Thursday, August 27, 2015

Katrina +10: how climate change deniers have it very wrong


Never too early for Science Friday.

Likewise, it's never too early to talk climate change. More like "too late" in our case.

This month, many will be marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans. We still call it "the storm," "the deluge," or just "Katrina," but that doesn't quite get at what actually happened. That region of the Gulf was hit by climate change. Pure and simple. Not convinced? Well keep watching, because we're likely to see many more hurricanes of that level occur. Ten times more likely, in fact.

That's right folks. Skip Disney for any kind of vision of the future. Just look at the 2005 footage of a drowned New Orleans to get a more accurate picture of what lies ahead of us. Temperatures are climbing, sea levels are rising and warming, and that's quite a concoction for future hurricanes. Warm air holds more moisture and therefore provides these storms with more energy and a higher sea level just provides that much more water to whip around.

Hell, we might find ourselves wishing for a storm more on Katrina's level.

But we're ready for it, right? At least New Orleans should be, shouldn't it? Well, an article appeared in Wired today proclaiming, "No one is ready for the next Katrina." This isn't just an issue for New Orleans. The United States is a coastal civilization as such is vulnerable to one of these storms, to say nothing of an average four foot rise in sea level. Tl;dr...if you live on a coast, this is going to be an issue for you.

It's no surprise we're not ready. In truth, we're not all that much further along in our attitudes towards climate change. Somehow, there's still a debate over it, even though 97% of climate scientists are in agreement: climate change is a reality and humans are causing it. Wait, just found this. Turns out that 97% figure is totally inaccurate just as the deniers insist. The number is actually 99.9%.

“It’s now a ruling paradigm, as much an accepted fact in climate science as plate tectonics is in geology and evolution is in biology,” said James Powell, director of the National Physical Sciences Consortium. “It’s 99.9% plus."

Powell arrived at this fact by going over more than 24,000 peer-reviewed papers on the subject of climate change. Of that number, only five papers denied its existence. What's more, papers written by deniers typically have one author attributed to them. The majority of the papers in the other massive pile have multiple authors, as many as five is not uncommon. Hence, why the percentage of consensus is 99.9.

And yet we still hear cries of "hoax!" and "conspiracy!" In the MSNBC video at the above link, Powell gave a response to those allegations that is both near and dear to my heart:

"Attend a faculty meeting," he said. "Try getting 99% of them to agree on anything."

I know it's a tired phrase, but the next megastorm really is a question of "when," not "if."

Normally, it takes a massive disaster for us to sit up and take notice. You would think that the deaths of thousands of people in 2005 would have jolted us into action to do something about the environment.

Oh wait, I was only half right. I guess it will take the deaths of thousands of white people.



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