National Climate Assessment
May 6, 2014 3:03 PM   Subscribe

This morning the U.S. government released the newest National Climate Assessment, which "concludes that the evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the country." You can explore the assessment here. Previously.
posted by brundlefly (48 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
As I think everyone has accepted by now, the evidence has been overwhelming for a while now, but is of startlingly little utility in effecting behavioural change, at either the personal or societal level. This won't alter until every individual denialist personally has their house burnt down or washed away in floods, by which time it will be far too late.
I am increasingly of the view that we'll hit 4 - 6 degrees this century, which isn't quite game over civilisation, but will lead to massive losses of life and economic welfare (let alone the biosphere). Basically, we're fucked. And I have some good ideas of whom to blame.
posted by wilful at 3:10 PM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

“It’s important to understand that this is a very, very, very conservative document, a consensus document,” Harvell said of the assessment.

Yeah. The scientific consensus is quickly moving from "extremely dangerous" to "we are completely fucked" as the world continues to pump more CO2 into the atmosphere and takes no action that comes even close to dealing with the ever-worsening scale of the problem. All the reports being written in the late 90s and early 2000s never really considered the possibility that we'd just do nothing but double-down on fossil fuels for this long.

And of course the WaPo article just needed to be sprinkled with little Cato fairytales, because journalism.
posted by crayz at 3:30 PM on May 6, 2014 [18 favorites]

As I think everyone has accepted by now, the evidence has been overwhelming for a while now, but is of startlingly little utility in effecting behavioural change, at either the personal or societal level.

Behavioural change at the personal level would need to be so wide-spread that it would by systemic anyway in order to make any meaningful difference.

But it's apparent now that that's not going to happen. Why? My explanation is that there's literally no institutional incentive to change on this scale. It would cost hundreds of billions, perhaps trillions of dollars in losses at this point to stop the machinery of the world from putting more CO2 into the atmosphere, and unless everyone does it, it won't really make enough of a difference. The wealthy and powerful will be mostly fine when life really changes globally, or they think they will be, so what do they care? Regular people can't do jack shit about climate change, the powerful won't do anything. It'll be interesting to see what the world will look like in 30 years.
posted by clockzero at 3:58 PM on May 6, 2014 [12 favorites]

Interesting as in "interesting times."
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:04 PM on May 6, 2014

So how long til congressional Republicans introduce legislation eliminating funding for the Global Change Research Program? Which, incidentally, was formed during the first Bush presidency.
posted by TedW at 4:14 PM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Ostrich with head in sand claims other ostriches lying about approaching lions"
posted by Celsius1414 at 4:22 PM on May 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

Yeah. That kind of interesting.
posted by clockzero at 4:58 PM on May 6, 2014

As I think everyone has accepted by now, the evidence has been overwhelming for a while now

The people who aggressively promote the idea that this is all a hoax to promote free tax money for scientists and to bring about one-world socialism haven't accepted it
posted by thelonius at 5:07 PM on May 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

Bad Astronomy: "In the U.S., Climate Change Is Here and Now and the Future"
posted by brundlefly at 5:29 PM on May 6, 2014

To mark the release of the report, President Obama is expected to speak with a number of national television meteorologists from across the country about climate change early Tuesday afternoon.

That is interesting, in that (I have read) the majority of TV meteorologists are climate change skeptics.
posted by thelonius at 5:33 PM on May 6, 2014

That is interesting, in that (I have read) the majority of TV meteorologists are climate change skeptics.

I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of aerospace engineers were, either. At least one college professor of mine was. Working in an adjacent field sometimes leads people to have more faith in their own judgement than is warranted.
posted by indubitable at 5:50 PM on May 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

ain't nobody gonna do shit. boiling frog city.

a point in time arrives when my survival and your survival necessarily subordinates to the survival of our civilization, our species and all the other species with which we are interdependent. my comment in the last global warming thread was not well-received by people who didn't understand the difference between advocating for a massive die-off and merely being preliminarily receptive to the notion. i've structured my own carbon footprint to a minimum, and i'm here to take my chances on the front line.
posted by bruce at 5:56 PM on May 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

I guess I always sort of knew in my heart that the cause of global Armageddon would be "tragedy of the commons."
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:58 PM on May 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

Yeah, I signed a petition earlier to "protect penguins from the effects of climate change." Then I looked out the window of my climate-controlled office building at all the cars going by and lamented that no one gives a shit about the penguins or anything else on Earth; they just want to get to their next appointment on time or eat dinner or pick up their kids from school or feel a little less cold or hot. Everything we do is killing the planet.
posted by limeonaire at 5:58 PM on May 6, 2014

Yes, but what does this have to do with Benghazi?

Do you think it's possible that during the 15th and 16th centuries on Easter Island, some of the clan chiefs liked to explain the decline through talking about how the high chief wasn't sacrificing things to the ancestors hard enough?
posted by clockzero at 6:02 PM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I like to look at the bright side: everything we're doing is not killing off the planet. It may lead to another mass extinction of one scale or another, but that will give rise to marvelously adapted new species! We'll lose many of the ones we've grown to love, of course. We may even lose our own, or at least many of our advantages.

