domingo, 16 de fevereiro de 2014
As tempestades que fazem cheias no Reino Unido têm origem no Pacífico. / Público. Ed Miliband: 'Britain is sleepwalking to a climate crisis'. Climate change is an issue of national security, warns Ed Miliband Labour leader says UK is 'sleepwalking to a crisis over climate' as storms bring more major disruption and flooding./Climate change: time for the sceptics to put up or shut up. The Observer. Wavier jet stream 'may drive weather shift' BBC.
As tempestades que fazem cheias no Reino Unido têm origem no Pacífico
CLARA BARATA 16/02/2014 - in Público
Relatório dos serviços meteorológicos britânico tenta explicar a estranha persistência do mau tempo que causou cheias recordes.
Nunca choveu tanto em Dezembro e Janeiro em Inglaterra e no País de Gales nos últimos 248 anos – o que é dizer desde que se começaram a fazer registos metodicamente, diz um relatório publicado já este mês pelos serviços meteorológicos britânicos. A culpa é da corrente de jacto do Atlântico Norte, que está particularmente activa e que se está a ligar com o Pacífico Oriental.
Em resultado deste estranho padrão das correntes atmosféricas, as latitudes médias da Europa ficaram como que com um botão encravado na posição que diz “fabricar grandes tempestades”. A isto poderá juntar-se outro fenómeno: no Árctico, as temperaturas têm subido duas a três vezes mais do que no resto do planeta e isso poderá ajudar a mudar as correntes de jacto, tornando-as por exemplo mais lentas. Isso pode traduzir-se na persistência de uma tempestade, ou de condições de frio extremo ou grande precipitação sobre um determinado local durante bastante mais tempo do que o habitual.
As correntes de jacto são ventos que normalmente sopram de Ocidente para Oriente. Fazem percursos sinuosos, que podem mudar subitamente de direcção, parar ou dividir-se. Formam-se devido à combinação da rotação do planeta sobre o seu próprio eixo e o aquecimento da atmosfera, mas ficam perto das massas de ar com grandes diferenças de temperatura, como as da região polar e como o ar quente que segue em direcção ao equador.
O percurso tomado pelas correntes de jacto influencia fortemente a meteorologia, pois pode gerar depressões – como a mais recente tempestade de neve na costa leste dos Estados Unidos, na semana que passou, em que morreram pelo menos 20 pessoas. Ou as cheias históricas no Reino Unido, que ainda continuam: cálculos preliminares do Met Office [os serviços meteorológicos britânicos] apontam para que o fluxo do Tamisa e de outros rios do Sul de Inglaterra e de Gales foram os mais elevados desde 1947 – o ano em que se registaram as piores cheias na região durante o século XX. A Escócia teve o Dezembro mais húmido desde que se começou a fazer registos, em 1910.
O jacto do Atlântico Norte, diz o relatório Recent Storms and Floods in the UK do Centro de Ecologia e Hidrologia do Met Office, está neste Inverno 30% mais forte do que o habitual, o que provocou um padrão de tempestades excepcionalmente fortes a partir de Dezembro. Estranhamente, o tipo de tempo que se está a registar em virtude desta ligação entre as bacias oceânicas via correntes de jacto seria compatível com um ano de La Niña – um fenómeno climático em que a temperatura das águas do Pacífico oriental desce, e a do Pacífico ocidental sobe. É o contrário do mais conhecido El Niño.
Só que “as temperaturas actuais da superfície do Pacífico não sugerem que estejamos num período activo de La Niña ou El Niño”, lê-se no relatório do Met Office”. Mas “é razoável afirmar que o mau tempo que se vive no Reino Unido tem raízes nos trópicos”.
Por que é que a meteorologia está a ser tão inclemente, então? Para isso o Met Office não tem respostas, embora políticos e activistas britânicos estejam a aproveitar o momento para apontar a necessidade de investir na luta contra as alterações climáticas – que 51% dos cidadãos aponta como a origem das cheias e do mau tempo que afectam o Reino Unido.
