So as I sit here in Upstate New York preparing for Hurricane Sandy by wearing a turtleneck and eating delicious, piping hot bbq braised pork cutlets ($6.50 on sale at the supermarket, what a find!), and drinking a cheap, 2009 California Merlot ($9.99 at my local liquor store), I started thinking about how rare it is that New York gets hit with two hurricanes consecutively in two years. New York isn’t exactly known for its hurricane season. We’re much better known for having terrible hockey teams, dysfunctional state government, and until recently, the harshest drug laws in the U.S.
As it turns out, it’s not that rare at all: New York has been hit by its share of Hurricanes over the years, and it’s nothing to be *that* worried about. I know this because Wikipedia has a page for everything now, including the number of times New York has been hit by hurricanes.
What is, interesting, however, is that this storm has been billed as the biggest storm to ever come out of the Atlantic. While it’s only a Category 1 Storm, it is over 1,000 miles wide from end to end (see previous link). That’s serious business. If nothing else, it’s an indication that Mother Nature is no longer f#$%ing around.
Of course, one has to wonder why Mother Nature no longer wants to put up with our collective sh!t. We’ve had a host of unusually extreme weather events recently: the 2010 Wildfires in Russia are a great example. We recently had a Summer heat wave that broke hundreds of records nationwide. What’s more, scientists have been steadily updating their predictions about how soon we will have an iceless Arctic Summer. The predictions are only going in one direction: sooner rather than later, if current trends are not reversed.
The increase in frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events is one of the calling cards of Climate Change. James Hansen, a climate scientist with NASA, published a study earlier this year with the National Academy of Sciences addressing this issue. I want to quote from the abstract (h/t MohandasGandhi):
Climate dice,” describing the chance of unusually warm or cool seasons, have become more and more “loaded” in the past 30 y, coincident with rapid global warming. The distribution of seasonal mean temperature anomalies has shifted toward higher temperatures and the range of anomalies has increased. An important change is the emergence of a category of summertime extremely hot outliers, more than three standard deviations (3σ) warmer than the climatology of the 1951–1980 base period. This hot extreme, which covered much less than 1% of Earth’s surface during the base period, now typically covers about 10% of the land area. It follows that we can state, with a high degree of confidence, that extreme anomalies such as those in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010 were a consequence of global warming because their likelihood in the absence of global warming was exceedingly small. We discuss practical implications of this substantial, growing, climate change.
In other words, extreme weather events are becoming more extreme and more frequent. Mind you this is not a “politicized” report. It was not commissioned by Al Gore or the Koch Brothers. It is a group of scientists reporting their findings to the National Academy of Sciences. Although a Climate Change study which the Koch Brothers did pay for, much to the surprise of its proprietors, found that their data confirmed, rather than disproved the existence of anthropomorphic Climate Change (fancy that!).
This recent increase in frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events is going to become the new normal without concerted action on the part of nation states around the world. This is not just a government conspiracy or an attempt to politicize climate science. You don’t need to take my word for it either: Private insurers around the world are already planning for the effects of climate change on their bottom line. U.S. insurers petitioned Congress earlier this year asking them to take action on Climate Change. Insurance giant AIG now has an entire branch dedicated to Climate Change. What we are seeing is a mass movement on the part of large private businesses to change their business models in reaction to the effects of Climate Change. As hilarious as Manbearpig may be, it strains credibility to assert that an entire global industry—whose business is managing risk—has been hoodwinked by political conspirators and junk science.
The more important point is this: the argument that Climate Change legislation will just add costs to private business no longer holds weight in a world where people who insure risk for a living are telling us that doing nothing will increase those costs even more. We are now at the point where Climate Change is clearly and visibly increasing the cost of doing business worldwide. Being pro-business in this environment means taking steps to slow (and hopefully one day, stop) the impact of Climate Change. It’s time that we acknowledged it and started to act like it.
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