The Madeleine Brand Show for August 7, 2012

Finding the link between climate change and heat waves

New Yorkers Seek Relief From Summer Heat At The Beach

Mario Tama/Getty Images

An aerial view of New Yorkers taking in the sun on a beach at Coney Island on August 4, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The past year through June 2012 in the continental United States has been the hottest since modern record-keeping started in 1895, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA also reports the ten warmest years since 1895 have occurred since 2000.

Across the country this summer, temperatures have broken records. Even typically sublime Southern California is currently experiencing a heat wave. In the inland areas, temperatures in the 90s and 100s are expected until Saturday.

A drought in the Midwest means food prices are rising everywhere because there isn't enough feed for animals. Higher prices for meat and milk are expected.

And expect more summers like this one, says a new scientific paper published yesterday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Climate change is causing extreme weather, concludes the paper.

NASA's James Hansen is the lead author of the study, one of the first scientists to warn about climate change back in 1988.

In this paper, he says he was right about climate change then, but wrong about the effects. He says his new research shows that the earth is warming much faster than he had predicted, causing what he calls "a stunning increase in the frequency of extremely hot summers."

He points to the European heat wave of 2003 that killed more than 50,000 people, the Russian heat wave 2 years ago, and the droughts last summer in Texas and Oklahoma.

His findings have reportedly provoked a split in the scientific community, with some more cautious researchers saying Hansen is exaggerating the connections between climate change and heat waves.

Guest:

Richard Muller, physics professor at UC Berkeley, author of the new book, "Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines."


With contributions by Raghu Manavalan

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