Já dos Estados Unidos chega a contribuição de tentar compreender quais os efeitos sobre a meteorologia no aquecimento que se sente de forma acelerada no Árctico. Na conferência anual da Associação Americana para o Avanço da Ciência, em Chicago, Jennifer Francis, da Universidade Rutgers (New Jersey), falou nos seus estudos que apontam para que a perda de gelo no Árctico – que desde 1980 é já equivale a 40% do território dos EUA – favoreça a formação de padrões meteorológicos persistentes em latitudes médias.
A entrada de grandes quantidades de calor e humidade na atmosfera no Outono e no Inverno reduziria as velocidades dos ventos das correntes de jacto, fazendo com que permaneçam mais tempo sobre um mesmo local, como se tem verificado em vários episódios de fenómenos climáticos extremos, explicou a cientista, baseando-se num estudo que publicou em 2012 na revista Geophysical Research Letters.
Labour leader says UK is 'sleepwalking to a crisis over climate' as storms bring more major disruption and flooding
Toby Helm and Jamie Doward
The Observer, Sunday 16 February 2014 / http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/feb/15/ed-miliband-stark-warning-climate-change
Britain is sleepwalking towards disaster because of a failure to recognise that climate change is causing the extreme weather that has blighted the country for more than a month, Ed Miliband has warned.
The Labour leader says in an interview with the Observer that climate change is now an issue of national security that has the potential not only to destabilise and cause conflict between regions of the world, but to destroy the homes, livelihoods and businesses of millions of British people.
Criticising David Cameron for appearing to backtrack on his commitment to the environmental cause, he calls on senior figures in all parties to unite behind the scientific evidence that climate change is a key factor in extreme weather. Failure to do so, he warns, will have catastrophic consequences.
Miliband says the science on the issue is now overwhelming, citing the government's own special representative on climate change, Sir David King, who recently warned: "Storms and severe weather conditions that we might have expected to occur once in 100 years in the past may now be happening more frequently and the reason is … that the climate is changing."
Miliband says: "In 2012 we had the second wettest winter on record and this winter is a one in 250-year event. If you keep throwing the dice and you keep getting sixes then the dice are loaded. Something is going on."
Suggesting the country rebuilds the frayed national consensus on climate change and shows the kind of cross-party unity seen in wartime, he adds: "We have always warned that climate change threatens national security because of the consequences for destabilisation of entire regions of the world, mass migration of millions of people and conflict over water or food supplies.
"But the events of the last few weeks have shown this is a national security issue in our own country too with people's homes, businesses and livelihoods coming under attack from extreme weather. And we know this will happen more in the future.
"The science is clear. The public know there is a problem. But, because of political division in Westminster, we are sleepwalking into a national security crisis on climate change. The terrible events of the last few weeks should serve as a wake-up call for us all."
With the Tory party divided over whether extreme weather can be linked to climate change, a leading independent adviser to the government has also joined the fightback against the sceptics. Lord Krebs, a member of the Climate Change Committee, described those who question the science as "the flat earthers of contemporary society who show a flagrant disregard for the future needs of our children and grandchildren".
Krebbs said not enough was being spent on flood defence because "we have not taken a long-term view of what needs to be done".
An Opinium/Observer poll shows more than half of voters (51%) believe the recent floods are a sign of climate change and global warming while 24% do not and 20% are neutral. Among young people aged 18-34, 60% blame climate change, while 44% of those aged over 55 take the same view. Some 51% say David Cameron has handled the crisis badly while 21% says he has done well.
Political fallout from the floods and storms continued as it was confirmed that three people died on Friday during weather which left tens of thousands of homes without power.
