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Summary:

The reality is that the effects of climate change are here and aren’t going away. We can spend all we want on innovations for clean power, but Hurricane Katrina has already caused over $80 billion in damage, and weather-sensitive sectors of the U.S. economy add up […]

The reality is that the effects of climate change are here and aren’t going away. We can spend all we want on innovations for clean power, but Hurricane Katrina has already caused over $80 billion in damage, and weather-sensitive sectors of the U.S. economy add up to $2 trillion of our gross national product. With that depressing thought, a coalition of climate groups led by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research has started pushing the next administration to fund new research on how best to understand, adapt to and prevent severe weather caused by climate change.

UCAR’s coalition has proposed a $9 billion (almost 50 percent) increase in planned spending on meteorological research, with a focus on understanding the causes of severe weather, forecasting weather patterns, and emergency planning (no, “Good job, Brownie!” from these folks). While the U.S. government has funded decades of climate-modeling research, this newly proposed research and development effort would boost the total investment and also allocate funding to help municipalities, states and the federal government plan for the direct, local impacts of climate change.

Currently, federal budgeting for climate- and weather-related research calls for $19.4 billion of investment. The UCAR coalition calls for an additional $9 billion to reduce weather damage by developing better analysis and response systems, while simultaneously assessing the effectiveness of our efforts to mitigate climate change. The proposal includes:

  • More detailed observations from both satellites and ground stations
  • Growing supercomputer capacity for more detailed modeling and predictive ability
  • Research to understand how weather and climate impact society
  • Translating results from that new research into policy-related tools, and
  • Work to assure that those new policies are in our best interests.

The consortium proposal derives from one incontrovertible fact: We are already seeing regional trends toward more severe and unpredictable weather. And these trends are economically and environmentally damaging. We don’t need greater scientific certainty in our global scale modeling to know that real weather impacts are felt at a local, not global, level. Without giving up long-term funding of global climate research, UCAR’s budget addition emphasizes immediate investment in tools and policies that can help plan for the effects of climate change that we are experiencing today.

According to the coalition’s proposal, the combined $27 billion for climate research and mitigation should be overseen by staff of the OMB and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). But under this Administration, the OSTP hasn’t exactly stepped up to the plate in the climate fight — this July, they used a business case rather than science to oppose the EPA’s efforts to regulate GHGs under the Clean Air Act. Even so, UCAR’s coalition clearly remains hopeful that a new administration will return the OSTP to a science-based department rather than a pro-business, anti-regulation Executive Office.

For the last seven years, the Bush Administration has severely under-funded climate-change research while failing to seriously address the energy issue. While it’s too late for the Bush administration to change its ways, the next administration has the opportunity — perhaps through the recommendations of UCAR’s coalition — to pick up the slack where the current administration left off.

  1. No offense intended but putting “climate change” and “Hurricane Katrina” together in the first paragraph makes you sound like a moron.

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  2. There’s definitely a link between climate change and storm strength, whether or not there is a direct connection between Katrina and climate change. From the Pew Center on Global Climate Change: “Because hurricanes draw strength from heat in ocean surface waters, warming the water should generate more powerful hurricanes, on average. . . . although we cannot be certain global warming intensified Katrina per se, it clearly has created circumstances under which powerful storms are more likely to occur at this point in history (and in the future) than they were in the past. Moreover, it would be scientifically unsound to conclude that Katrina was not intensified by global warming.”
    http://www.pewclimate.org/specialreports/katrina.cfm

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  3. Katie,
    I understand your defending your writer but in this instance there is no need for his hyperbole.
    Pew’s information is at minimum, dated. Before I get to that, a couple facts about the devastation caused by Katrina.
    New Orleans flooded because the levees failed. If you build a city a few feet above sea level, at sea level, or below sea level, your levees had better hold up. At least half (and maybe 2/3′s) the cost of the damage is attributable to the failure.
    Regarding the massive loss of life you have the above and the local government’s failure to get everybody to high ground.
    .
    Three or four years ago Chris Landsea, now Science and Operations Officer at the National Hurricane Center was one of the few top tier scientists questioning global warming/hurricane interactions.
    .
    Then in March we witnessed profound intellectual honesty from another first rank scientist:

    “One of the most influential scientists behind the theory that global warming has intensified recent hurricane activity says he will reconsider his stand.
    The hurricane expert, Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, unveiled a novel technique for predicting future hurricane activity this week. The new work suggests that, even in a dramatically warming world, hurricane frequency and intensity may not substantially rise during the next two centuries.

    The research, appearing in the March issue of Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, is all the more remarkable coming from Emanuel, a highly visible leader in his field and long an ardent proponent of a link between global warming and much stronger hurricanes.

    His changing views could influence other scientists.

    “The results surprised me…”‘
    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/tech/news/5693436.html
    Here’s the study:
    http://ams.allenpress.com/archive/1520-0477/89/3/pdf/i1520-0477-89-3-347.pdf

    In the last few months there has been, pardon
    the expression, a flood of new information:

    Simulated reduction in Atlantic hurricane frequency under twenty-first-century warming conditions
    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v1/n6/abs/ngeo202.html

    Global Warming Will Do Little To Change Hurricane Activity, According To New Model
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080812160615.htm

    Warming Won’t Drive More Hurricanes, Study Says
    http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/08/04/hurricane-global-warming-02.html
    .
    There’s enough going on in the world, there’s no
    need for hype.
    And just to be clear, I am all for spending the money.
    We should have computer facilities equivalent to
    those at Los Alamos, dedicated to improving the
    models.
    http://www.top500.org/list/2008/06/100

    And satellites nailing down the facts: data, data, data.
    There is no reason in this day and age that
    “All your temps are belong to GISS”

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  4. I don’t doubt there is a debate over this, and it’s interesting to look at some of those links. But I don’t agree with your statement that putting climate change and Hurricane Katrina together in the first paragraph makes us sound like “a moron.”

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  5. Fair enough.
    Looking at it after a few hours have gone by I think I should have just left a couple links.
    First, one of the premier climate research institutions in the world:

    Is this climate porn?:

    How does climate change communication
    affect our perceptions and behaviour?
    Thomas D. Lowe, Tyndall Centre Working Paper 98, December 2006

    Summary:

    There is growing concern that the social construction of the issue of climate change and its amplification by normative communication channels may be acting to distance or even remove much of the lay public from a point at which they feel they can take action.
    http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/publications/working_papers/twp98_summary.shtml
    http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/publications/working_papers/twp98.pdf
    .
    And from the Institute for Public Policy Research the
    work that put the term in play:
    ‘Climate porn’ turning off public from action
    http://www.ippr.org.uk/pressreleases/?id=2240
    http://www.ippr.org.uk/ecomm/files/warm_words.pdf

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  6. [...] weather, and a coalition of climate groups led by the University Corp. for Atmospheric Research has started pushing for the next administration to fund new research on how best to understand, adapt to and prevent [...]

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