Plants uncovered by melted ice on the highlands of Canada’s Baffin Island were found through radiocarbon dating to be 44,000 years or older, meaning today’s summers in the region could be warmer than at any time since that era or even earlier.
Boulder CO (SPX) Oct 24, 2013 - The heat is on, at least in the Arctic... Average summer temperatures in the Eastern Canadian Arctic during the last 100 years are higher now than during any century in the past 44,000 years and perhaps as long ago as 120,000 years, newfound evidence indicates.
The recent confirmation of Gina McCarthy—a tough air regulator with a passion for reining in greenhouse gas emissions—as head of the Environmental Protection Agency and Obama’s “national climate action plan” speech at Georgetown University last month signal two things about climate change politics in the United States. One is a glimmer of hope for modest if inadequate policy change. The other is the beginning of badly needed cultural change.
For years, climate change has been one of the great political unmentionables. In the autumn of 2012, after months of crippling drought, a federal drought researcher told me he would infrequently bring up climate change during public lectures. But farmers in the heartland might sometimes ask him privately whether climate change was real—at the end of a talk, while their peers weren’t listening. Such reticence may be common among state, local and federal agencies that deal with the public. In an in-depth story this month, Mother Jones reports that even after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast, it has been difficult for emergency managers at any level of government to speak directly about the threats of climate change.
The topic has been so politically taboo, even on the left, that Obama advisers told the president to keep quiet on the (allegedly) politically risky subject for years, according to National Journal. Media coverage on climate change steadily declined between 2009 and 2012. And with a dearth of useful information available to Americans, public opinion has simply fluctuated with the weather: research shows that belief that climate change is happening drops in cold years and rises again with a heat wave. (A sign that the public misunderstands the science: climate change stacks the odds in favor of weather extremes and heat waves, but doesn’t mean the end of cold winters.)
At the end of September, less than a week from now, the world will be caught in a downpour of numbers.
A warm front is developing in advance of the release of the first volume of the fifth assessment report (AR5) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). At the same time, across the U.S., at least, a cold front of climate denial is developing. When these two fronts collide, one can expect turbulent words and a deluge of numbers about climate change.
How will Americans fare in these rhetorical storms, and what can the media do to help them with their climate understanding? Literature on numeracy, the ability to manage the mathematics of everyday life, offers few grounds for optimism, but it does suggest some ways to respond.
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