A woman killed in a car crushed by falling masonry in Holborn, Holborn, central London,, was named as minicab driver Julie Sillitoe, a 49-year-old mother of three. An 85-year-old man died after the 22,000-tonne liner Marco Polo, on which he was returning from a cruise to South America, was hit by a freak wave in the Channel causing water to enter through a window. The man was airlifted off the vessel with a woman in her 70s, but later died. Bob Thomas, 77, from Caernarfon, died in hospital after being hit by a falling tree in his garden on Wednesday.
More than 30 people had to be rescued from a seafront restaurant in Milford on Sea, Hampshire, after wind-blown shingle shattered windows and the sea flooded in.
Chief Inspector Gary Cooper, who co-ordinated the rescue, said it was probably the most difficult joint operation he had been involved in during his 28 years of policing. "The extreme weather conditions of stones being thrown from the beach with the power of the wind to smash windscreens of fire engines and military trucks was almost like they were being shot from a rifle," he said.
There was disruption across Britain's road and rail networks, with hundreds of trees uprooted. Many train services were cancelled. Some 22 severe flood warnings – indicating a danger to life – were issued for coastal communities from Cornwall to Hampshire, Gloucester and the Thames Valley, where rivers remain at their highest levels for decades.
Nearly 190 less serious flood warnings and 320 flood alerts were also in place on Saturday.
Miliband said he was ready to work with politicians of all parties, including "green" Tories such as Zac Goldsmith, to rebuild the consensus around climate change. He announced a three-point plan to tackle the crisis, including tougher decarbonisation targets, moves to strengthen the country's resilience to floods, and a push to boost business investment in the green economy.
He said that "dither and denial" would be disastrous for the country.
Ed Miliband: 'Britain is sleepwalking to a climate crisis'
Dither – and denial – over the widely agreed cause of extreme weather are paralysing government and steering the country towards a security crisis, believes the Labour leader
Toby Helm, political editor
The Observer, Saturday 15 February 2014 / http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/feb/15/uk-floods-climate-change-disaster-ed-miliband
We are on the 3.30pm train from Birmingham to London and it feels like a race against time. Outside, the fields are flooded and the rain is lashing down. More bad weather is heading in fast from the west. Two days before, on Wednesday, Virgin Trains called a temporary, early-evening halt to services in and out of Euston and passengers are worried it may do so again.
Aside from a nagging anxiety about getting home, Ed Miliband is having a decent day. Earlier, he dropped in on south Manchester, where Labour had won the Wythenshawe and Sale East byelection with ease, before heading to Birmingham to explain his union reforms to a group of mostly enthusiastic party activists.
Now, however, he wants to discuss something far more important: climate change, its consequences, and his plans to combat its worst effects. Between 2008 and 2010, Miliband was secretary of state for energy and climate change at a time when David Cameron was positioning himself as a believer in everything green. It seems like an age ago that they trod such similar ground.
"I genuinely believed he believed it," he says of the prime minister's ultra-green phase as opposition leader. "He talked a lot about it. It seemed to be close to his heart."
Since then, though, much water has passed under the Tory bridge and Miliband is not at all sure what Cameron believes. The economic crash and recession helped put green politics out of fashion in Conservative circles and austerity made the whole agenda seem, at least to some, like an expensive luxury the country could not afford.
In 2012, Cameron sacked a green energy minister, Charles Hendry, and appointed a climate change sceptic, Owen Paterson, as environment secretary. Where being green had once been a defining mission, for Cameron and others it had become a financial burden and a source of party division. Last year, Cameron was said to have been wandering around Downing Street talking of his wish to be rid of all this "green crap" .
As the wind buffets our carrriage, Miliband describes Cameron's claims to be leading the "greenest government ever" as nothing more than a joke these days. Last week – after more than a fortnight of storms and wall-to-wall media coverage of a country under water – he tuned into the prime minister's press conference and heard Cameron equivocate when asked about the link between climate change and storms and floods.
