Carbon Curves

Apr 20, 2014

When environmental scientist Jane Lubchenco served as administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from 2009 to 2013, the U.S. was experiencing the most extreme four years of weather in its history. With 770 major tornados, 70 Atlantic hurricanes, 6 major floods, 3 tsunamis, record-breaking snowfall, drought, heat waves and wildfires, climate change started to become part of the conversation. “I think that that extreme weather actually changed a lot of peoples’ opinions,” said Lubchenco, a marine ecologist at Oregon State University. Scientists then began looking at how human intervention in the climate system changes the likelihood of weather events. While some researchers say it’s difficult to connect the dots between extreme weather events and human fingerprints, Santer said it’s clear the fingerprints are there, increasing the intensity of such occurrences. “I think a lot  of people have difficulty wrapping their minds around some of the language that scientists use to describe events like this,” Lubchenco said. “We're honoring Steve Schneider tonight and he was one of the champions of trying to find the right analogies to describe things.” “I think there is increasing evidence that the very, very large heat waves that we are seeing, we expect to be seeing more of those and lasting longer,” she said. “And I think the attribution for those is stronger.” When Santer was asked what he says to people who deny climate change because it’s cold outside, he replied, “That’s a phenomenon we climate scientists refer to as winter.” “There seems to be this incorrect expectation that as human-caused burning of fossil fuels has increased levels of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that we expect each year to be inexorably warmer than the previous year and we expect winter to go away,” Santer said. “That never was our expectation.” When Santer testified in front of Congress in 2010, he first heard the contrived narrative that global warming had stopped. Because the claim didn’t have any actual scientific evidence, Santer described it as “science by eminence of position.”  Listen and Learn More Here.