Tuesday 31 May 2016

Context to the deluge in Germany while perpetuating a myth

This article still perpetuates the myth that we still have time to reduce emissions.

The horse has bolted.

We are living in the Age of Consequences. Kama.

Another deluge hits frontpage news, this time in Germany

30 May, 2016

The SPIEGEL is currently covering what is called a Natural Disaster, official eyewitnesses from the natural disaster response describe the flash flood event as unprecedented. Here is some footage, via SPIEGEL, and context in German

Weiß von Hagelkörnern ist eine Straße in Ansbach (Bayern) am 29.05.2016 nach einem Unwetter. Neben Hagel hatten schwere Regenfälle zu Überschwemmungen geführt. Foto: Mathias Neigenfind/dpa +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++
Nach einem Unwetter mit starken Regenfällen ist am 29.05.2016 eine Straße in Schwäbisch Gmünd (Baden-Württemberg) total überschwemmt. Foto: Jonas Heilgeist/dpa +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++
Ein Auto liegt am 30.05.2016 in Braunsbach (Baden-Württemberg) an eine Hauswand gespült. Durch heftigen Regen sind zwei kleine Bäche über die Ufer getreten, Häuser und Autos wurden beschädigt. Foto: Franziska Kraufmann/dpa +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++
dpatopbilder - Ein Fahrzeug der Straßenmeisterei Biberach steht am 29.05.2016 auf der B312 zwischen Biberach und Ringschnait (Baden-Württemberg). Ein heftiges Unwetter hat die Fahrbahn unterspült und diese unpassierbar gemacht. Foto: Thomas Warnack/dpa +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Feuerwehrmänner und Rettungstaucher stehen am 29.05.2016 in Schwäbisch Gmünd (Baden-Württemberg) vor einem Gullischacht, in dem zwei Tote vermutet wurden. Sintflutartige Regengüsse erreichten Teile Deutschlands. Bei einer Bahnhofsunterführung sind zwei Menschen ums Leben gekommen, darunter ein Feuerwehrmann. Laut ersten Ermittlungen wollte der Feuerwehrmann die in Not geratene Person retten und war selbst von den Fluten mitgerissen worden. Foto: Jan-Philipp Strobel/dpa (ACHTUNG: Kennzeichen aus persönlichkeitsrechtlichen Gründen unkenntlich gemacht - zu dpa «Örtlich schlimmstes Hochwasser seit zwei Jahrzehnten im Südwesten» vom 30.05.2016) +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Ein Fahrzeug steht am 30.05.2016 in Schwäbisch Gmünd (Baden-Württemberg) auf einer überfluteten Straße im Schlamm. Nach starken Regenfällen wurden zahlreiche Unterführungen und Straßen überschwemmt. Foto: Sven Friebe/dpa (zu dpa: «Vermutlich drei Tote nach Überschwemmungen in Baden-Württemberg» vom 30.05.2016) +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Unprecedented, the new norm

At the same time, other parts of Germany experienced the hottest ever temperatures for this time of the year. (Source)
Temperaturrekorde fielen wie Dominosteine” schrieb der Deutsche Wetterdienst gestern über das Pfingstwochenende. Mit 35,6 °C wurde zum Beispiel die höchste Temperatur verzeichnet, die je in Deutschland im ersten Junidrittel gemessen wurde.
Stefan Rahmstorf added per his facebook feed today:
Germany is suffering severe thunderstorms these days, and media are calling us to ask about the climate connection. Indeed it is so that global warming very likely leads to more severe thunderstorms. The IPCC concluded in its last report that “for all parts of the world studied, the results are suggestive of a trend toward environments favouring more severe thunderstorms.” A study analysing radar and rain gauge data from Germany concluded that severe convective rainfall increases faster in response to warming than expected just from the increased water-holding capacity of warmer air (Berg et al., Nature Climate Change 2013). And a sophisticated statistical model of hailstorm development predicts that “the potential for hail events will increase in the future (2021–2050) compared to the past (1971–2000), but only statistically significant in the northwest and south of Germany” (Mohr et al., Journal of Geophysical Research 2015).

People who follow natural disasters, and climate coverage are aware that with more energy in the climate system through global warming, more powerful storms and rain events can take place. Munich Re, a major insurer who tracks disasters and their impacts, ranks the costliest flood events worldwide since 1980, revealed in the following graph, (Source)
Except for the 1993 US floods, all the other events occurred rather recently.
The Union of Concerned Scientists summed up the science, of extreme precipitation events:
As average temperatures in regions across the country have gone up, more rain has fallen during the heaviest downpours. Very heavy precipitation events, defined as the heaviest one percent, now drop 67 percent more precipitation in the Northeast, 31 percent more in the Midwest and 15 percent more in the Great Plains, including the Dakotas, than they did 50 years ago.
This happens because warmer air holds more moisture. This fact is apparent when you see water vapor hanging in the air after turning off a hot shower. When warm air holding moisture meets cooler air, the moisture condenses into tiny droplets that float in the air. If the drops get bigger and become heavy enough, they fall as precipitation.
If the emissions that cause global warming continue unabated, scientists expect the amount of rainfall during the heaviest precipitation events across country to increase more than 40 percentby the end of the century. Even if we dramatically curbed emissions, these downpours will still increase, but by only a little more than 20 percent. Regardless of what action we take to cut emissions, municipalities that are vulnerable to heavy precipitation events should plan for more flooding. Any efforts to reduce emissions would make it easier for them to adapt.

Curbing emissions means to actually do something, in those regards Germany recently followed other countries (German news) like the US, and established subsidies for electric car batteries, to help spur a faster deployment of this potential solution to reduce our emissions from transportation, with 4000€ for specific car models.

In comparison, fossil fuel subsidies are still stunningly high (Source / 2014 estimate)
Internationally, governments provide at least $775 billion to perhaps $1 trillion annually in subsidies. This figure varies each year, but it is consistently in the hundreds of billions. Greater transparency would allow for more precise figures.
This means that governments still support the potential destruction through more devastation from more extreme weather disasters, to the tune of up to $1 trillion dollars annually.

The current state of mind

While the flash flooding in Baden Würtemberg’s town Braunsbach impacted a couple of thousand individuals, the rest of Germany experiences rather sunny summer weather with temperatures of around 24C. In the capital high CO2 emitting vehicles are still allowed to drive, without any restrictions. Most people are probably aware of climate change, still they drive cars which cause devastation or they buy products with a high CO2 equivalent, which means a big CO2 footprint, think plastic containers, take an airplane trip a couple of times each year, just for satisfaction. Alternatives would mean to buy more local products, products which come in glass or paper containers, holiday travel destinations which can be reached by train or a short distance from home.

Part of this situation might be because we often read the line “… by 2100 it has been estimated by scientists, or computer models, that … “. Far away from everyday life. But we need to proactively react, change our infrastructure, our transportation, our food supply, what we consume.
A good metaphor for our behavior has been summed up in the following cartoon.
Toles Frog turn up the crazy heat slowly climate change 2009
Joe Romm cited in 2009 about above cartoon,
Goltz observed that a frog, when placed in water the temperature of which is slowly raised towards boiling, manifests uneasiness as soon as the temperature reaches 25° C., and becomes more and more agitated as the heat increases, vainly struggling to get out, and finally at 42° C., dies in a state of rigid tetanus.”

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