Climate Change Now

I don't know about you, but I get tired of hearing about what climate change may possibly do to our planet in 150 years. It's important stuff to know. But the emphasis on that sort of implies we're not already experiencing the fallout.

Public radio's Marketplace has put together a big series on the impacts of climate change. And, instead of reporting-as-usual, they're actually taking the time to explain what's already happened, as well as what's to come. Besides some well-reported radio stories, they've also got an interactive map that breaks the United States down into eight regions, and compares---side-by-side---that area's past (mostly based on what things were like between 1960 and 1979), present and future.

To get self-centered about it, here's what climate change has already wrought in the Midwest:

Marketplace: The Climate Race


  1. The human mortals want their winter here;
    No night is now with hymn or carol blest:
    Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,
    Pale in her anger, washes all the air,
    That rheumatic diseases do abound:
    And thorough this distemperature we see
    The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts
    Far in the fresh lap of the crimson rose,
    And on old Hiems’ thin and icy crown
    An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds
    Is, as in mockery, set: the spring, the summer,
    The childing autumn, angry winter, change
    Their wonted liveries, and the mazed world,
    By their increase, now knows not which is which:
    And this same progeny of evils comes
    From our debate, from our dissension;
    We are their parents and original.

    Seems apt – As I have nothing much to add.

  2. Climate change happens. However the question is not whether climate is changing but rather whether we are directly responsible for the a significant part of the magnitude of the changes that we are observing.

  3. Where I live the average temperature has dropped by over ten degrees in a month! At this rate the heat death of the universe is a few years away!

  4. Also to note, in the 70’s the warning was for global cooling. Funny how 30yrs changes everything when you think on a scale of how old the earth is.

  5. Everyone, stop talking about this. The time for debate is over. No further posts or comments are necessary.

  6. If we are getting more precipitation overall, why are big swaths of the Midwest breadbasket and the Southwest constantly under drought alert? Shouldn’t we be doing more to capture that excess water and move or store it to do more good?

    1. Because it falls where it’s not necessarily easily captured or transported. In many cases, where it’s not needed or wanted.

  7. @#3 that is the million dollar question. I don’t think anyone wants to pollute the hell out of the planet, but who are we to think we can change things put in motion by a planet we still don’t fully understand.

    Every half century we seem to revise what we think is happening to the earth because of us.

    I just wish these pundits of Al Gore and other fear mongers would admit they the DO NOT KNOW and to stop shoving their agenda down the throat of rational people.

    Environmentalism is becoming the new evangelical religion and it bugs the crap out of me.

  8. Surely the items you list are dependent on where one lives, but… what I like about this effort is that it places the emphasis on things that directly affect you as an individual.

    Trying to attack “climate change” as a portmonteau issue is really problematic, for 2 main reasons: firstly, it’s extremely divisive, and secondly, it’s too grand a notion to deal with on an individual basis.

    My wish is that we’d all attack the local issues (traffic, water pollution, agricultural practices, air quality) that most affect us.

    By doing so we’d get visible results faster, get people more engaged, have fewer arguments about the existence of the problem, and in the end, do more good for the big-ticket issues of which local issues are a part.

  9. “Frost-free season has become longer by more than a week. Again, that’s just since the 60s and 70s.” – would that be the same 70’s where the media-panic was one of global cooling? so, what you’e actually saying is ‘There’s less frost now than there was when we thought a second ice age was on it’s way’ – fancy that!

  10. earth’s climate has fluctuated for billions of years by far greater amounts than we’re crying over, and natural phenomena have temporarily altered the climate far greater than we could even if we tried. i’m sorry your beach houses built on sandbars arent as steadfast as you hoped, and that the waves are lapping against your porch, but tens of thousands of years ago, it would have been miles away from being beachfront.

    humans are supposed to have a knack for adapting to changing environments, but somehow we decided to try to stay the same, but try to change the environment itself. i just cant wait until hollywood takes up another cause and being green stops being so goddamn trendy.

    1. earth’s climate has fluctuated for billions of years by far greater amounts than we’re crying over

      But it normally happens over a longer period of time, giving life an opportunity to adapt. That talking point is an utter failure of analysis.