Oops, it happened. The situation is bad enough that I just made myself depressed by looking at the bright side.
posted by gilrain at 6:13 PM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

That is interesting, in that (I have read) the majority of TV meteorologists are climate change skeptics.

I heard that on Marketplace this evening. They explained that it's because television meteorologists see the day-to-day forecast models often fail and naively extrapolate that it's impossible to predict years or decades into the future. One of the guys they interviewed even distinguished himself as an actual meteorologist unlike "journalists" like Al Roker, but I have to say, if you can't spot the obvious difference in scale between a model that predicts Boston will be sunny next Tuesday and one that predicts the average global temperature will be significantly higher by the end of the century, you might as well be wishing people happy birthday on the air.

I wonder if there are as many climate change deniers amongst the meteorologists the National Weather Service. I'm guessing there probably aren't.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:39 PM on May 6, 2014 [7 favorites]

That is interesting, in that (I have read) the majority of TV meteorologists are climate change skeptics.

That article identifies three main reasons for this: their lack of confidence in models, lack of education in climate science, and personal politics.

Those first two reasons really boil down to one thing, though: meteorologists analyze the atmosphere at a much finer spatiotemporal scale than climate scientists, and these trends are simply not discernible at their scale of analysis. Meteorologists aren't trained in broader-scale analysis, so they don't necessarily understand that a lack of model precision at the fine scale can still produce extremely reliable predictions at broader scales.

I'd go on, but this graphic from Skeptical Science illustrates the importance of temporal scale of analysis better than I ever could. At a weatherman's scale, there's a whole new line every single day!

On preview: 100% agreed, RonButNotStupid, and you make a great point about the difference between practicing meteorologists and TV weather people.
posted by dialetheia at 6:46 PM on May 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

Take out some more student loans, kids. You probably won't live long enough to pay them off anyway, or maybe you will and society will just collapse instead, who can collect paper debts when there's famine in the streets?
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:03 PM on May 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

T. D. Strange, you took that one right from my playbook! Planning on bragging about my Master's whilst enjoying our new Waterworld.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:25 PM on May 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

I always love it when the deniers posit that the scientists are in it for the money.
posted by sfts2 at 7:40 PM on May 6, 2014 [16 favorites]

brundlefly: "Youths sue U.S. government over climate inaction"

You know, this is an interesting thing. I mean, technically they have no standing in court as they are under 18, yes? Or do they have a right to bring suit (whether it would succeed or have any standing on any legal ground is a different question)? I guess I don't know enough about the laws regarding this type of thing, but...

I reflect on all those right-wing assholes who claim many things... things like "gay people can't have kids, so therefore, they have no interest in a long term benefit to society, so they can do whatever they want without any ramifications to concerns about the future, and that's irresponsible and ... (something, I dunno, not allowed to vote? not sure what the point is there, but I'm sure I've heard something along those lines)....

Similarly, "If you prevent inheritance, you prevent people from taking care of their property and wanting to maintain it to pass on to the next generation. We need to stop the 'Death Tax'" OR something stupid like that.

Anyways, there's always this attempt by conservatives to claim the mantle of "thinking for the next generation", using their children as pawns in some cheap political game so they can continue to accrue ever more advantages to themselves against the masses they so despise. It's all got a reek of a sort of pseudo-noblesse-oblige to it. This sort of myth of the American as a hard worker who deserves all their well-gotten wealth and pass it along to their children as a sort of feudal inheritance and thus, have a reason and obligation to protect that private property (ignoring the public good, maintaining that private property is the only way to help everyone)...

And now, children ARE speaking out, of their own initiative (well, of course, there will be those who argue they can't *really* speak out since they aren't of age to have any legal standing, at least not voting, and really, they should wait until their of voting age and have more maturity and wisdom. Well, unless you're like, these people and their children, then it's totally ok for those kids to "have an opinion" (cuz of *course* the children wrote those signs with their own bootstrapped hands).

So anyways, I guess, my point is to note the hypocrisy that'll come out by the right-wingers when the youth start to speak for themselves instead of, mannequin like, have words thrown into their mouths by their parents who view them as nothing more than props for political points.
posted by symbioid at 7:41 PM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Here's the thing. I don't think society will 'collapse'. It will change, perhaps even pretty radically, but as awful as CC is and will be the reason we have survived is our adaptability. This might mean there will be some pretty horrible die-back though.
posted by edgeways at 7:50 PM on May 6, 2014

Id consider a climate induced fall from a fully post-industrial, near-spacefareing society back to say, the level of the early 1600s, when most people relied on subsistence agriculture and lived far harder lives than we even care to think about to be a "collapse". That might even be looking on the bright side, assuming that resource scarcity and societal failures associated with rapid climate catastrophe don't result in war or wars that set humanity back to the stone age.

