The events in Russia, China, Pakistan and around the world are prompting commentators to ask: is it climate change?
Is this what the future is going to be like?
Michael Tobis over at “Only in it for the gold” is perhaps the first to make the tentative claim:
Are the current events in Russia “because of” “global warming”? To put the question in slightly more formal terms, are we now looking at something that is no longer a “loading the dice” situation but is a “this would, practically certainly, not have happened without human interference” situation?
…Can we phrase it more formally? “Is the average time between persistent anomalies on this scale anywhere on earth in the undisturbed Holocene climate much greater than a human lifetime?” In other words, is this so weird we would NEVER expect to see it at all?
Maybe, maybe not… but then he hazards a guess:
But right now I feel like hazarding a guess. As far as I understand, nothing like this has happened before in Moscow….
…The formerly remarkable heat wave of 2001, then, is “the sort of thing we’ll see more of” with global warming. But it may turn out reasonable, in the end, to say “the Russian heat wave of 2010 is the first disaster unequivocally attributable to anthropogenic climate change.”
MT’s comments were picked up, and given further support:
Like Dr. Tobis, Carver [Meteorologist Rob Carver, the Research and Development Scientist for Weather Underground] believes that manmade global warming has fundamentally altered weather patterns to produce the killer Russian heat wave. “Without contributions from anthropogenic climate change,” Carver said in an email interview with the Wonk Room, “I don’t think this event would have reached such extremes or even happened at all”:
I agree with Michael Tobis’s take at Only In It For the Gold that something systematic has changed to alter the global circulation and you’ll need a coupled atmosphere/ocean global model to understand what’s going on. My hunch is that a warming Arctic combined with sea-surface-temperature teleconnections altered the global circulation such that a blocking ridge formed over western Russia leading to the unprecedented drought/heat wave conditions. Without contributions from anthropogenic climate change, I don’t think this event would have reached such extremes or even happened at all. (You may quote me on that.)
Gareth over at Hot-topic is musing similar thoughts:
The last few weeks have seen some extraordinary weather events around the world: relentless extreme heat in Russia, biblical flooding in Pakistan and devastating landslides in China. Tens of millions of people have had their lives disrupted and thousands have died, and — beyond reasonable doubt — global warming is playing a part in creating these extremes…
…As the years go by and the warming continues, those extremes are only going to get worse. To me, it looks very much as though it won’t be a gradual warming that causes us the biggest problems, it’ll be the direct and indirect effects of increasing weather extremes.Hot years are going to be hard years for humanity.”
While the World Meterological Organistion is pulling no punches:
Several regions of the world are currently coping with severe weather-related events: flash floods and widespread flooding in large parts of Asia and parts of Central Europe while other regions are also affected: by heatwave and drought in Russian Federation, mudslides in China and severe droughts in sub-Saharan Africa. While a longer time range is required to establish whether an individual event is attributable to climate change, the sequence of current events matches IPCC projections of more frequent and more intense extreme weather events due to global warming.
Time to call it for what it is…
Being a blogger frees me from the usual reticence and qualified statements scientists usually (for good reason) make.
I may appear very foolish for saying this, but its time to call it: we’ve well and truly passed a threshold.
Call it climate change, or global warming. Or perhaps you could rename the planet as Bill McKibben suggests (Eaarth). Actually the name really doesn’t matter.
This is the new normal.
Even if we stopped all CO2 emissions tomorrow, there’s more than enough warming “in the pipe” for future “climate disruption”.
The Greenland ice sheet?
Most likely gone.
The Great Barrier Reef.
Most likely gone.
2010 is the year in which the climate news is getting worse: hottest year on record; the ocean’s phytoplankton dying off; the Russian heat wave; the floods in Pakistan…(2)
Welcome to the anthropocene.
Climate change is a marker of a new age
Nobel laureate, Paul Crutzen suggested that humanities impact on Earth’s ecosystems was such that it constituted a new “geological age”:
“…Considering these and many other major and still growing impacts of human activities on earth and atmosphere, and at all, including global, scales, it seems to us more than appropriate to emphasize the central role of mankind in geology and ecology by proposing to use the term ‘anthropocene’ for the current geological epoch. The impacts of current human activities will continue over long periods. According to a study by Berger and Loutre (14), because of the anthropogenic emissions of C02, climate may depart significantly from natural behaviour over the next 50,000 years.
To assign a more specific date to the onset of the ‘anthropocene” seems somewhat arbitrary, but we propose the latter part of the 18th century, although we are aware that alternative proposals can be made (some may even want to include the entire Holocene). However, we choose this date because, during the past two centuries, the global effects of human activities have become clearly noticeable. This is the period when data retrieved from glacial ice cores show the beginning of a growth in the atmospheric concentrations of several ‘greenhouse gases”, in particular C02 and CH4 (7). Such a starting date also coincides with James Watt’s invention of the steam engine in 1784…
…Without major catastrophes like an enormous volcanic eruption, an unexpected epidemic, a large-scale nuclear war, an asteroid impact, a new ice age, or continued plundering of Earth’s resources by partially still primitive technology (the last four dangers can, however, be prevented in a real functioning noosphere) mankind will remain a major geological force for many millennia, maybe millions of years, to come. To develop a world-wide accepted strategy leading to sustainability of ecosystems against human induced stresses will be one of the great future tasks of mankind, requiring intensive research efforts and wise application of the knowledge thus acquired in the noosphere, better known as knowledge or information society...”
I’m going to suggest we’ve well and truly entered the anthropocene, and that anthropogenic climate change is but one of the markers of this new era.
While we can debate the intricacies of the science, I’ll leave the final words to the poets:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away”.
And our centuries greatest troubadour:
And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
 Image sourced from The Getty
 At this point I suggest deniers can head on over to Watts up with that? or Andrew Bolt’s blog for the soothing sounds of “It’s not happening!” Set your intellect to pause and bask in the warm, comforting illusion of denial. Meanwhile, we’re off to start on the hard work of adapting to the new conditions of the anthropocene. We’ll see you when you catch up with reality…