Monday, July 27, 2015

Climate Change Will Be A Problem For Republicans in 2016

I am not aware of any Republican running for president who is an advocate of acting on climate change. Admittedly, I make a great effort to ignore politics and I won't take a serious look at the candidates until October of next year, just before I make my decision on how to vote. Between now and then it's just a bunch of posturing. And, since I am a die-hard independent, I don't get to vote in the primaries.

But, I follow climate change very closely and I have seen the comments made by those who have declared they're running. This posting on ClimateProgress ranks the candidates from being the least to most extreme on climate change denial. The one they ranked the least extreme is former New York governor George Pataki who was on a commission which found climate change to be an urgent threat, but has not stated what his personal views on the subject are. Of note is John Kasich of Ohio and Chris Christie of New Jersey. They both have stated they 'believe' in manmade climate change, but then vetoed or canceled every initiative that came their way. Speaks one way, acts another. That isn't good for someone running for office. Ted Cruz is the candidate they rank as the most extreme, quoting him as calling climate change the "pseudoscientific theory."

In comparison, Hillary Clinton has announced her renewable energy policy. Clinton stated,  “It’s hard to believe there are people running for president who still refuse to accept the settled science of climate change, who would rather remind us they’re not scientists than listen to those who are.” Her competition on the Democratic side have taken even stronger stands on the subject.

What this means is there is a very clear divide between the two parties - those who support climate science and those who are opposed to it. Will the voters even care enough to make a difference in the election? I believe things are not going well for the Republicans in this regard. The weather extremes we have been witnessing in recent years continue to get worse with a number of disasters striking us here in the U.S. It is no longer a case of saying, 'Gee, those poor people in Africa. I'm really sorry for what is happening, but what can I do?" Now, it's becoming "My family and my friends are being hurt by this stuff. We have to do something!"

Once people think climate change is affecting them, they will be more inclined to factor it into their decision-making process. The two main parties have made it clear which side of the issue they sit on. I do not believe there is any chance the number of people who reject climate change will increase between now and election day. But, I do believe there is a significant chance the number of people who accept the science will increase. There are many reasons to believe that, but one thing in particular stands out - El Nino.

The El Nino we are currently in is growing fast. In just three months, it went from being weak (.5 Oceanic Nino Index (ONI)) to moderate (.7 ONI) and is now at .9. The computer models are pretty much in agreement it will continue to get stronger into the fall, peaking out in the October-November-December period. The official forecast is a 90% chance it will continue through the Northern Hemisphere winter and an 80% chance it will continue through early spring. Take a look here:

Source: National Weather Service

What we are looking at is a record of the sea surface temperature across the equatorial Pacific from South America on the right to Indonesia on the left. Time goes from top to bottom. If you scan the graph from top to bottom you can see how the sea surface temperature along the equatorial Pacific has changed with time, Aug 2014 - Jul 2015 in this particular case. Hot colors (yellow, orange and red) represent elevated temperatures compared to the long-term average. Shades of blue represent cooler temperatures. It is very easy to see how the temperature anomalies along the equatorial Pacific have greatly increased over the last year and this increase appears to be continuing. I would not be surprised to see the ONI increase to somewhere around 1.5 before it begins to fade. That would make this a very strong El Nino event. In comparison, the extreme event of 1997-1998 reached a high of 2.3 ONI.

What does this have to do with the presidential election? El Nino events bring chaotic weather. Strong El Ninos bring lots of chaotic weather. And, people don't like chaotic weather. As the news stories build up with more and more people realizing something isn't right, candidates telling them there isn't any problem and it's all a hoax will begin receiving a less favorable reception. Campaign managers will tell you, a small shift in public opinion can make all the difference.

Maybe I'm too close to the issue. It is entirely possible the typical American will not care about this issue, one way or the other. But, if they do, I believe the news about climate change over the next 15 months before election day will not go in favor of the Republican candidate. So, all of you die-hard Republicans out there, I suggest you get used to the idea of President Clinton the Second. After all, you are the ones who will be responsible for putting her in the White House.

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