Cameron said: "I think the point I would make is, whatever your view, clearly we have had and are having some pretty extreme weather. So whatever your view about climate change, it makes sense to mitigate it and act to deal with that weather." Everyone had a right to their own view, but the prime minister would not stick his neck out. Had he lost faith in climate change as the cause of the extreme weather and was he no longer prepared to lead the debate? Miliband was mystified and dismayed.
"It is pretty extraordinary that [in Cameron's case] it has gone from a core conviction, a part of his irreducible core, to a matter of conscience as to whether you believe it or not," he says.
For the Labour leader there is no doubt. "In 2012 we had the second wettest winter on record and this winter is a one in 250-year event. If you keep throwing the dice and you keep getting sixes then the dice are loaded. Something is going on," he says.
Miliband has plenty of experience on climate change. In 2008, he navigated the Climate Change Act, which committed the UK to cut its emissions by at least 80% by 2050, through parliament. It passed with only five votes against.
At that time, all three political parties appeared united about the scale of the problem and the measures that needed to be taken. The act was regarded around the world as a model. But today, squabbling and inconsistent messages from ministers, and pressure from Ukip has split the Tories from Labour and the Liberal Democrats on green issues.
Miliband is keen not to be seen to be laying too much blame at Cameron's door, when so many people are suffering the terrible effects of flooding. It is not a time for political point-scoring but for leadership, he says.
But he struggles to avoid personal criticism, because he believes the Tories' divisions on the issue are having an effect on policy. "The reality is that the action we take as a country depends on whether you believe in climate change. If you believe that the climate has been changing for centuries – and that this is no different – then why would you believe that it is necessary to take all the measures that are required?
"What we have seen for the last couple of weeks is that that [attitude] has impacts.
"So when the government downgrades flood protection, cuts the floods budgets, cuts the adaptation budget – all of those things – that has an impact."
He says it is urgent that a national consensus is rebuilt behind the scientists' view that climate change is to blame for extreme weather – because otherwise the planning about how to respond will continue to be inadequate.
More money, he admits, will have to be spent on flood defence – though he is adamant that a Labour government would find it by reordering priorities rather than increasing overall spending.
He wants the floods to serve as a wake-up call and suggests that the need for national unity on this issue is just as urgent as it is in wartime. "We have always warned that climate change threatens national security because of the consequences for destabilisation of entire regions of the world, mass migration of millions of people and conflict over water or food supplies," he says.
"But the events of the last few weeks have shown this is a national security issue in our own country, too, with people's homes, businesses and livelihoods coming under attack from extreme weather. And we know this will happen more in the future."
Miliband's declared mission is to rebuild a national consensus on the subject. That task is, however, hugely complicated by the divisions in the Tory party between climate change deniers, agnostics and believers.
"The problem is that either denial or dither on climate change will damage the country. Denial is damaging because it means you won't take the steps necessary, but dither is damaging, too, because it means you are half-hearted about taking the necessary measures.
"The science is clear. The public know there is a problem. But, because of political division in Westminster, we are sleepwalking into a national security crisis on climate change."
He calls for "decent people" in the Tory party and the Liberal Democrats to join the cause, "to come forward and say, we can't have this ambivalence any more because it will be disastrous for this country".
A FLOOD OF FACTS
■ The Thames Barrier at Woolwich was shut for a record 16th consecutive tide yesterday to reduce flood risk for communities along the Thames, which recorded some of its highest levels in 60 years.
■ The Energy Networks Association said electricity had been restored to 572,291 properties across the UK since the storms struck, but 16,092 homes, mostly in north Wales, remained cut off.
■ Local authorities are providing 10,000 sandbags a day to home and business owners trying to protect their properties. Around 5,800 properties have flooded.
■ An estimated 7.3 million tonnes of water is being pumped off the Somerset Levels every day.
■ 5.2 million properties in England – one in six – are at risk of flooding. Of these, 1.4 million are at risk from rivers or the sea alone, 2.8 million from surface water and 1 million are at risk from both.
