Saturday, April 23, 2011

powersurge spring

--climate happenings are at blisterdata--

A new climate events post is at blisterdata.  The past decade was the hottest ever; last year was the hottest year on record; and this springs may shape up to be the most extreme spring on the books.  Extremes are quantifiable in terms of storm and flood damage, and loss in livestock and crops.  Historic storm clusters are a continent-wide unifier of Spring 2011 in the U.S., but the global unifier of this season appears to be drought.

In the American Southwest, Texas and Oklahoma are hard hit.  One should feel compassion for people who are suffering, but how sorry can one feel when it's their fault? The southwestern states are massively Republican populated by majorities of climate deniers.  And now the Southwest may turn into a Dust Bowl, quite ironic, really, since research shows that regional climate would have been ready to cycle back to a long-term wet period had the Americans curbed their emissions.  As Fawcett et al. (Nature 470) put it (p. 518): "in the absence of anthropogenic forcing, the region should be entering a cooler and wetter phase."  I guess it wasn't meant to be. 

In Europe, spring 2011 has morphed into a century drought, and no, the reports of the sand storm in Germany that caused the deadly eighty-car pileup on the Autobahn were no hoax -- welcome to the 21st century.  In Africa, the drought in Somalia is on the global radar screen, but as soon as you dig deeper, you'll find reports of livestock deaths and crop damage in Kenya, Malawi, Niger, and Uganda--basically the spring's too dry all over, from coast to coast.  In Asia, drought is the name of the game in China and Vietnam.  For different reasons (floods and frost), North Korea lost most of its crops as well.  Closer to home, there is severe drought in Cuba, of all places.  South of the border, parts of Mexico are burning because it is so dry.  And drought keeps worsening in the Middle East, especially in Syria, where all hell is breaking loose anyway.

Climate change spawns failed states.  Libya has entered failure mode now, and even if the rebels win, there's no guarantee the tribes will want to stick together.  The outcome of failure is territorial disintegration, displacement, and dieback.  Roots and reasons of failure vary, but judging from the lessons of the Middle East, the process appears to kick in with economic polarization, with the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer.  The next step is fiscal impotence; the inability of the government to provide basic services because of too little tax revenue -- the poor can't pay, and the rich won't pay.  The third step is privatization of government services and the creation of a state-in-a-state: since firefighting, emergency services, police, and schools become dysfunctional, the rich pay for private substitutes, with most costs sunk into security.  Governments in such a predicament are weak, and not only that; they are brittle; one hard knock, like a heat wave, a drought, or a price spike, and they shatter and disintegrate.

Sixty-eight months left.

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