Tuesday, January 01, 2019

2018 Was a Milestone Year for Climate Science (If Not Politics)

The devastation from Hurricane Michael over Mexico Beach, Fla. A massive federal report released in November warns that climate change is fueling extreme weather disasters like hurricanes and wildfires. (Credit: Gerald Herbert/AP) Click to Enlarge.
2018 was a hot year — in fact, the fourth warmest on record.  The only years that were, on average, warmer were the past three, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

It has been warming for decades now.  But 2018 brought several major new and markedly more precise reports from scientists about what climate change is doing to the weather and how dire they expect the consequences to be.

That didn't stop President Trump and others from continuing to question the evidence.

"Is there climate change?"  Trump said to reporters from Axios on HBO in November.  "Yeah.  Will it go back like this?" he added, motioning up and down with his hand.  "I mean will it change back?  Probably.  That's what I think."

Another politician who weighed in on the clear evidence of a warmer planet was Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, when he was campaigning this past fall.

"Well, listen," he assured a moderator at a televised debate.  "Of course the climate is changing.  The climate has been changing from the dawn of time.  The climate will change as long as we have a planet Earth."

Both statements are at odds with the consensus within the climate science community.

"The climate has never changed this rapidly"
Many in that community met in Washington, D.C., in December at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.  "We're not seeing cycles" in which warming is likely to go back down, says climate scientist Martin Hoerling.  "We're not seeing things that are going to revert back," as long as greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to increase.

What about that idea that the climate has changed from the dawn of time?  Climate scientist Stephanie Herring says sure, that's technically true, but it misses an important difference happening now.  "The current change that we are experiencing now is particularly alarming," she says, "and that's because in the history of human civilization the climate has never changed this rapidly."  For example, 20 of the warmest years on record around the planet occurred in the past 22 years, according to the WMO.

The yawning gap between the views of some politicians and the vast majority of scientists on climate change isn't new.  But 2018 was a watershed year in the amount of new evidence for continued warming and its effects.

Read more at 2018 Was a Milestone Year for Climate Science (If Not Politics)

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