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Climate Hustle

The day after withdrawing from Paris, Trump declared a flooding disaster in Missouri

Posted on 6 June 2017 by John Abraham

I was debating this article. Should I write about the news that just occurred, or the news that will occur soon? I chose the past event – flooding in Missouri, USA. I will save a soon-to-collapse portion of the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica for my next article.

It’s sad, but true, that there are mounting ironies around Trump’s scientific ignorance on climate change and his ditching of the Paris Accord to reduce global warming. Scientists know the Earth is warming and that humans are the cause. One consequence of the warming is that weather is becoming more extreme. This means we are getting more extreme storms, including rain and floods. As our nation and the world suffers from the extreme weather, we can reflect on how things could have been different had our politicians heeded the warnings.

While President Trump’s pulling from the Paris treaty was worldwide news, what was not covered as well was his declaration the very next day that the state of Missouri is a disaster area because of flooding.

Why is flooding a symptom of warming? As air warms, it holds more moisture - it’s more humid. As the Earth warms, it means that the atmosphere holds more moisture year round. That moisture falls during storms as rain. What’s interesting is that the result is more of the most severe rains. That is, when it rains, it’s raining harder. Consequently, more flooding occurs. And we are seeing that across our nation. If you look at the trends in the most severe downpours, they are increasing – everywhere.

One example are the recent floods in Missouri, which occurred during the month of May. On or around May 24th, 2017, the Missouri governor requested disaster aid for 45 counties in the state. The president granted the aid on June 2nd. The federal aid will help the state recover from approximately $28 million in residential losses and $58 million in municipal damage. Images from the flood have been widely available online for people to witness the disaster.

This flood isn’t a single event. There has been much recent reporting on other floods in Missouri and elsewhere throughout 2015 and 2016. For instance, here describes flooding in August 2016 and the infamous December flood in 2015, which killed at least 13 people. The kinds of extreme weather we are seeing now will continue to get worse and cause far more damage in the future. This is but the tip of the iceberg.

Fortunately, there is something we can do about it. The two most important steps are mitigation and adaptation. We should mitigate against future climate change by quickly reducing our carbon pollution. We can accomplish this by using our energy more wisely and by increasing our generation of power from clean, renewable, sources. Secondly, we should start to plan the infrastructure of the future to handle more extreme storms and weather. Flood control systems, sea walls, robust electrical grids, etc. These can go a long way reducing the damage when extreme weather occurs.

But, it isn’t clear we will have such foresight. Not only do we have a president who is on a warpath to destroy our mitigation and adaptation efforts, but he is aided by people within states like Missouri. For instance, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt is a well-known denier of human-caused climate change. He has stated:

There isn’t any real science to say we are altering the climate path of the Earth. 

Say what? Missouri Representative Jason Smith has claimed:

The EPA uses the Air, Climate, and Energy program to advance research and regulations that are geared toward a climate change agenda.

Huh? What is a climate change agenda? Missouri Representative Vicky Hartzler said:

Enjoying another beautiful global warming day in Missouri.

A remnant organization of the prior USA president, Organizing for Action, also lists some of the most well known deniers and climate impacts on their states. For Missouri, it isn’t just the most recent years of flooding; the disasters have piled up for a while. For instance, as reported:

Click here to read the rest

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Comments

Comments 1 to 15:

  1. It's Missouri:  The flooding will continue until the gays stop getting married (/s).

    Not to hijack the conversation, but deniers often claim that a 2 C anomaly is 'not a big deal'.  I think the proper metric to mention, as to whether it is or not, is the temperature difference between our Holoscene and a full-blown ice age.  Because this is only 3 C (or 5.4 F).  Hence, as we are 1 C above pre-industrial, it may be helpful to state that as 'one-third of the way toward an ice age, but in the opposite direction'.  And a 2 C anomaly is 'two-thirds of the way'.  It's a way to make the temperature change visceral, because everybody knows that an ice age is completely different from the planet we're accustomed to: with ice sheets covering the entire Northern Hemisphere, and sea levels 300 feet lower than is current.

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  2. As usual the article completely ignored the simple fact that the flood and AGW are both symptoms of the very same thing. There is too much carbon in the atmosphere and not enough in the soil. In fact there is more carbon missing from the soil than extra in the atmosphere. That's why AGW mitigation and adaptation is exactly the same... and completely ignored by John Abraham.

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  3. I completely agree ubrew12. I've been saying this for a long time that most people do not realize that it does not take that much change in global temperature to produce an ice age, although I read it was 5-8 degrees. Since civilization was not able to develop until the end of the ice age, what should people think a 3-4 degree rise would do to civilization if that was explained.

    It’s completely frustrating to see the people the news networks put on their shows to explain global warming when they stutter and stammer about how scientists agree on global warming while the opposition will quickly say this or that survey shows no agreement and then launch into how the government will tax and how many jobs will be lost if we tax CO2. It’s sad but people are much more interested in hearing how their immediate life will be affected, especially when 2 degrees sounds like a slightly warmer day.

