Thursday, January 15, 2009

Climate Change in Katine, Uganda and elsewhere

2007 surface temperature changes compared to base years 1951-1980 average, from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies

There are still millions of Americans who don't wish to pay any serious attention to what climate scientists are telling us about climate change. Every cold snap has denial mongers like Rush Limbaugh shouting their wares from the rooftops. "How can it be global warming if Iowa is freezing this winter?" they say.

First up, as Holdren says in the movie below, it's not "global warming." It's climate change. Global warming sounds benign, only to do with temperature, moderate, gradual. Climate change is patchy, involves all climate factors (wind, precipitation, ocean currents), and need not be gradual.

Second up, it isn't reasonable to assume that climate changes linearly. Not only will there be random or stochastic fluctuations, such as last year being the coldest year in a decade, globally (but still the tenth warmest since 1880), but there are several important hypothetical thresholds or "tipping points," any one of which, if it turns out to be more than just hypothetical will kill a couple billion people and throw the rest into acute resource and territorial wars. Tipping points can be cold or warm. There are several heating feedbacks, and one or two cooling ones, in the climate system. The IPCC consensus report assumes that no serious tipping points are reached in the next 100 years. But recent data on methane release suggests that at least one may already be tipping.

Finally, we know with the best of scientific certainty that climate change has already occurred. Some of us don't read the news, or not all the news, and so we might not know about these new records, like the 2003 Paris heatwave that killed 27,000, or we might not string them together or attribute them to greenhouse gas emissions. Even once we have connected the dots, we may still decide it's not our problem. Save the worry for the next generation. Why not?

Here's a Guardian article extract about a typical current climate change effect on an African village. You have to know a little about how rural African generally live to see what an ecological disaster this is for these people:

"The dry season is usually in June, but this year [2008] it was very, very long and went on until October," says former headteacher Yuventine Ekwaru, from Olochoi village. "The only time we have had anything like this before was in 1959. Then the swamps dried up and the government had to distribute food. This time all our crops are affected and there is going to be great hunger.

"This year two springs have dried up and our borehole has gone smelly and milky and we can no longer use it. It is certainly because of the drought," he adds.

Read the full article at this spot here.

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