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Visualization of the Blue Marble where we live: This image was made from a combination of a series of low Earth orbiter and geosynchronous weather satellite images. It was made by Reto Stockli, who I brought from Switzerland to work at my lab at NASA in 1998. I gave Reto the mission and the tools and he produced this iconic full Earth image of the Western Hemisphere that was used as the background for the first iPhone and has been used on billions of iOS devices and innumerable other applications since.

Cars

Costly Global Warming Effects vs. Cool & Fun Global Warming Solutions

In part one of this two-part examination of global warming, we presented evidence that global warming has caused unprecedented melting of ice on Greenland, glaciers around the world, and the Arctic Ocean. In part 2, we present evidence that global warming is responsible for the increase in hurricane intensity, the increase in rainfall (and thus flooding) in some regions, and the increase in drought and fires in other regions.

Stronger & Stronger Storms & Fires

Super Hurricane Sandy on October 12, 2012 at 0320Z (Credit: NOAA)

Hurricane Sandy was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. Inflicting around $210 billion in damage, it was the second-costliest hurricane on record in the United States until it was surpassed by Hurricane Maria ($215 billion) in 2017. It was also approximately tied by Hurricane Harvey ($210 billion) in 2017. (Hurricane Katrina is estimated to have cost $320 billion.) All of these disasters have occurred since 2005.

Especially warm Gulf of Mexico water from global warming allowed Hurricane Harvey to rapidly intensify to Category 4 just before striking Houston on August 25, 2017. With very warm air temperatures allowing greater water content and the storm loitering over Houston for four days, plus the lack of building codes, allowing construction on flood plains, it was a recipe for disaster. Generally, this is the story with all of these hurricanes. Increasingly warm water is leading to bigger and more destructive storms.

Now, in 2021, we have just experienced Category 4 Hurricane Ida, which decimated Louisiana and left a swath of flash floods and flooding all the way north to New England. Ida was the strongest hurricane in history to hit Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina was only Category 3. Once again, the warmer waters in the Gulf of Mexico because of global warming were most certainly responsible for creating a more intense storm. Also, warmer air temperatures due to global warming allow the air to hold more water — most certainly responsible for the intensity of the rain and thus the flooding that was lethal in New Jersey and New York. We don’t yet know the cost of Hurricane Ida, but there’s an estimate that it could be $95 billion. However, keep in mind that the cost estimates of the other hurricanes noted above climbed significantly over time.

Hurricane Michael, third strongest hurricane in US history, hit on October 10, 2018. (Credit: NOAA)

Once again, extremely warm Gulf water temperatures due to global warming allowed a relatively weak Hurricane Michael to intensify in just a few days to record strength, with peak winds of 155 mph and storm surge up to almost 9 ft. The beach front town of Mexico Beach was virtually wiped off the map. Only Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and the Labor Day storm of 1935 were stronger on landfall in the US. However, with its small size, Michael did damage “only” worth $4.5 billion.

Mexico Beach, Florida, before & after Hurricane Michael — April 2017 & October 11, 2018 (Credit: NOAA)

Much like Biloxi Mississippi in Hurricane Katrina, virtually every wood structure in Mexico Beach was obliterated from the town. The storm surge wasn’t as massive as Katrina, but the winds were much stronger.

Then there are the fires in California. See this image and this image for reminders.

As I wrote the first version of this article in November 2018, we watched the death toll rise from 41 to 85. Whole towns were destroyed by the Camp Fire, which is the deadliest in California history. Paradise, California, population 26,218, was burned to the ground.

Warmer temperatures = worse fires: Global warming punishes us again!

Climate Science is Clear, but So is Fossil Fuel Money

Carbon dioxide, methane, nitros oxide for the last 2000 years (Forster et al., 2007)

Since 1850, we have seen a monumental increase in the amount of CO2 compared to that observed in the previous 2000 years. There is very little disagreement that the global increase in CO2 in the atmosphere measured by the NOAA Observatory on Mauna Loa, Hawaii, is caused by human burning of fossil fuels.

Over 97% of climate scientists agree that global warming is real and caused by humans. This graphic from Skeptical Science is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at skepticalscience.com.

The remaining question is: Does this human-caused increase in CO2 result in the observed global warming?

Over 97% of climate scientists agree that global warming is real and that it is caused by human burning of fossil fuels.