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  4. Hank@3: Thank you.  I was referring to Nobel prize winner (for studying superconduction in solids 50 years ago) Ivar Giaever (currently on Heartland Institutes payroll), claiming in his talk (6' in) that "from 1880 to 2013 temperature has increased from 288K to 288.8K (0.3%).  If this is true, to me it means the temperature has been amazingly stable."  To you?  You, sir, are not being asked (except in your own mind).  The question is: does a 0.3% change in global temperature, in absolute terms, matter to Earth?  As it turns out, h8ll yeah!  The difference between a holocene optimum and an ice age is only 1% (in Kelvin terms), so of course a 0.3% change is significant.  

    By the way, you mentioned that an ice age is 5-8 degrees colder than present, but that is in Fahrenheit.  In Celsius, or Kelvin, that is 2.8K to 4.5K.  As a percent, in absolute terms, the last ice age was about 1% colder than pre-industrial.  Meaning that today's temperature, at 0.3% hotter than pre-industrial, is kind of a 'big deal'.  Giaever was hoping that because it doesn't look like a 'big deal', as a number, it wouldn't physically be a 'big deal', to a planet.  The 'tell' is when he inserts himself into the judgement of whether its a 'big deal' or not.

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  5. For an insight and some shocks of what can potentially happen regarding temperature swings and sea level rise, a very good book is "After the Ice, a global history of human civilisation 20,000 - 5,000 bc, by Steven Mithen". Written by an archaeologist, it documents, among other things, climate change as the glaciers first started to retreat. Ironically the authors is a self confessed agw sceptic, but this should reassure the climate denialists  that at least his book is worth a read.

    The book includes archeological evidence for some very rapid periods of sea level rise of metres per century. It has fascinating things like  the discovery by divers of settlements many meteres below the Mediterranean ocean, and evidence in Australia of stone age villages relocating in step wise fashion, as sea levels rose. For some reason Australia appears to have had abrupt regional sea level rise at one point.

    Of course we are now at risk of triggering a rapid version of something similar and it will affect more than a few primitive villages, and population is just a little larger! We think sea level rise will be steady which is concerning enough, but cannot rule out the possibility of more rapid periods.

    But we are told god wont let it happen, (despite all those changes in the distant past) or its a big government conspiracy, etc, etc seemingly ad infinitum. When people dont like some new scientific idea, they are very inventive at coming up with an avalanche of sceptical criticisms, increasingly desperate ones.

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  6. ubrew @4 , it is perhaps rather unfair to use Nobel Laureate Ivar Giaever as a typical example of self-deluding ways of thinking about climate temperature changes.

    You reference the video of his talk to an assembly of young scientists (together with a number of Nobel Laureates) — a talk in which he confesses he took about a day of internet surfing to educate himself on the AGW issue [seemingly on WUWT website!!!!! ].   Giaever brought out all sorts of false and ridiculous arguments in classic "denier" style — arguments so infantile and unscientific, which surely could never have been made by him 40 years ago when he was in his prime.

    His address must have been painfully embarrassing for the young scientists to witness. ( And I myself couldn't bear to watch more than the first part of this recorded talk. )

    I would not wish to speculate on what has caused such a deterioration of Giaever's rationality : but presumably there was some pre-existing emotional bias that underlay his recent conversion to an anti-science way of thinking.

    Quite different is Lindzen's anti-science way of thinking.   Lindzen is influenced by an Old Testament idea that the planet was divinely created as a self-correcting mechanism (and which therefore inevitably cannot become seriously overheated).

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  7. I don't mean to pick on Giaever.  A climate-denying friend of mine posted his talk on facebook in response to a talk I posted by Elon Musk, following the Trump-Paris divorce.  Musk wasn't trying to defend the idea of climate change (because... why?), he was just talking about how to proceed with a solution (because... engineer).  But the response required me to wade into a swamp I didn't want to enter (because... can't let sleeping dogs lie), and this is what I determined.  Denial can't be so fragile that 5 minutes of thinking about a central claim, by someone not particularly invested with debunking ability, can unravel a 'Nobel-Prize-winner' foisted upon my friend by the Heartland Institute.  We are entering 'Alice-in-Wonderland' territory, here.  The underlying message is "we don't actually care if our talking-head is ridiculous upon closer examination.  He just has to have 'Nobel-Prize-winner' placed prominently before his name."  That's a really scary place to be.  My friend told me that if I couldn't handle push-back, I shouldn't be posting on facebook.  And really, that's the point.  Everyone: Heartland, Giaever, my friend.  They aren't about discussion, they're about self-censorship.  Heartland just needs 'Nobel-Prize-winner' before Giaever's name, and a bunch of fetid whack-a-mole arguments, and a syncophant saying 'if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen', to shut down the discussion... until Earth inconveniently brings it up again.

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  8. Eclectic @6, I don't understand why you would defend Ivar Gaiever. He is smart enough and highly qualified enough to know his claims were flippant and shallow. 

