By Matthew Rothschild on October 29, 2012

As Hurricane Sandy wreaks its havoc, we need to recognize that global warming scientists have been predicting for decades now that extreme storms would become more likely.

In the first report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, back in 1990, it noted that humans were contributing to global warming, and warned that “climate change is likely to bring changes in climate variability and extreme events as well.”

In its second assessment, in 1995, it predicted greater floods and a “higher

risk of extreme events due to climate change” and warned that “infrastructure would be more vulnerable to increased frequency or intensity of extreme events.”

In its third assessment, in 2001, it said: “Flood magnitude and frequency are likely to increase in most regions,” and it also warned that “extreme events” would become more common.

In its fourth assessment, in 2007, it warned that “high-energy swells” would be “more extreme,” and that we could expect to see “increased extreme water levels and wave heights; increased episodic erosion, storm damage, risk of flooding.”

For North America, in particular, it warned of “rising sea levels and risk of storm surge, water scarcity, and changes in timing, frequency, and severity of flooding,” which could lead to “increased deaths, injuries, infectious diseases, and stress-related disorders and other adverse effects.”

Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report entitled, “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation.” That report warned that “future flood losses in many locations will increase,” and that “climate change may alter both the frequency of extreme surges and cause gradual sea level rise, compounding such future extreme floods.”

One of the lead scientists of that report was Christopher B. Field, who is the director of the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution for Science and professor in the departments of Biology and Environmental Earth System Science at Stanford. On August 1, Field testified before United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

“There is no doubt that climate has changed and that changes will continue in the future, with human emissions of heat-trapping gases playing a major role,” he said. “There is also no doubt that a changing climate changes the risk of extremes that can lead to disaster.”

The scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel are not the only ones who’ve been ringing the alarm bells about the disasters that we’ve been creating with the climate.

James Hansen, NASA’s chief climatologist, has been warning about extreme events since his 1988 testimony to Congress.

In his “Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity,” published in 2009, Hansen predicted “heavier rains, more extreme floods, and more intense storms.”

And, of course, there was Al Gore, in his 2006 documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” drumming home the risks of extreme storms and flooding.

And Bill McKibben of 350.org has been warning us for decades himself. He notes that no single storm can be attributed to global warming, but he adds that when the “ocean is hot—and at the moment sea surface temperatures off the Northeast are five degrees higher than normal—a storm like Sandy can lurch north longer and stronger, drawing huge quantities of moisture into its clouds, and then dumping them ashore.”

He says, with Sandy, we may begin “to sense what the future may be like, as more and more of the world finds itself facing ever-more-frequent assaults from the amped-up forces of the not-so-natural world.”

The know-nothings can deny global warming all they want.

Meanwhile, it is here, and it is taking its toll.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Romney in Denial about Lethal Lack of Health Insurance."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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