Michael Mann on El Niño, COP15, Future Climate Change

Despite the devastating storms across the country the last few weeks, NASA is forecasting the worst is yet to come. Michael Mann, author of "Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change" joins to discuss.

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We certainly live in interesting times now, don't we...
If the weather extremes keep making news headlines, will more people wake up to the need to throttle back our burning of fossil fuels? How long will it take for the public to adapt to and take for granted a new climate? Will large scale snowstorms give the snowballists ammunition they can use to further their ambitions to play world class nummies? Buckle up and stay tuned. This promises to be an exciting year ahead!


If a European heat wave killing 70,000 people didn't wake people up to the dangers of ACC, it is difficult to imagine a weather catastrophe that will.

A half-meter of SLR in a decade might do it. Maybe.

Heat wave deaths have strangely little effect on public opinion. I think it has to do with the way people die, and the way we understand the event. It is very different than, say, a flood or tornado outbreak.

#1 SteveP

How long will it take for the public to adapt to and take for granted a new climate?

An interesting question. Here in the UK, the estimated cost of damage from the recent and ongoing flooding is £6bn and counting.

Since insurers raise money by raising premiums and governments raise money (for disaster relief and infrastructure repair) by increasing taxation, I see a problem ahead.

As the frequency and severity of flooding increases, the national ability to pay for the damage (including ever-expanding and very expensive flood protection) will diminish and eventually be overshot altogether. So I don't really see a situation arising where the public will have the chance to adapt to flooding in any meaningful sense.

#4 BBD
The costs of the floods in the US Midwest are comparable to those in the UK, and then there will be the damage to the agricultural sector yet to be tallied. Corn and soybean prices are already soaring as a result. Perhaps the ever rising price of food will alert people to the existence of a climate problem. Or not. These weather disasters are horrendous to the direct participants, but people move on, rebuild and, at least for a little while, get wiser about where they site their homes and businesses if they have any choice in the matter. People have been recovering from floods like this since the Black Sea filled and before. I saw the center of our small city wiped out from flooding in the 1950's, houses floating by and bridges destroyed, and yet normalcy was regained within a year or so. Flood control dams helped prevent a recurrence for the next 60 years. But what it flooding in a particular area becomes more frequent? How much of a strain does the system have to take before it snaps and reassembles into a lower energy level, and before the majority of people recognize the severity of problem, or is it going to be a continual slide with continual adaptation? I suspect that society will keep muddling along, adapting to those changes that it can adapt to, and continuing along until it can't. Necessity will cause all sorts of economic rearrangements.

Ironic sight for the day. Our local river was total ice free today, probably the first ice free January in recorded history. I watched as two people launched their massively overpowered boat into the river, delivered from their large truck and boat trailer. The outboard motor on the boat was one of the largest I've ever seen, and it looked like it weighed more than the boat. Things were really working out fine for these two. By helping fuel global warming, they were helping, in their tiny way, to extend their boating season! Win win! Fun fun!

Heat wave deaths have strangely little effect on public opinion. I think it has to do with the way people die

In addition, many of the people who die from heat waves are elderly, poor, or ailing. These groups tend to be ``out of view'' of the majority of people, which marginalizes news of their deaths.

#2 Adam R
Flooding is a real attention grabber. When Sandy hit our area, the seashore was littered with an incredible amount of debris, as far as you could see. Familiar land was washed away. Many people died. And yet, many people have filed their memories of the disaster as merely random misfortune, and not part of a larger pattern. The weed seeds of misinformation sown by the fossil fuel folks really seem to have taken very firm hold in many minds and probably won't ever be easily dislodged from a lot of them.

Maybe if flooding becomes more frequent, if sea level rise more pronounced as you suggest, maybe then public inertia will change, but if we slide back towards more normal weather after this el Nino, I suspect that we will continue to be battling the climate change deniers for another long round.

Flood control dams helped prevent a recurrence for the next 60 years.

Flood control likely helped particular locations, at the expoense of others... John Russell has a good discussion of the matter:


And in particular, two of George Monbiot's commentaries are worth a read:



By Bernard J. (not verified) on 02 Jan 2016 #permalink

# 8 Bernard J.
The flood control dams in my old home town area were typically built in state forests, and were left nearly empty most of the time. In the event of a freak rain storm or hurricane, they were to be plugged up and would prevent rapid flash flooding. They could also contain quite a bit of water for a time.

Flood prone valleys should be left to agriculture in my opinion. Building in the low part of any sort of river or stream valley seems to be a bit like purchasing a lottery ticket to a raffle which entitles you to have your life washed down to the ocean. But streams are picturesque and it is delightful to live near a stream or river, and that is where the commerce and activity tends to happen, and once you've built there, it is hard to pack up and move.