      1. the eruption in krakatoa in 1883 alone was responsible for a 1.5*C drop in the average global temperatures. natural. temperature. fluctuation.

        the eruption of mt tambora in 1815 was responsible for the coldest decade on record, and one of the coldest years in four hundred years. natural. temperature. fluctuation.

        i willingly concede that most climate change is gradual, but i see more failure in your assumptions than my analysis.

        you can make grandiose statements about cataclysmic climate change if you’re short sighted enough to compare a few hundred years of analysis to a planet that’s supported life for billions of years. even measuring 10,000 years of climate against only a billion of earth’s life consists of 10^-5% of its life. would you think that two and a half days in the life of a 75 year old man is a fair estimation of any aspect of his life? failure of my analysis only comes assuming some deity created an eden for us set in perpetual climatological paradise, and any change is of our own evil undoing.

        1. would you think that two and a half days in the life of a 75 year old man is a fair estimation of any aspect of his life?

          If those two and a half days occurred after he has already reached that 75 year mark and involved his running a fever of 105, or having a stroke or heart attack, then yes, I think they’d be a fair estimation of the outlook for the rest of his life – and that outlook would be “not good”.

          Of course, you’d just say, “But look at all those years he’s been healthy. Obviously that means he’ll be just fine.” Am I right?

          failure of my analysis only comes assuming some deity created an eden for us set in perpetual climatological paradise, and any change is of our own evil undoing.

          No. We have never existed in a “climatological paradise” to begin with, and nobody here is saying that there is no such thing as natural climate change. What we are saying is that mankind is contributing to climate change, and doing so in such a way as to endanger our own survival as a civilization and possibly even as a species, in the near future. By decreasing our own contribution to what may or may not be part of a natural climate event, we increase our chances of not only surviving, but of being able to preserve our civilization in something at least close to its current form.

          What you seem to be missing is the fact that the existence of natural climate change in no way implies that nothing humans do can either increase or decrease said change, and it also does not imply that humans cannot initiate said change. Similarly, the existence of anthropogenic climate change in no way implies the nonexistence of natural climate change. A stone can certainly roll toward a cliff and fall off, without any human intervention. But this does not mean that it is impossible for a human to kick a stone toward a cliff in such a way that it falls off – thus either causing or accelerating for that particular stone, in that particular instance what might have happened anyway. Likewise, it also does not mean that a human being could not reach out and grab a rolling stone before it reaches the cliff and falls.

          For evidence that human beings have already affected the climate in the past, I invite you to visit the link I provided for Church regarding the Little Ice Age.

        2. Setting aside the fact that some of the natural disasters that this planet has enjoyed have caused mass extinctions, this is the first time in history that seven billion people need to be housed and fed.

    2. Beach houses are one thing, but when places like New York City or the outskirts of Philadelphia are underwater, it’s a bit much to ask folks to adjust to. Likewise the extreme droughts, flooding and other impacts upon agriculture, thus affecting our ability as a civilization and a species to feed ourselves.

  11. The concern about cooling in the 1970s was a flash-in-the-pan theoretical thing, based on the notion that we were overdue for an ice age. It was the subject of an episode of Nova and few Silly Season articles.

    Comparing that brief concern to the current concern over global warming is an indulgence in revisionist rhetorical bullshittery. It is what climate change denialists are resorting to now that every other shiny talking point they’ve come up with has been slapped down.

  12. Didn’t read it in this post, but somewhere(maybe BB?) a post referred to people “who don’t believe in climate change”. Everyone with a sense of history should believe in climate change, but, as posted above, the million dollar question is- do we humans have much to do with it?

    If it were proven 100% correct that we are to blame, what the hell could we do to stop it anyway? Oh, I know we could slow it down and possibly stop it by hugely unpopular means, but do you think that humankind would? It would require all of humanity to change their ways.

    People will not change. Our only option is to lie back and enjoy.

  13. “Beach houses are one thing, but when places like New York City or the outskirts of Philadelphia are underwater”

    Yeah, let us know when that happens.

    Seriously, I’m guessing not many of you are old enough to remember the “COMING ICE AGE” panic of the seventies. If we oldtimers seem skeptical of what this decade’s doom prediction is, well we have reason. It may well be that the Boy Who Cried Wolf was eventually right. Or not. Track record is spotty so far.

    1. “Beach houses are one thing, but when places like New York City or the outskirts of Philadelphia are underwater”

      Yeah, let us know when that happens.

      A one-meter rise in sea level will place those areas in danger from storm surge, and the same mechanisms leading to that rise also lead to increase in storm activity and intensity. Results would occur by the end of the current century or before.

      Also, Church, I *am* old enough to remember the Ice Age stuff from the 1970’s. Stefan Jones’ comment about that is exactly right. You don’t seriously subscribe to the “once wrong, always wrong” theory, do you?

      1. “You don’t seriously subscribe to the “once wrong, always wrong” theory, do you?”

