Even ignoring the wildfires and drought this season, the sweltering heat itself is proclaiming this an intense summer. And unusually hot summers are becoming not so unusual, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers averaged the summer and winter temperatures for multiple locations across the globe during the years from 1951 to 1980, establishing a baseline for each season. Then they measured how much the temperature varied from this average over the years. They found an increasing number of anomalies in the past 30 years. We no longer have equal odds of the summer temperatures being unusually hot, or unusually cool. Instead, as the researchers phrase it, we are dealing with loaded dice: we are now much more likely to have a hot summer than an average or cool one. And hot temperatures have become both more frequent and more intense. In the time period from which the researchers drew their average, less than one percent of land on Earth suffered from extreme hotter-than-usual temperatures (more than three standard deviations above the average) at any one time. Now, these temperature hotspots cover 10 percent of the land.
A British jury has cleared six Greenpeace activists of causing criminal damage when they vandalized a power plant last year in a protest over global warming, based on the defense attorneys’ argument that the protesters were trying to prevent even worse damage from climate change. Yesterday’s verdict is expected to embarrass the government and lead to more direct action protests against energy companies [The Guardian].
Last October, the Greenpeace protesters scaled the smokestacks of a coal-fired power plant as a publicity stunt to protest the United Kingdom’s continued reliance on coal-fired power plants, which emit large amounts of the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming. The protesters were halfway through painting a slogan on the side of one smokestack (“Gordon, bin it,” a British way of asking Prime Minister Gordon Brown to chuck coal), when the police served the activists an injunction by helicopter and forced them to stop. They were charged with causing more than $50,000 in damages based on the cost of removing the paint. E.ON, which owns the power plant, said that the company was in a state of shock over the verdict [The Times].
Two years ago, the quiet and bookish climate scientist James Hansen kicked up a tempest. He alleged that his work on global warming at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies had been censored, and that he had been prevented from speaking to reporters by politically appointees in NASA‘s public affairs office.
Hansen has been outspoken on his belief that the consequences of global warming could be drastic, and that the United States should act as soon as possible to regulate greenhouse gases. After his accusations of censorship were aired in the press, 14 senators requested a full investigation by NASA’s inspector general. Now, the results are in.