    Does he have a pre-existing emotional bias?  I have a suggestion: He is currently a science advisor to the Heartland Institute. This suggests to me he sympathises with their entire dubious libertarian and ultra conservative, small government world view, as I cannot believe anyone would work for them, if they didn't share that basic world view. He does not appear the sort who would struggle to find work, given his credentials! Of course he is free to state what his world view is, if he thinks I'm being unfair.

    I agree Lindzen is influenced by old testament beliefs. I wonder if Roy Spencer is as well, given things he has written.

    So we have two things associated with climate denial, religious fundamentalism and free market economic fundamentalism. Now theres an interesting coincidence!

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  9. Ubrew12 and Nigelj , please do not misunderstand me.   I was in no way wishing to be an apologist for Giaever.   He deserves only censure, for the arrant nonsense he was talking, and for his chutzpah in seeking to lecture experts in a [climate science] field in which he confesses himself a complete novice without any formal education.

    My point is that there are plenty of nominally-sane people (who are too young to have any likelihood of senile dementia) who present the "usual" denier arguments.   We can speculate on the angry and selfish motives underlying their thinking.  But I do not know Giaever's emotional background that may be influencing him in his twilight years.   Lindzen, on the other hand, expresses a [non-Christian] fundamentalist bias toward a religious view of a divinely-protected status of planet Earth.  This would appear to be at least part of his emotional baggage, impelling him toward his own strangely unscientific views [ strangely, for someone with climate science knowledge a million miles higher than Giaever's ].

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  10. Eclectic @9, thank's for the clarification on Giaver and its certainly possible that age is making him a little eccentric or something. We mostly all go that way eventually.

    Lindzen does as you say believe the planet is resilient and self correcting, but  I didnt realise he made a religious connection with this? He seems just more like a contrarian sort of character on all sorts of things.

    Anyway I just don't see Lindzens point, because the world is actually probably self correcting and nobody is arguing agw climate change will be permanent (although it will last millenia). It still poses a risk and cost for humanity for a very long time, and I think we are forced into a cost / benefit sort of consideration of what is the best response to the problem, which is pointing towards the desirability to reduce emissions. The fact that the planet will eventually re-absorb CO2 is no comfort for us because that process is so slow.

    I also think that while the probability of something truly hugely catastrophic is low, (like several metres of sea level rise per century), but this is of big enough potential impact that it needs very sober consideration.

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  11. Nigelj, I am not sure how far down the [what you call "eccentric"] pathway Lindzen is.  I base my comments on his expressions during a video interview he gave in 2006 when he was only 66 years old.  Having a non-Christian upbringing, it is presumably only the Old Testament fundamentalism which is behind his assertion that the Earth cannot be sliding upwards to devastatingly-high global temperatures.  He was full of denial : even though at the time of the interview, global surface temperatures and the accompanying effects of warming, were much higher at that stage than he wished to acknowledge.

    I certainly gained the impression of mild intellectual impairment — but that was merely based on the 40-minute interview (possibly a version edited by the interviewer, who sounded rather like a Heartland agent) and I dare say I viewed him through the lens of my own suspicions!   He did not seem (to me) to be such a florid case as Ivar Giaever or Fred Singer.

    But we are digressing off topic.

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  12. Ubrew12 I was referring to the ice core graphs I see on multiple websites which show a 5-8C drop in temperature. As an engineer that tries to keep abreast of climate science and has taken a few online courses on the subject I am limited in my understanding of the subject. However I do make a concentrated effort to study the subject and check several climate websites on a daily basis. So I will have to take your word for the 3C figure.

    With that said, I have tried my best to find information on whether those graphs show local temperatures or whether they have been adjusted somehow to show global temperatures. I wish there was a place on the web where someone that has these types of questions could go too in order to obtain answers that seem to be unavailable as general information. If anyone reading these comments know of such a site I would greatly appreciate a response.

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  13. It might be instructive to reflect on the simple tale of yore, "Chicken Little" (or "Henny Penny"). There appear to be a multitude of "the sky is falling" partisans when contemplating the ever-changing climate and guessing at the causes.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Vacuous sloganeering snipped. 

    Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right.  This privilege can be rescinded if the posting individual treats adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.

  14. Hank@12: I'm no expert.  I refer to a graph, which I linked to in my original post, and had seen before.  Here's the graph: 

    At least, according to this graph, the depth of the last several ice ages was 4 to 8 F below our holocene optimum.  So, choosing 6 F, that's why I said 3 C. 

    dfwlms@13:  The context for this discussion is flooding in Missouri, which as reported, killed 13 people a couple years ago.  We're trying to prevent further death and destruction.  That's not 'Chicken Little' behavior.  I, for one, do not think the 'sky will fall' from global warming, because I know the technologies that exist to combat it are technically feasible (though perhaps costly).  Realism is needed to determine when they need to be deployed, however.  I casually peg a decade from now as the moment when public opinion and purse will move to deploy these solutions en mass.  I believe we'll skirt the worst once everybody realizes how serious this is.

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  15. ubrew12 I have seen this exact same graph or something similar but the one's I've seen have always been in C. I think I can figure out how to insert a picture.

    Well I guess not. I have one on my hard drive but didn't see how to browse to it.

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