        Fool me once, shame on you…

        1. So that means we can safely discount anything you say, Church, since I’m sure you’ve been wrong at some point in your life and therefore cannot be trusted to be right about anything… and by the same token, nobody is ever right about anything, since there exists nobody who has never been wrong.

          Fool, you? Once and always, according to that. Still sure it’s such a good philosophy?

        2. Fool me once, shame on you…

          Yeah, and a foolish consistency…

          Have we devolved to an aphorism war now?

  14. I think a good deal of the problem lies in trying to dumb down the language for a largely scientifically illiterate population. Scientific theories are subject to change as new information comes to light. This seems very, very hard for people to understand.

    The climate is changing. Summers are getting hotter, winters are getting colder, global patterns are shifting, storms are becoming more frequent and more severe. There is some debate over whether the CUMULATIVE effect will be a few degrees warmer or cooler. To someone who doesn’t understand how theories are formed, tested, and revised, this sounds like “Warming! Cooling! No, warming! Uh-Changing?” It doesn’t change the fact that the climate is getting more severe.

    The climate has changed in somewhat similar ways many times in the earth’s history. What is very, very different this time is the time scale- change that once happened over centuries is now happening over decades. Humans are the largest variable in this equasion, but the sheer number of things we’ve done to the planet makes it hard to pin down the single biggest factor. Again, to a person who doesn’t understand how this data is collected and compared, it sounds like “Well, yeah, this all happened before humans, but it’s still our fault”.

    This is compounded by the overall polarization of our society, media, political blahblahblahblah:

    The ranting on the left is the result of trying to put complex ideas into soundbytes compact enough to trigger an emotional response- which ends up sounding like propaganda.

    The ranting on the right is a result of assuming that because something is explained badly, or has more than one variable in the cause/effect chain, then obviously, the entire premise must be invalid.

  15. Mike the Bard,

    Good post. Where is the proof that climate change in the past occurred slower than is happening now. Thanks.

  16. “I don’t see anything in this scenario that would be worse for people than destroying our economy.”

    This is something that has never been explained to my satisfaction. Someone please tell me how creating a boom for the emerging green technology market is a bad thing.

    Yes, replacing our gasoline vehicles and fossil fuel plants, and installing solar panels and high grade insulation will cost billions of dollars.

    These billions of dollars can go to upstart AMERICAN firms that create thousands of new JOBS for contractors, mechanics, technicians, installers, and manufacturers. Please explain how creating new jobs is bad for our economy. Please explain how paying an American manufacturer millions of dollars to manufacture solar panels that last 20 years is a bigger disaster than paying a Saudi company the same amount for oil that will last a few days. While you’re at it, explain how giving money to an antiquated, failing entity like GM was a better idea than just giving that money to, say, Tesla Motors, who are selling cars faster than they can produce them.

    PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE EXPLAIN how fostering US based business in an emerging technology market is a WORSE idea than just sending our money overseas. Both cost money. One produces a tangible benefit. One is EASIER in the SHORT TERM- so is eating the seed corn.

  17. “I don’t see anything in this scenario that would be worse for people than destroying our economy.”

    Straw man bullshit.

    “Our economy” looks like a good deal right now because it is externalizing environmental costs. Those costs are going to get harder and harder to ignore as agriculture and water supplies are effected. And then there’s the effects on wildlife and ecosystems, which pasty white Ayn Rand fanboys might ignore but are becoming increasingly obvious and dire.

  18. Consider that respected scientists worldwide believe there is nothing to debate but how to fix it.

    Also consider a lot of things that happen to be related that would still need fixing even if all of those far more qualified than anyone who has posted here thus far was wrong…

    Yep. It’s raining a lot in certain places, not in others and trending worse, leaving huge populations (like in the southwest US) without enough water to keep up with our runaway population’s demands.

    Peak oil. It’s hard to find anything made that doesn’t have a relation not to mention our inability to get around this country without a car if you don’t live in one of a few cities.

    Energy costs are constantly on the rise and the grids are having trouble keeping up with our growing population’s and growing gadget-lifestyle’s demand. What’s going to power all of these electric cars?


    To me, the risk in not fixing things in the event the science is right far outweighs the risk of fixing things that weren’t broken in the event the science is wrong. A lot of this needs repair regardless.

    Amazing that this debate exists with the meetings in Copenhagen only a few weeks away. I guess it more clearly identifies what change is up against. Must have been what it was like to convince someone the world is round.

  19. Where did all these people come from that don’t understand science and keep repeating the same debunked talking points.

    Are we being astroturfed?

