Weekend reading: Supertyphoon Haiyan, environmental revolt, Red state public opinion


A few highlights from our weekend reading: Supertyphoon Haiyan and Superstorm Sandy “would not have been as severe in a world without warming,” writes Michael Mann, in calling for action on climate change. “The bottom line is this: climate change makes tropical storms more damaging.” Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia, predicts that America’s next political movement will be an “environmental revolt.” Will a mix of extreme storms, droughts, and heat waves provide the tipping point? From their recent experience with weather extremes, most Americans living in conservative states like Texas and Oklahoma acknowledge the problem and support action, new research by Prof. Jon Krosnick at Stanford finds — while their denialist representatives in Congress lag behind.

Michael Mann at EcoWatch on Super Typhoon Haiyan: Realities of a Warmed World and Need for Immediate Climate Action:

For now, super storms are still rare. However, models suggest more frequent and intense storms in a warmed world. …

The unusually deep, unusually warm pool of water that provided the initial fuel is unlikely to have existed in a world without warming. Global warming-induced sea level rise contributed to the 20-foot storm surges that caught victims off guard, much as it contributed to Sandy’s record 13-foot coastal surge that flooded substantial sections of New York and New Jersey. These events would not have been as severe in a world without warming.

But herein lies the crux—we no longer live in a world without warming. … [T]he bottom line is this: climate change makes tropical storms more damaging. …

Michael E. Mann is Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University and author of “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars”, now out in paperback.

Jeffrey D. Sachs in the Washington Post (Nov. 15 online, Nov. 17 print edition):  A few more storms like Typhoon Haiyan may finally make our leaders act on climate change

I predict that America’s next political movement will not be a tea party but an environmental revolt. Another spate of catastrophes, perhaps a mix of extreme drought, storms and heat waves — all to be dreaded but, alas, to be expected — could provide the tipping point. …

We will continue for a while longer, no doubt, in our lobbyist-induced paralysis. Many more communities around the world are likely to bury their dead in the wake of extraordinary floods, famines and storms. And then, finally, we will awaken to the new realities.

Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, is the author of “The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity.”

Suzanne Goldenberg in The Guardian, Nov. 13:

Majority of red-state Americans believe climate change is real, study shows

Study suggests far-reaching acceptance of climate change in traditionally Republican states such as Texas and Oklahoma

A vast majority of red-state Americans believe climate change is real and at least two-thirds of those want the government to cut greenhouse gas emissions, new research revealed on Wednesday.

The research, by Stanford University social psychologist Jon Krosnick, confounds the conventional wisdom of climate denial as a central pillar of Republican politics, and practically an article of faith for Tea Party conservatives. …

“To me, the most striking finding that is new today was that we could not find a single state in the country where climate scepticism was in the majority,” Krosnick said in an interview. …

[H]e said the findings suggest personal experiences of hot weather – especially in warm states in the south-west – persuaded Texans and others that the climate was indeed changing within their own lifetimes.

“Their experience with weather leaves people in most places on the green side in most of the questions we ask,” he said. …

[Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California:] “Americans are way ahead of Congress in listening to the scientists.”

Some 58% of Republicans in the current Congress deny the existence of climate change or oppose action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress.

Earlier posts:

21st Century climate extremes and the next “Greatest Generation”

Lowering approval ratings of climate science denialist lawmakers

McKibben on Keystone XL, the Obama problem, and fossil fuel divestment

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