Climate change: time for the sceptics to put up or shut up
If climate change sceptics have a coherent explanation for the events we are witnessing, it's time they held an international conference and told us what they believe
The Observer, Sunday 16 February 2014 / http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/16/climate-change-deniers-put-up-or-shut-up?CMP=fb_gu
Say I were to ask you to prove that the dinosaurs were wiped out when an asteroid collided with the Earth 66m years ago, in what is now snappily called the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event.
If you were as weirdly obsessed by these catastrophes as I am, you would maybe start by citing the worldwide layer of sediment known as K-Pg boundary, which was first discovered near Gubbio, in Italy, and is thought to be the fallout from a massive explosion. You would mention the soot that is associated with this layer, the site of a huge impact in the Yucatán region of Mexico 66m years ago and, finally, you'd ask what else could have caused the dinosaurs to die out more or less overnight. A sceptic might respond that this is all supposition, evidence tenuously linked to fit a very recent theory: none of it constitutes proof and no one can ever know why the dinosaurs vanished to allow the rise of mammals and the eventual evolution of man.
So you would quote more evidence, such as the presence in the K-Pg layer of iridium, an element rare on Earth but not in asteroids, as well as the altered state of quartz, which can only be made under extremely high pressure, such as is caused by a huge impact of a 10km asteroid. You would mention the long darkness when only ferns grew and the fact that the seas were emptied of all but the most tenacious species.
Ah, but this is still all very hypothetical, the sceptic would say, at which point you might give up and tell him, yes, a spacecraft might have visited Earth and exterminated 75% of the world's species, but you're going with the best available evidence. The sceptic would walk away, satisfied that he had achieved a draw, not from the merit of his argument, but simply because he had not let you convince him.
This is where we are with the climate change deniers. The absolute proof of manmade global warming is unlikely to arrive until it is too late and so the deniers are scrupulously indulged with equal time in the argument, where, taking the part of Little Britain's wheelchair user Andy to our Lou, nothing is ever good enough for them.
They are always the sniping antagonists, rarely, if ever, standing up to say: we believe in the following facts and here is our research. It is a risk-free strategy – at least for the moment – that comes almost exclusively from the political right and is, as often as not, incentivised by simple capitalist gain. Hearing Lord Lawson argue with the impeccably reasonable climate scientist Sir Brian Hoskins on the BBC Today programme last week, I finally boiled over. It is surely now time for the deniers to make their case and hold an international conference, where they set out their scientific stall, which, while stating that the climate is fundamentally chaotic, provides positive, underlying evidence that man's activity has had no impact on sea and atmosphere temperatures, diminishing icecaps and glaciers, rising sea levels and so on.
Until such a conference is held and people such as Lawson, Lord Monckton, Christopher Booker, Samuel Brittan and Viscount Ridley – names that begin to give you some idea of the demographic – are required to provide the proof of their case, rather than feeding off that of their opponents, they should be treated with mild disdain. I don't say deniers should be banned from media outlets, as the website Reddit has attempted to do, but just that there should be agreement that they must now qualify, with argument and facts, for the balanced coverage they receive in such places as the BBC.
I believe so passionately in the Natural Causes Climate Change Conference (the NCCCC, perhaps) that the fee for this column is offered to start the ball rolling. And I will be the first to buy a ticket, because the deniers' case has about a tenth of the strength of the warmists' case and I want to see them flounder, as all the scientific guns are trained on them. Of course this will not happen – why would someone such as Lawson exchange the comfortable position of ringside critic for the roll of protagonist? But for him and the rest of the deniers, a failure to put up will soon mean they have to shut up, simply because no one is listening.
With each new freak weather event, they look more and more superfluous to the debate about how we survive the 21st century.
For the moment, however, they have a disproportionate influence because they've created the illusion that this is a finely balanced discussion where a person can reasonably support either side. They empower a certain amount of stupidity, laziness, selfishness and ignorance in the minds of many, and I hope some of the younger deniers, though few, live to acknowledge responsibility.
