Archive for July 9th, 2010


Pretty Close to Reality

July 9, 2010

Happy Friday!

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July 9, 2010

Revkin interviews Don Brown (Penn State) about environmental ethics and climate ethics. Not a terribly substantive interview, but worth a few minutes of your time, at least. Here’s one quote of interest:

We like to say if we get the science and economics wrong, we will likely get the ethics wrong. More importantly, to do this work well one must follow climate change policy controversies as they unfold. Most ethicists don’t typically do this kind of work and only a few universities allow their ethicists to do this kind of “applied” environmental ethics. I am lucky to be at Penn State.

Don seems to have flipped things on their head here. I think it’s more likely that if we have the ethics wrong, it doesn’t matter if we get the science or the economics right or wrong. The problem with the holocaust wasn’t that the Germans got the science and the economics wrong (though they did that too), is that they were completely ass-backwards with regard to human rights.

True, though, that many universities traditionally don’t smile much on applied environmental ethics. Fortunately, there are many now that are starting to see the value in interdisciplinary collaboration on these applied issues, so there are a growing number environmental ethics outposts. All told, we’re pretty late to the game.


Heat Waives

July 9, 2010

ClimateWire reports that heatwaves have outpaced coldspells by 2:1 over the past decade:

But how much of the heat can be blamed on climate change?

“We can’t say that one individual or even two heat waves are due to global warming,” said David Easterling, a climatologist with NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. “But what we can say is that warming temperatures do increase the probability of a heat wave.”

Scientists have documented a pronounced warming trend in the United States and around the world over the last several decades. In its 2007 report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded with 90 percent certainty that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions have been the primary factor in Earth’s overall temperature rise since 1950.

Meanwhile, the World Meteorological Organization said late last year that the 2000-2009 decade appears to be the warmest since record-keeping began in the 1850s.


Record highs outnumbered record lows 2-to-1 over the last decade, and the study — published in Geophysical Research Letters last year — predicted that disparity could balloon to 20-to-1 by the end of this century without sharp curbs on greenhouse gas emissions.

While it’s impossible to pin blame for one heat wave on climate change, since naturally occurring weather patterns like El Niño can magnify or counteract human-caused warming over short periods, experts said an emerging crop of studies suggests that heat waves will become more frequent and intense without strong cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

Gazoinga. 20-to-1? Yipes. But that raises the question: will it actually count as a heat wave if the climate has shifted? If the climate shifts, that’s just the way things are, we get a new baseline.

I’m sure Roger will have something incisive to say about this.