Climate change is not an event, it is an amplifier of events

12 07 2013

Another guest post by Mark Cochrane

There is a mis-perception among many about climate change who keep waiting for it to arrive in their lives

Mark Cochrane

Mark Cochrane

without realizing that it is already here and impacting their lives daily.  As I have said before, climate change is not an event, it is an amplifier of events.  In military jargon, climate change is a force multiplier that increases the destructive capability of environmental forces that are already in place, like drought, rain, heat, hail, hurricanes etc.  Climate change just turns up the volume on all of the environmental risks that we run every day.

How does it appear?  One of the most robust signals of climate change around the world has been heavy rainfall events.  How does this work?  As the atmosphere warms, it is capable of holding a greater quantity of water vapour.  The amount of warming we’ve incurred in the last several decades has increased water vapour amounts by 4-6% on average.  Given that water vapour is a very powerful greenhouse gas this is a cause for concern on its own but in the case of water, what goes up must come down and so the amount of time any given water molecule is in the air is relatively short.  There is just more of it in the air and what this means is that since more water is evaporating then more water has to be condensing as well.  The end result is that the whole system speeds up. This shows up at your house as rain.  The amount that comes in a year may not be so different but the rate at which arrives is changing.

These changes are not uniform, however. Within the United States, nowhere has seen the change as fast as the North East although the changes have been apparent everywhere.

What’s more, it is not just that there is more precipitation showing up as downpours or heavy snows, the rate at which the most extreme events are happening are increasing faster than the less extreme events.  What this means is that previously ‘rare’ precipitation events are going to keep getting more and more common.

This isn’t just a US phenomenon.  As was recently experienced in Calgary, Canada and all points downstream, or Brisbane, Australia, or most of Pakistan, or….  The problems of more frequent flooding along river basins is endemic, with locations like Fargo, ND being prime examples.

Rivers act as drainages for landscapes but they also symbolize a universal problem in our built environments.  All of the storm and often sewer drainage systems that we have constructed over the decades and centuries are becoming increasingly outdated.  These systems are designed to tolerate a certain peak flow rate of water.  Now that when it rains it really, really pours, the input rate of water is exceeding the design capacity of our cities and towns to channel it away from roads and buildings more and more frequently.

“Today there is simply more people living in areas at risk of flooding, the infrastructure that we count on to prevent floods is not enough to do the job,” says Kovacs. “And on top of that we are getting more large storms than we have in the past.”

Kovacs points out that, according to his research, basement flooding has emerged as one of the fastest growing causes of losses and extreme damage in Canada, costing $2 billion just in direct insurance payments annually. (link)

These sorts of losses are cropping up the world over.

Munich Re, the world largest re-insurer (that is, the insurance companies’ insurer) knows the planet’s weather is changing radically and quickly because it is writing the cheques to cover the losses. Last autumn it said that natural catastrophes have doubled in the last three decades; extreme weather can take most of the blame. Some parts of the world are changing faster than others. In North America, the weather-related disasters are up almost fourfold, Munich Re said in a report carried in February by the National Journal. The damages bill has climbed from hundreds of billions of dollars to more than $1-trillion (U.S.). (link)

It doesn’t matter if you chose to believe in Anthropogenic Global Climate Change, and it doesn’t matter if you don’t want to pay for its costs.  The bills will keep coming in insurance premium hikes and infrastructure reconstruction costs year after year.  They just won’t be labeled as ‘climate change costs’.

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6 responses

13 07 2013
len gardener

they have a few running around like chicken little’s with heads removed(believing all the theoretical hype), proclaiming the earth is flat and the sky is falling, this climate change furphy no matter how the name is sweetened.

a huge red herring while real issues occur dealing with man’s inhumanity to man. weather is not climate change.