Although, stone age society was fairly damn "sustainable" for a least 20,000 years or so, much longer than our current ~200 year track record with high technology. So maybe tribes of hunter-gatherers and small semi-permanent settlements here and there is actually the more natural state of humanity.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:38 PM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I farted while reading this thread and immediately thought "Oh no, I'm contributing to climate change!"

My retirement plan is to buy an acreage, on which I can work at subsistence farming until my death. I really do not think there's much hope for our future. I just hope the wars aren't too decimating — no nukes, especially.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:58 PM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Assuming we figure out a way to survive dumping greenhouse gases into the environment, we will still need a way to deal with cooking the planet and ourselves with non-greenhouse waste heat from the energy production that powers our computers, cars, etc.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:09 PM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Rich countries will be fine. The US can easily afford to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on levies, air conditioning, and importing food from Canada. It's the poor countries who will suffer most as with every other global issue.
posted by miyabo at 4:58 AM on May 7, 2014

Have you seen who runs this country miyabo? Spending money on infrastructure in the US is something we are reluctant to do these days. Mass public works is seen as some horrible socialist idea (unless, of course, it's roads. We love our fucking roads...)
posted by symbioid at 7:03 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

But I don't disagree with your central thesis which is that poorer countries (especially those with large coastal areas) are fucked.
posted by symbioid at 7:07 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Rich countries will be fine.

Haha yeah. Bookmarked for posterity. We're heading for 4°C easily, with a hand tied behind our back. That's global surface mean increase. How does something like 20°F hotter on the hottest days in NYC or DC sound? Infrastructure will fail due to heat. Ecosystems will collapse. The West Antarctic ice sheet isn't looking too stable either, and levees aren't going to keep Miami and a lot of southern Florida from going under. I doubt levees will keep 10 feet of water out of Manhattan. I doubt people in their rich countries will be eating money as the oceans turn into acid and jellyfish and unpredictable swings in weather destroy crops.

And there's a whole lot of poorly-understood positive feedback loops that will start kicking in before temperatures even get that high, which is why most climate scientists don't believe that situation would be stable. What the earth will actually look like when the temperature finally stops rising is far from a settled question. Money can't save a rich person from lung cancer, but it's going to save them from the worst environmental catastrophe in the history of life on this planet? Right.
posted by crayz at 7:16 AM on May 7, 2014 [8 favorites]

Earlier this year there was a 90-day public comment period, during which anyone could submit their feedback on the draft report. Over 4,000 comments were submitted, and each comment got a response. [PDF link] I looked through the comments, expecting to find contributions mostly from denialist cranks and weirdos, but lo and behold there was a lot of constructive back and forth. (E.g., "Space is limited; you have too many pictures of ragweed." "We agree, and have removed three pictures of ragweed.")

Anyway, this is the best comment I found:
"It does not mention or take into account the devastation being impacted upon our area and other areas of the world by a full out assault of Chemtrails and Project HAARP and its aim of being able to control the weather by 2025 ... Both of the above mentioned reasons for the anomalies we face currently, should be stopped immediately"
And here is the response:
"This is a policy issue that is not the purview of the report, which focuses on peer-­reviewed science and assesses the state of knowledge."
posted by compartment at 7:24 AM on May 7, 2014 [15 favorites]

Earlier this year there was a 90-day public comment period, during which anyone could submit their feedback on the draft report.

This sort of thing is why I love bureaucracy. Only unthinking, pedantic, inhuman, unfeeling dumb processes can actually be fair and open and protect people from each other. God bless it. I get so angry when people curse forms, when they are all that stands between them and savagery.
posted by jsturgill at 8:19 AM on May 7, 2014 [6 favorites]

Money can't save a rich person from lung cancer, but it's going to save them from the worst environmental catastrophe in the history of life on this planet? Right.

Well, I certainly hope so. If me and mine are going to die miserable deaths from heat, hunger or preventable disease, I'd at least like some assurance that two hundred years hence the world won't be just a few domed utopias with Henry Kissinger VI, the Reagan descendents and the Pinochet family along with a whole bunch of robots and a few human servants to torment for kicks, which is my default assumption.
posted by Frowner at 8:48 AM on May 7, 2014

"Researchers have some bad news for future farmers and eaters: As carbon dioxide levels rise this century, some grains and legumes will become significantly less nutritious than they are today."
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:46 PM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

The more I read about stuff like this, the more irresponsible I'm thinking it is to have children.

The world we'd leave them... eurgh.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:48 AM on May 8, 2014

Any kid someone on Metafilter might have faces a better future than 99% of all kids born in human history. Now, some people really have made an argument that having kids has always been and always will be morally unjustifiable since potential children cannot consent, but I don't think that's the argument you are making.
posted by Justinian at 5:05 PM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

No that's not the argument I'm making. The argument I'm making has more to do with peak oil, rising temperatures, the worrying melting of both Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, pollution, and dwindling water supplies.

A lot of these things are going to be apparent within a century. I might start to see the rapid(er) decline in my own lifetime. That's not a world I'd want to bequeath to my children. Not judging anyone else's choices.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:46 AM on May 9, 2014

posted by kliuless at 6:39 PM on May 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

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