Climate out of control
TV meteorologists talk about climate change: An interview with Paul Douglas, plus four local TV meteorologists
Published: December 5, 2012
JP: What do you visualize the world being like, 20 years from now?
PD: I think it's going to be a lot different than it is now. There's a significant amount of warming going on in the pipeline. Even if we could somehow magically bring our greenhouse emissions down to zero, I think there's little doubt that we're going to warm at least a degree, maybe a degree and a half. I see no evidence really that we're going to take the steps necessary to mitigate greenhouse gases. I think there's going to be a huge push toward adaption. How do we survive and thrive in this warmer, drier, stormier new world?
That means everything from new drought-resistant crops that can weather the extremes that I know we're going to see. Climate scientists say that this is just the tip of the iceberg. This is just the beginning from what we're seeing. Everything from huge impacts on agriculture to trying to mitigate sea-level rise and levies and storm walls.
As a businessman it's a threat and it's an opportunity and this may be one way to reach some conservatives. If you tell them, "Hey, by being obstinate, by denying the science, you are leaving money on the table. You are overlooking an incredible investment opportunity." I tell my conservative friends that in the Pentagon, insurance circles, there is no debate about the science.
If you ignore this, it's going to show up in your portfolio. You will shoot yourself in the foot with your investments. You have to stay up on the science, you have to listen to new data, otherwise you're going to watch your portfolio shrink. Is that what you want?
JP: What about Superstorm Sandy?
PD: Although you can't prove direct causation with Sandy, in my humble opinion – and that of most of the climate scientists I know – it's a case of systematic causation. We've loaded dice in favor of more extreme storms, heat waves and drought. We've super-sized our weather … the timing, scale and scope of the storm were extraordinary – like nothing I've ever witnessed, a hybrid of hurricane and Nor'easter that is not very well understood.
Sandy was made worse by unusually warm ocean water in the Gulf Stream, and the record melting of polar ice in September may be creating a blocking pattern in the upper atmosphere that favors major storms, especially for the eastern third of the USA – a trend in recent winters. It would have been a major storm without a hurricane in the core, but the combination of Nor'easter powered by temperature extremes and a hurricane powered by warm ocean water created a meteorological bomb that impacted a huge swath of coastline. Again, fairly unprecedented, historically. And the fact that Sandy impacted a densely populated region of the USA meant more people affected, and brought additional media attention.
Weather has always been severe, but now a warmer climate is flavoring ALL weather. The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events is on the rise, and Sandy was just the most recent and visible manifestation of this trend across North America. NOTE: You can read Paul Douglas' blog here.
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