So why are there so few Republican politicians who will agree that global warming is real? It is very simple: Led by the Koch brothers, the fossil fuel industry has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions to Republican politicians in exchange for their denial of global warming. Furthermore, conservative Republicans believe that all problems can be solved by the free market and they believe that attempts to address global warming are a move to subject the United States to world government.

Top US political contributors from the oil & gas industry in 2019–2020 and who they contributed to. Chart courtesy of Open Secrets.

Top US political contributors from the coal industry in 2019–2020 and who they contributed to. Chart courtesy of Open Secrets.

The Transportation Transition

In just the last 10 years, the cost of new power generation by wind and solar, including battery storage, has dropped far below nuclear, far below coal, and even below the cost of natural gas. Tesla, GM, and Nissan in the US as well as BYD and numerous other companies in China have proven that battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are technologically superior to gasmobiles. The price of batteries continues to drop, and the range of BEVs from Tesla, GM, Nissan, Hyundai, and Kia have gone from fewer than 100 miles to 250–400 miles. Since fast chargers from Tesla, Electrify America, and others are appearing everywhere, the remaining road blocks are being removed.

In 2021, the percentage of new car sales being plugin vehicles have exceeded 87% in Norway, 55% in Iceland, 47% in Sweden, 30% in the Netherlands, 28% in Germany, 26% in Denmark, 20% in France, 17% in Europe as a whole, 11% in California, and 8% in China. The plugin vehicle market share of the overall auto market globally is now greater than 7%. Unfortunately, only 4.5 % of total light vehicle sales in the US are plugin at this point. You can see that gasmobiles are nearly extinct in Norway. The tipping point has arrived in most of Europe and will soon be here in China and California. The US lags behind, but with the huge new Tesla factory in Texas about to begin operation and more choice of models, especially in 2022 as SUVs and trucks from numerous manufactures (like Ford and GM) come to market, the US plugin market is poised for takeoff. However, some companies (e.g., Toyota and Honda) aren’t selling a single pure EV in the US and will only be dragged kicking and screaming into the future.

4.2 million human beings around the world die prematurely each year from outdoor air pollution. A large portion of that pollution is caused by vehicle exhaust, especially in cities like LA, Denver, Salt Lake City, Seattle, London, and Beijing, which are some of the worst offenders.

The stranded assets of fossil fuel companies and legacy automobile manufacturers will be enormous upon the switch from fossil fuels to wind, water, and solar power generation and from gasmobiles to battery electric vehicles. Therefore, you can expect most of those companies to fight the switch with tooth and nail.

However, numerous cities, states, and countries are in the process of banning the sale of gas and diesel-powered vehicles by 2030 or 2040. Several cities in Europe have already banned diesel fuel vehicles in their city centers.

Likewise, numerous countries, states, cities and corporations have already switched to 100% green sourcing of their power or have goals of switching to 100% green power in the next few years or at the latest by 2035. The transition is underway. And we need it to speed up. Combining the data sets from NOAA and NASA, we find:

  • The 5 warmest years in the global record have all come in the 2010s and 2020s
  • The 10 warmest years on record have all come since 1998
  • The 20 warmest years on record have all come since 1995.

Global warming is real, and it is an existential threat to our Earth. Humans are causing it by burning fossil fuels. We need to stop burning fossil fuels.

The price of acting will be small compared to the much higher price in lives & fortune that we will pay for no action!

Photo taken soon after I had solar panels installed on my house in Lindon, Utah. Now I can say: I’m driving my electric car on sunshine. (Photo by Fritz Hasler)

Electric golf carts lead and follow electric vehicle promotion in Three Lakes, Wisconsin, on July 4, 2018. (Photo by Fritz Hasler)

My small contribution to a greener future: driving my electric vehicle on the electricity made from the sunshine captured on my roof in Utah! I still use some fossil fuels, but I have started the transition. In March 2021, I completed my 7th year driving 100% electric cars. My third battery-electric Nissan Leaf (2018) had 151 miles of range. My fourth battery electric vehicle, a Tesla Model 3, has 310 miles of range. The technology is getting better, enabling the transition we need in order to stop global warming.

 
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Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler, PhD, former leader of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization & Analysis Laboratory (creator of this iconic image), and avid CleanTechnica reader. Also: Research Meteorologist (Emeritus) at NASA GSFC, Adjunct Professor at Viterbo University On-Line Studies, PSIA L2 Certified Alpine Ski Instructor at Brighton Utah Ski School.

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