I mentioned that most deniers come from the right and it is true the uninterrupted business of capitalism, which often entails waste of resources and energy, is a priority, but there is something deeper that explains why there are so few deniers from the left and that is to do with conservative mind. In his 1956 essay "On Being Conservative", the philosopher Michael Oakeshott wrote that the man of conservative temperament is "not in love with what is dangerous and difficult; he is unadventurous; he has no impulse to sail uncharted seas. What others plausibly identify as timidity, he recognises in himself as rational prudence. He eyes the situation in terms of its propensity to disrupt the familiarity of the features of his world".
This is so perceptive about the conservative instinct and I think it explains the reluctance among many sane people to come to grips with the enormous implications of manmade climate change: the radical actions we must take to avert further rises and how we should adapt our societies and economic systems to cope with extreme weather events associated with even the tiniest temperature rise, which are now agreed by both sides.
To suspend hostilities for a moment, it seems to me that both sides should start by considering the undeniable waste of energy in British cities, where office lights shine through the night and supermarkets pump out hot air at open entrances and cold air in their freezer sections. Energy saving and a huge insulation programme might prevent the construction of more wasteful wind turbines, some of which, in the extreme weather of last week, burst into flames or had to be shut down.
We have to come to some agreement soon or the deniers won't be the only dinosaurs.
Wavier jet stream 'may drive weather shift'
By Pallab Ghosh
Science correspondent, BBC News, Chicago / http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-26023166
We can expect more of the same and we can expect it to happen more frequently”
Prof Jennifer Francis
New research suggests that the main system that helps determine the weather over Northern Europe and North America may be changing.
The study shows that the so-called jet stream has increasingly taken a longer, meandering path.
This has resulted in weather remaining the same for more prolonged periods.
The work was presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Chicago.
The observation could be as a result of the recent warming of the Arctic. Temperatures there have been rising two to three times faster than the rest of the globe.
According to Prof Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University in New Jersey: "This does seem to suggest that weather patterns are changing and people are noticing that the weather in their area is not what it used to be."
The meandering jet stream has accounted for the recent stormy weather over the UK and the bitter winter weather in the US Mid-West remaining longer than it otherwise would have.
"We can expect more of the same and we can expect it to happen more frequently," says Prof Francis
The jet stream, as its name suggests, is a high-speed air current in the atmosphere that brings with it the weather.
It is fuelled partly by the temperature differential between the Arctic and the mid-latitudes.
If the differential is large then the jet stream speeds up, and like a river flowing down a steep hill, it ploughs through any obstacles - such as areas of high pressure that might be in its way.
If the temperature differential reduces because of a warming Arctic then the jet stream weakens and, again, like a river on a flat bed, it will meander every time it comes across an obstacle.
This results in weather patterns tending to becoming stuck over areas for weeks on end. It also drives cold weather further south and warm weather further north. Examples of the latter are Alaska and parts of Scandinavia, which have had exceptionally warm conditions this winter
With the UK, the US and Australia experiencing prolonged, extreme weather, the question has been raised as to whether recent patterns are due to simple natural variations or the result of manmade climate change? According to Prof Francis, it is too soon to tell.
"The Arctic has been warming rapidly only for the past 15 years," she says.
"Our data to look at this effect is very short and so it is hard to get a very clear signal.
"But as we have more data I do think we will start to see the influence of climate change."
Prof Francis was taking part in a session on Arctic change involving Mark Serreze, the director of the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado.
He said the idea that changes in the polar north could influence the weather in middle latitudes - so-called "Santa's revenge" - was a new and lively area of research and somewhat controversial, with arguments for and against.
"Fundamentally, the strong warming that might drive this is tied in with the loss of sea-ice cover that we're seeing, because the sea-ice cover acts as this lid that separates the ocean from a colder atmosphere," Dr Serreze explained.
"If we remove that lid, we pump all this heat up into the atmosphere. That is a good part of the signal of warming that we're now seeing, and that could be driving some of these changes."