I for one of the many do not want to be guinea pigs for science to fool with, the rise in utility costs is artificial and derived to make it look like a climate fix, all it will do is make the poor suffer even more the masses for the pleasure of a few. science began with mythology, the dreamer/thinker, dream interpreters, tea cup readers, in those when they got it wrong and often they did their demise was at least sticky.

len

13 07 2013
mikestasse

Geez Len, you sure have a weird way of seeing things……..

“weather is not climate change” You’re telling ME this? Exactly WHAT do you think I’ve been saying for years…??

“the rise in utility costs is artificial and derived to make it look like a climate fix” is baloney. The rise in utility costs is all due to GROWTH. New grid infrastructure has to be built AT THE SAME TIME as the old stuff has to be replaced because people in older suburbs want to use more and more power for the swimming pools and other crap (like halogen downlights by the dozen) that didn’t used to be there….

If anything, rooftop solar has alleviated far greater costs that would have been necessary to feed the growth in electricity demand. Rooftop solar has LOWERED this demand, because on hot sunny days, all the suburban aircons are now solar powered.

And as far as “make the poor suffer even more”, mate let me tell you there are very few people around who live on less money than we do………. If you can’t afford solar, you’re doing something wrong. It’s so cheap now, ANYONE can afford it, there are even lots of schemes that will allow you to have it installed for FREE!

13 07 2013
len gardener

g’day mike,

no more weird than mythology science, and yes on one hand you say weather is not climate, but on the other you support the science that says it is, running with the foxes hunting with the hounds barbed wire fences are uncomfortable to straddle.

we the people can demand and get change if we stand united if the chicken little’s would come to senses, not through politics they corrupt and are in bed with the rappers.

that 2013 one you state that is development without foresight, the author states the population has flat lined since the early 2000’s if so then that town is in fact in demise, there will be badly thought out housing, shopping and industrial developments on flood plain land, that is brassy’s problem they sue flood plain, then the storm water has nowhere to go but into factories and homes, and then insurance premiums increase.

there are probably still people with unrepaired flooded homes in brassy had to find someplace else to live carry the burden of loss, the same in Bundaberg from floods last year and the year before, cities now in risky places because of man’s intervention, we’ll have to be like the dutch and those in mississipi build dykes which nature can tumble like leggo blocks.

take care mike and others it will only get worse and worse while we chase theory.

13 07 2013
Paul Handover

Deeply interesting guest post from Mark Cochrane. Thanks.

13 07 2013
mikestasse

This is a comment someone left in response to Mark’s post (above) at its original place on Peak prosperity……

Mark,

I wanted to tell you this funny (but sad) anecdote of this problem regards to
the town I grew up in. In that town there are multiple overpasses where the
overpass itself (or the bridge as you can call it) is level with the ground,
but the road underneath it has been dug pretty steeply down only to go back
up immediately after the overpass is crossed. The folks in my old hometown
said that during the existence of these overpasses (which were built in the
40’s, 50’s or 60’s the latest) none of them have ever flooded and the
infrastructure investments have been kept up, so the traditional drainage
system still works. The towns’ population has more or less been flat since
the mid 1960’s, and there have been no new major industries in the town that
would consume water so the overall water consumption has also been flat for
decades.

So during my whole time in the town no overpasses flooded. Then in 2002 (or
so) the first flooding took place. People were so amazed by it that they made
pranks about it, by taking rubber boats into it, pretending to fish in it etc.
An unlucky driver thought that she had gone mad and drove into the water,
since she couldn’t believe that it was real! Then in 2007 the overpass
flooded again. And then in 2010. And then in 2012, and now again in 2013 and
we’re mid year, and there is at least one heavy rain season coming before the
end of the year. This problem has now happened so frequently that the town
politicians have started to discuss about the option of installing a
permanent pump system into the affected overpass. The problem is that this is
one of the busiest roads in town and when this happens traffic has to be
split between one road located a mile away and another road located 2 miles
away.

13 07 2013
samsavvas

Great guest post – well done Mark. The points distinguishing ‘weather’ from climate change are very well made.
Sam P.

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