  20. Deforestation sped demise of Nasca in Peru: study

    BARCELONA, Spain (Reuters) – The mysterious people who etched the “Nasca Lines” across deserts in Peru hastened their own demise by clearing forests 1,500 years ago, according to a study on Monday.

    The Nasca people, famed for the lines that depict animals or geometric shapes most clearly visible from the air, became unable to grow enough food in nearby valleys because the lack of trees made the climate too dry, scientists said.

  21. Yes, kids, global warming is real, & humans need to [1]stop putting carbon into the atmosphere &[2]start taking carbon out of the atmosphere. To do [1] means humanity needs to outlaw the internal combustion engine, & stop burning coal. Cars will become all electric, & electricity will be generated by wind, solar, & [gag]nuclear. Conservation will help a lot, so maybe we won’t have to go nuke. Airplanes may or may not go extinct. Sailing ships will return with new better technology. Everyone will stop eating foods from across the globe that haven’t been canned. To do[2] is the main thing. Go google BIOCHAR. This is when you grow a plant, then turn it into charcoal & bury it. This could be done right now. So if Big Oil & Big Coal were smart, they would start going to Africa, India, SE Asia & tell peasants ‘grow bamboo, char it, bury it, & we’ll pay you $10K per year.’ Right now. Though I don’t see the oil & coal industries going extinct. Oil is made into chemicals & plastic. So can Coal. There are other ways to take CO2 out of the atmosphere. What is important is to stop the atmosphere from reaching a point of no return where global warming is unstoppable & the Earth’s atmosphere becomes like Venus.

  22. “A one-meter rise in sea level will place those areas in danger from storm surge, and the same mechanisms leading to that rise also lead to increase in storm activity and intensity. Results would occur by the end of the current century or before.”

    That last sentence isn’t very precise.

    Actually, it is precise to within the limits of current knowledge.

    So we could have up to a century before those areas could be in danger from storm surges.

    Let’s review the math, shall we? It is currently the 11th month of 2009. The current century will end in the year 2100. To be precise, then, we “could” have up to 91 years and two months in which something can happen “by the end of the current century or before”. And in case anyone is unsure, 91.16667 years is less than a century.

    So I guess the people who live in those areas over the course of a century will realize this and move inland. The same way humans have always adapted to a changing climate and environment throughout history, including right now. I don’t see anything in this scenario that would be worse for people than destroying our economy.

    Right, we’re going to simply pick up the entiret population of each and every coastal city in the world, including such behemoths as NYC, and relocate them inland, placing them directly on top of the cities that are already there? And relocate all the infrastructure and physical resources of these cities at the same time? And it won’t have any detrimental impact on our economy to do this?

    What color is the sky in your world?

    1. Excuse my earlier imprecision. 91 years and two months should have read “90 years and two months”; and 90.16667 years is even more intensely less than a century than was my mistaken figure of 91.16667.


  23. Sorry naysayers… you are wrong. We are responsible for some global warming, no matter what your misguided opinion is. Clinging to a false belief is never going to make it right.
    For years, there has been clear scientific consensus that Earth’s climate is heating up and that humans are the culprits behind the trend, says Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at the University of California, San Diego.

    A few years ago, she evaluated 928 scientific papers that dealt with global climate change and found that none disagreed about human-generated global warming. The results of her analysis were published in a 2004 essay in the journal ‘Science’.

    Yeah… you’re right and 928 scientific papers are wrong.

    Need I remind the naysayers that science was still giving the thumbs up to asbestos based products in the 70’s? Our scientific ‘knowledge’ in the 70’s was obviously lacking. The computers that ran the simulations which predicted global cooling were likely far less powerful than the mobile phone in your pocket.

    Are the naysayers suggesting that scientific technique, accuracy & understanding have not improved in the last 30-40 years? If so they are clearly more stupid than I anticipated.

    I propose an experiment to see who is right…. Let’s put all the people who think climate change is a real and serious problem in one warehouse and put all the naysayers in another. Then put 1000 electric cars in the first warehouse and put 1000 muscle cars in the warehouse with the naysayers. Seal all openings, turn on the cars, and let bake for 12 hours….

    Then all that is left to do is open the doors, laugh at the corpses of the naysayers before pilfering their valuables for redistribution via ebay and burning their worthless bodies.

    Now that’s science!

  24. “Sorry naysayers… you are wrong. We are responsible for some global warming, no matter what your misguided opinion is.”

    OK. So how were we responsible for the Little Ice Age?

