Signs of Climate Change are Here

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We know that the 2017 was the third hottest year on record. According to Scientific American:

Last year was the third hottest on record in the United States, with an average temperature of 54.6 degrees Fahrenheit — 2.6 F above average.

Only 2012 and 2016 were warmer than 2017, according a new report from NOAA. The five hottest years on record in the country have been in the last decade, based on 123 years of record-keeping.

This is hardly news since every year, it seems, we break the record, or nearly break the record. The planet is heating up. The data is hard to miss anymore. We are also seeing the kind of changes in the weather that point to it. If you have been alive long enough, you know things are not normal. You know that there are serious changes.

The Syrian war is the first conflict to be at least caused by climate change. That was the worst drought in 1000 years. This forced the migration of many people to cities that were hardly ready to receive them. It also meant the forced contact of peoples from different ethnic groups that did not necessarily trust, or like each other to begin with.

It quite possibly will be the first of many. Again, according to Scientific American:

Drying and drought in Syria from 2006 to 2011 — the worst on record there — destroyed agriculture, causing many farm families to migrate to cities. The influx added to social stresses already created by refugees pouring in from the war in Iraq, explains Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory who co-authored the study. The drought also pushed up food prices, aggravating poverty. “We’re not saying the drought caused the war,” Seager said. “We’re saying that added to all the other stressors, it helped kick things over the threshold into open conflict. And a drought of that severity was made much more likely by the ongoing human-driven drying of that region.”

Seager added that the entire Middle East “faces a drier, hotter climate due to climate change. This will stress water resources and agriculture, and will likely further increase risk of conflict.” Global warming is desiccating the region in two ways: higher temperatures that increase evaporation in already parched soils, and weaker winds that bring less rain from the Mediterranean Sea during the wet season (November to April).

Water wars are looming, since the weather is becoming drier and hotter. This is not just from scientists. According to the Middle East Eye we are facing severe shortages of water. These will stretch resources and people to the limit. Syria and Yemen are the least equipped (and active conflict zones), while Jordan has received refugees by the tens of thousands.

What about closer to home? The recent California drought was the worst in at least 1,200 years. They can tell from tree rings for example. Science News writes:

“Rainfall will recover,” he says. “It will get wet again in California, but the future will hold more hot droughts like this one.”

Temperature’s role in worsening the California drought probably applies to other Southwestern states as well, says climate scientist Benjamin Cook at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City. “Warming’s effect on droughts in the West is already starting to manifest,” he says. “Climate change is not something far off in the future; it’s something that’s happening right now.

While we are not expecting a civil war to break over access to water in the American west anytime soon, we are expecting to see worsening conditions over the coming decades. Agriculture in the Central Valley, which is one of the bread baskets for the United States was under severe stress during the drought. This year we have not received enough rain either.

We should start worrying about another drought. Which also points to a prediction from climate scientists. droughts will be more common and deeper as the planet warms.

If you are astute about your anecdotal observations, you know the weather is becoming less predictable around the world. Mexico City is a good example. It has had especially unusual hailstorms. This year it is facing hailstorms and thunderstorms in January, which is the dry season.

The hurricane season in 2017 also saw three very strong hurricanes going from Cat 1 to Cat 4 and Cat 5 within hours. Why? The ocean water temperature is still very high. We are including fairly current water information from Mexican monitors, using NASA data. They show that even in January Gulf of Mexico water temperatures are in the mid 80s. That is very high.

This water temperature could even lead to the very unusual storm outside of hurricane season, which officially ended on November 30.

We know that President Donald J Trump decided to take the United States out of the Paris Accords. However, as Neil Degrasse Tyson quips, science does not care if you believe it is real or not. It is happening. These decisions were taken, in part, to please a reactionary base that was trained to doubt any authorities. In part it was also taken to protect a dying fossil fuel industry. Coal is not coming back. Putting tariffs on Solar panels to try to stop the development of solar (it employs 374,000 Americans compared to 76,572 employed by the coal industry) seems counterintuitive.

It will also place the United States at a severe competitive disadvantage, and knock us out of the kind of innovation that will fuel the fourth industrial revolution. It is not unlike the British resistance to abandon coal, when the young Americans were using the far more efficient petroleum.

So look around. The signs of climate change are here. They are obvious if you care to open your eyes. They are not just in distant Syria, or the Middle East. For that matter they are obvious in the damage Maria did to the electric grid in Puerto Rico. They are also clear when you look at the droughts in California, or the rare as hell rain events in Mexico City’s winter.

Historian by training. Former day to day reporter. Sometimes a geek who enjoys a good miniatures game.

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