) money being poured into research, billions of dollars of government and private money being spent on “green” energy programs, thousands of new government regulations to “curb” greenhouse gasses and the billions of dollars being spent to comply with those new regulations AND THERE HAS BEEN NO GLOBAL INCREASES IN TEMPERATURE IN 13 YEARS! There are far too few of us asking the question of whether this is a REAL crisis or simply a MANUFACTURED one for the benefit of lining the pockets of a select few with zillions of dollars extorted from a gullible public or gullible public servants with information and opinions that are usually flawed and often demonstrably false. We all need to make sure we properly vet our information sources, making sure that, before we rush lemming like over the anthropogenic alarmist cliff, we actually know where we’re going and why.

I AM "arrogant" enough to think that MAN (mankind)can alter the weather, kill off species of animals, plants, insects, flora, lakes, rivers and cover areas of the ocean the size of Texas with garbage. we are creating deserts at an alarming rate. I hope that you and other "deniers" get your "heads out of the sand" before it is too late for us to implement change.
When you talk about the money that this is making researchers and contractors, it is a mere fraction of the money that the coal and oil industry makes in a Month. When you talk about a "gullible public" You had better look in a mirror.

Fine. Next time you're at the sea shore, I suggest you put your power to the test and command the waves to stop.

You are actually a rude, naive idiot! I will be rude right back> Who pays you to think like this? The Koch Brothers? What oil company do you work for? I have not suggested that "I" can command the waves to stop. I do suggest that when a garbage mass the size of Texas hits the shore that "MAN" (mankind) created, it might stop the waves. I didn't see any response to how WE have caused species to be extinct, desertification caused by development, etc., Oh well, some people will never learn. It is a shame.

Really weak argument. What your saying is that there have always been big, nasty weather events, every few decades or so. When was the last decade where we had really bad floods, droughts, tornadoes, hurricanes, and thousands of heat records all basically on top of each other? What are the odds? Probably about the same as rolling craps with 5 pairs of dice, simultaneously.

Nice try at a counter argument. The answer to your question is that if you actually take the trouble to look at the statistics (which I only intimated in my post) you'll find that there really has been NO change in the frequency of extreme weather patterns as long as you're looking at a reasonable enough period to get a fair statistical sampling instead of cherry picking specific events like climate alarmist insist upon.

All I'm suggesting is that before we act like a bunch of lemmings following one another over the cliff, we actually do some REAL science to ascertain whether or not all the grief we're putting society through in order to "solve" what may be a mythical problem is really worth the effort AND will actually yield significant results. I haven't seen any indication that Man's actions are actually causing a systemic impact on the global climate, and there are a growing body of scientists with pretty impressive credentials that also take that position.

Yeah, if the statistically significant period goes back millions of years, you'd be right.

Read the first chapter of Bill McKibben's "Eaarth" [sic]. He lays out in a few pages what I have read many places, including ecology papers in peer-reviewed journals. The evidence is piled higher than oil company PR firm baloney. If you haven't seen "any indication," it's because you've had your head buried in the sand watching Fox news instead of reading real science. Ask Richard Muller what he thinks... now. I did. In person.

Sorry, I’m not buying it . . . .
And neither is Hal Lewis, an Emeritus Professor of Physics and former department chairman at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who resigned from the American Physical Society on Oct. 6, 2010. The principal reason was laid out in the following portion of the letter “For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.
It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist.” [See: http://www.thegwpf.org/hal-lewis-my-resignation-from-the-american-physic...

Nor is Dr. David Evans, who’s responsible for developing the carbon accounting model that Australia uses to track carbon in its biosphere, a mathematician & engineer w/6 university degrees, PhD from Stanford;
“If the Argo data showed a warming trend, don’t you suppose it would be publicized endlessly?
So what’s going on? Our best data, from satellites and Argo, says that both the air and oceans have not warmed for at least five years now. In the short term, some cooling force is overpowering the warming due to human emissions.
. . . It is worth bearing in mind that there is no actual evidence that carbon dioxide was the main cause of recent warming—it’s only an assumption, and the calculations of future temperature rises derive most of their warming from an assumed water vapor feedback for which there is only counter-evidence.” [See: http://www.globalresearch.ca/global-warming-or-global-cooling-a-new-tren...

And they’re not alone. The Petition Project [see: http://www.petitionproject.org/] lists 31,487 American scientists, 9,029 of whom have PhD’s, all of whom question whether human release of CO2 is causing or will cause catastrophic heating of the atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate, including such luminaries as Dr. S. Fred Singer, atmospheric physicist, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia, and former director of the US Weather Satellite Service as well as Dr. Frederick Seitz, past President, National Academy of Science, President Emeritus of Rockefeller University. Other notable global warming skeptics include the likes of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Dr. Ivar Giaever, 1973 Nobel prize winner in physics, UN IPCC lead author Richard Tol, UN IPCC scientist Eduardo Zorita, Dr. Antonio Zichichi, president of the World Federation of Scientists, Solar physicists Galina Mashnich and Vladimir Bashkirtsev, of the Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics of the Siberian Division of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Hendrik Tennekes, retired director of research, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.

To return to my earlier point, Michael Mann’s now debunked statistical models as well as the leaked e-mails from University of East Anglia that appear to show collusion on the part of leading climate scientists to manipulate and falsify data as well as acting to suppress dissenting opinions seriously calls into question the veracity of the existing body of climate science work.

We need to have real science being done by real scientists that believe in the scientific method, who welcome those who would challenge and put their theories to the test because THAT’S how real science is done and THAT’S how sound theories are developed. To take action to suppress dissenting voices and opinions such as the current crop of “climate experts” are doing isn’t science, my friend, it’s religion, and a pretty insecure one at that.

And by the way, you don’t need to go back millions of years to get a reasonable statistical sampling, just a few decades. I’ve been around long enough to actually remember newspaper headlines and magazine covers speculating that we were heading for a new ice age. That speculation occurred AFTER a steady rise in CO2 levels over a twenty year period. I would also point out that also predates Fox News. Furthermore, it’s pretty apparent that if you extend back a bit further to the 1920’s that you’re going to run into enough anomalous weather patterns to pretty well make hash of the theory that extreme weather is a phenomenon of just the last decade or two.

Mr. Stein – I agree that it is crucial that we base our actions on information that has been properly vetted. That's why climate change is an increasingly pressing concern for Americans. For decades, thousands of independent climate scientists across the world, and every major American scientific professional organization, have rigorously tested and proven that the climate change problem is real. There are nearly countless studies on the subject out there, but if you (or anyone else here in the comments) were looking for a study on the specific issue of climate change and its relationship to extreme weather, I might suggest you take a look at this paper from the National Academy of Sciences (an organization President George W. Bush called the "gold standard" for scientific judgment) on the subject. Link for NAS paper: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/07/30/1205276109

You are arrogant enough to suggest that 3% of the Scientists in the World have the correct answer? What kind of science are you looking at?