    1. Uh, Church? Take a look at this. Not so much humans causing it directly, as a drop in human population contributing to it indirectly, or rather, human populations contributing to the warmer climate that preceded it, and then the drop in said population lessening that particular channel of input.

  25. Trust a guy with the handle ‘church’ to ask questions which dont make sense.

    Where and when did I make any reference to us being responsible for the ‘little ice age’? When and where did I say that the earth’s climate doesnt change naturally over a period of time? Stop trying to put words in my mouth, a-hole.
    If you are able to look at this graph and tell me that the period since 1900 can be explained by ‘natural fluctuations’ then its time for you to go back to elementary school maths.

    Is the magnitude of fluctuations during the little ice age at all comparable to the scale of changes over the last 100ish years? No. Clearly and obviously no.

    How about the fluctuations during the little ice age? They seem indicitive of a natural system. Yes, the trend is generally down, but between the period of 1400-1600 I can count at least 8 peaks/troughs.

    The period from 1900-now (hello industrialisation!) has almost no troughs and is clearly sharply increasing. This is the only period on the whole graph which has very few fluctuations – suggesting there must be forces at work here that are beyond those of nature.

    The thing that makes this topic so hard is that there is no one fact or proof you can point to to show climate change is happening (and is happening faster because of us). To understand this problem one must connect many, many dots. The lazy and weak-minded in society find it hard to do this. Seeking an understanding of things is human nature – we become frustrated when we don’t properly udnerstand something (widely accepted scientific knowledge – supported by this recent article from BB: )

    It is easier for the weak-minded amongst us to choose the vastly simpler and less guilt-ridden belief that humans are not changing the earth’s climate in a negative way.

    I know I am wasting my time explaining this to you church – you are obviously a stubborn and lost cause (who probably works for an oil company). I’m just trying to save some poor, impressionable mutant the embarrasment of believing your BS.

    Into warehouse 2 for you.

    1. you could learn a thing from Summer.

      A creative way of admitting you were incorrect without at all addressing the topic.

      You may have felt less stupid with Summer’s gentle approach, but I make no apologies for tearing you a new one. People who disseminate misinformation or proudly proclaim their opinion without any supporting evidence are just annoying. Maybe next time you will do some *preliminary* research before just telling us what you think.

  26. I used to believe that a combination of reason and free will would be enough to allow us to overcome most of the challenges our species faces. Now I begin to think that both free will and reason are actually illusions created by our desire to have both, and that our seemingly endless capacity for self-deception will eventually have the survivors standing in the ruins convinced that not only did we choose that path, it was the best of all possible options…

  27. “A creative way of admitting you were incorrect without at all addressing the topic.”

    I asked a question, and Summer answered it (or, more exactly, gave the most plausible answer I’ve yet seen.) You just went on a rant. Guess which was more persuasive?

    You are the far better troll, however.

  28. I reiterate:
    You may have felt less stupid with Summer’s gentle approach, but I make no apologies for tearing you a new one.

    Your assertion that my original comment claimed humans were responsible for all climate change was just plain wrong.

    Nonetheless, I took the contents of your comment and addressed it anyway by illustrating why your comparison is not correct.

    Summer was nice. I was not. You got upset that you came across like a fool (and will still deny this, even though it is clear) and then got all snarky with me. Its not my intention to be persuasive. I am just pointing out you were wrong and why.

  29. Summing up:

    Humans are NOT responsible for ALL climate change throughout ALL of history, and no one is saying that we are.

    Humans ARE responsible for SOME climate change that has occurred during our history, including adding to or subtracting from some of the natural peaks and troughs that occur in the overall climatological cycle. This includes the current changes that are taking place: unfortunately, we have contributed to the warming trend that now threatens us, yet fortunately we may still be able to mitigate that threat to some degree – IF we quit blathering on about whether or not it’s even happening and do something NOW.

    And most of the things we can do to mitigate climate change will also help improve our environment anyway, so there’s not a lot of downside, except in the minds of those who believe that preserving the socioeconomic status quo must always trump everything else. Such an attitude brings to mind images of the dance band continuing to play as the Titanic took on water, but at least the band did not have enough power to either sink or right the ship, and so can be forgiven. Those who would prioritize the status quo ahead of environmental preservation, however, do run the risk of slowing or preventing the effort to mitigate climate change, and that makes all the difference.

  30. Teapot, the difficulty of accounting for these ‘fluctuations’ is what raises serious concerns about climate model’s ability to predict the future. Can you understand that?

    Also, calling someone an ‘a-hole’ right off the bat tends to undermine one’s creditability. And that’s one to grow on.

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