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Climate Change: If You Break It, You Own It

If you break it, you own it. Where have we heard that before? Lots of places: Our parents; Colin Powell; the lady who owns the china shop...

If you break it you own it. Where have we heard that before? Lots of places: Our parents; Colin Powell; the lady who owns the china shop. But, are they just words that we have heard so many times before that they have lost their meaning?

Climate change? Are those words also overused? Just ask the residents of the Midwest whose towns were destroyed this year by early tornadoes, for I can say with total certainty that if we would not have been warming up the earth those particular tornadoes would not have gone through those towns on those particular days at those particular times. There would have been other tornados on other days in the south, but in other places at other times. But people would be alive today that were killed by those storms if the earth hadn’t been warming up! 

We used to believe devastating weather events were “acts of God” that were out of our control. Now the chance events that lead to a killer tornado are not “acts of God” but acts of man for we have changed every bit of weather that would have happened by raising the earth’s temperature and adding energy to the atmosphere. From here to the future we have changed the weather for better or worse.

Now we are rolling the weather dice and countless lives will be changed in ways we will never be able to predict or understand. The only simple truth is that we broke the weather, and now we own it. We own every life that has been changed, every sorrow that is different then it would have been, every joy that is lost forever. We own it all.

I said we own the weather for better or for worse. Even in the terrible tragedy of the tornadoes, some people did indeed do better. An example is the increased orders for tornado-safe rooms, but do we want to keep rolling the dice and see who gains and who loses?

If you could snap your fingers and change everyone’s life, would you do it? It would mean that some people would be alive that would have died in accidents. Others would be dead that are now alive. Some would be married to different people and some would have different kids. If countless lives would be different — would you do it? Even if you had no idea of how everything would change?

In my next blog I’ll write about why any change in the climate will be bad for most people.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Diane Kinman March 28, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Makes me think that the earth is changing in order to eliminate the cause of its ills. Like our bodies fight disease, the earth is adjusting to the damage we're doing, and these adjustments may not support human life.
John Locatelli March 28, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Hi Diane: Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Climate change has happened before and life that could not adapt to the changes perished. Humans are very adaptable and no matter what happens, some will survive. There are plenty of resources available now for the world to mitigate Climate Change and live fruitful and satisfying lives at the same time. All that is stopping us is selfishness.
Biff McFly March 29, 2012 at 03:15 AM
John- I'm unclear on your point. Are you saying that tornadoes would not be occuring if there wasn't climate change? Tornadoes occur at the leading edge of a cold front when the air is still warm. That is also the cause of thunderstorms. If the tempurature on a given day was 80 and a cold front was approaching with air 20 degrees cooler, it might cause thunderstorms and even a tornado. In another scenario the temperature could be 77 and the cold front is 22 degrees cooler with the same result. Tornadoes are a very local, isolated event and have been going on for hundreds of years and at times can be very violent. I'm not seeing how that can be attributed t climate change/global warming/global cooling/global globalling.
John Locatelli March 29, 2012 at 05:32 AM
Hi Biff-- You're right that thunderstorms can occur at the leading edge of cold fronts, but the most dangerous ones occur out ahead of the surface cold fronts in what is called the warm sector. My point is not really about tornadoes and how they form, but that for the first time in history we have changed the global climate and now the weather is our responsibility for better or worse.
Jon H March 29, 2012 at 05:49 AM
The problem is that science isn't supporting the link between climate and weather. Further, in the race to claim AGW, many scientists abandoned principle in order to achieve political gains. The data has proven to be inconsistent and many claims are false based on doctored datasets. Science is about repeatability and independent review, this did not happen in climate research of the past 10-15 years. Even the UN can't come up with a strong link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2011/11/30/the-un-pulls-back-from-its-extreme-weather-claims/ Call me a denier, but show me robust statistical analysis and I'll be on the bandwagon. Finally, I think the AGW cult has done damage to legitimate conservation efforts. Clean air, clean water, stewardship of resources, etc are in everyone's interest, but many are cautious to get involved in groups that drive an agenda that missing the real goal.
Bob McCoy March 30, 2012 at 05:19 PM
http://www.globalwarmingart.com/images/1/18/Arrhenius.pdf Whose ox was Svante Arrhenius goring in 1896? With major corporations paying for deniers, and people reading Forbes for their science, profits again put science in the back seat--actually, more like bound and gagged in the trunk. The problem is that science has shown the links in peer-reviewed science, but deniers continue with the "Show me" and deny that climate scientists have an understanding, and that PhDs working for large corporations, such as Exxon Mobil, have better insight--insight that happens to support their company's profit-maximization models. It's interesting that insurance companies are changing their practices because of the increase in extreme weather. To those who insist that man is not a significant part of the problem (AGW vs GW) and therefore we shouldn't try to minimize the problem, here is a way to avoid hypocrisy: If you, or a child of yours gets a life-threatening disease, e.g. some cancer, ask the doctor "Did I cause it?" If the answer is "No," then just say "No we don't want to try to cure it--it's not my fault." "Show me robust statistical analysis" is denier code for "I'll believe what is most convenient for me." Have we accepted the link between tobacco and various cancers, yet, or were the tobacco companies' scientists correct, and the independent researchers wrong?
John Locatelli March 30, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Hi Jon, The article you site is only about the link between a warming climate and extreme weather events. It is not about the link between a warmng climate and increased greenhouse gases. As the accuracy of the computer models increased due to faster computers with larger capacity, the several independent models of climate change came into agreement. The predictions of the models have also been verified by independent measurements of the changing climate. However it is more difficult to link the climate computer models with computer models that predict the daily weather. It is even difficult for the daily prediction models to forecast individual tornadoes and extreme weather events. This is an ongoing problem that scientists are working on. Over 90% of scientists that publish in refereed scientific journals consider the link between a warming climate and manmade green house gases a settled question. Whether this will lead to an increase in extreme weather events is not yet a settled question. The warmer the earth the more water vapor is available. It is not unthinkable that storms will increase in intensity with a warmer earth. Clean air, clean water, stewardship of resources is a commendable goal no matter how the climate changes.
John Locatelli April 01, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Hi Jeff-- I'm confused over what "political pressures and agendas" the people have, who support the idea that global warming is happening? It seems that people who don't support this have real monetary motivation to do so since it will cost money to mitigate climate change in the short term (their lifetimes). Of course, mitigating climate change will save much more money in the long term.
Jon H April 04, 2012 at 05:43 AM
The point of including that link was to address the original articles claims about the link between climate and severe weather. The break it / you buy it kind of rationale does not help the argument. Now the real question of AGW or simply GW... Saying that 90% of some group of scientists agree is pretty much a non-starter. Saying that computer models are getting better is great. And we are seeing some great improvements in the weather forecasts as a consequence. Climate forecasting, being a longer range and thus more generalized endeavor suffers from all of the same challenges of traditional weather prediction and also adds other long cycle elements as well. It is insufficient to say that human activity X leads to climate result Y without providing all of the analytic/statistical backing that we would expect to see from a drug trial or any other scientific study. To date the data has been inconsistent, fraught with scandal and generally not available for interested parties to review. Claim what you want, but if you can't back it up with good basic fundamental science then it is nothing more than an emotional argument. If you don't think that money is involved in the argument on all sides (I think there are more than 2 general points of view) then you are foolish. Forcing the population to behave a certain way via direct or in-direct means will illicit a response.
John Locatelli April 04, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Hi Jon— The computer models that forecast the weather up to about 7 days in the future are very different from the climate models. The daily forecasting models are “running the atmosphere forward” in small time steps using all the physical processes (precipitation, solar heating, land use effects, latent heating, condensation, aggregation, coalescence, etc.) in the atmosphere. The climate models are designed to answer the specific question “what is the effect of adding increasing amounts of green house gases into the atmosphere”? For example these climate models have to include the relationship of how increased temperature will affect the runoff of glaciers. For example as the glacial ice melts the top layer becomes dirtier and the albedo (the ability of a material to absorb radiation) increases. This causes more melting. In addition, the water runoff travels under the glaciers increasing their movement toward the ocean. This increased melting and tumbling into the oceans raises sea levels and changes the properties of the oceans. Also, the climate models have to be concerned with the absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans, and many other processes that do not impact a 7 day forecast.
John Locatelli April 04, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Hi Jon continued--- The climate models then deal with processes and feedbacks that do not affect the daily forecasts. Studies of drugs use a double blind structure where there are “controls” who take a placebo and “non-controls” who take the drug. Neither the doctors who give out the medicine, nor the patients know who is taking what. The future is not being forecast, only the reaction to the drug. Unfortunately we do not have another earth to not add greenhouse gases to which would act as a control. We also do not have the “future” climate record to check. We do have, however enough of a global temperature record as the industrial world cranked up and green house gases started adding to the atmosphere to check the climate models against. The climate models are started before this period and then they can be checked against the available record. This has been done and they can accurately predict the increase in the average temperature of the earth. Also, when the increase in greenhouse gases are removed from the models, the models do not mimic the actual temperature increase that has occurred so far. Both drug tests and using computer models to predict the future climate change (that can be checked against past records) is “good basic fundamental science”, the same type of science that brought you polio vaccines, cell phones, TV, sun tan lotion, etc.
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA April 05, 2012 at 09:44 PM
John- I've just posted a photo of our South Mercer Island home above. As you can see, fellow architect Hawley Dudley designed it for a less rainy climate than ours. It does take a lot of maintenance but we love it. Why is shown on my WebSite- http://sites.google.com/site/jgropp2/alterationsanadditions

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