On Tuesday, for the first time, government scientists are saying recent extreme weather events are likely connected to man-made climate change. It's the conclusion of a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The report says last year's record drought in Texas was made "roughly 20 times more likely" because of man made climate change, specifically meaning warming that comes from greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide. The study, requested by NOAA, looked at 50 years of weather data in Texas and concluded that man-made warming had to be a factor in the drought.
The head of NOAA's climate office, Tom Karl, said: "What we're seeing, not only in Texas but in other phenomena in other parts of the world, where we can't explain these events by natural variability alone. They're just too rare, too uncommon."
Aside from the Texas drought, NOAA called the entire year of 2011 the year of extreme weather events, starting in Joplin, Missouri.
All told, there were seven tornado outbreaks in America last year that caused a billion dollars or more in damages. There were increased hurricanes in the North Atlantic, unprecedented flooding in Australia but widespread drought in East Africa, and all of that was caused by La Nina. Typically La Nina is marked by a sharp cooling in the Pacific, but last year's La Nina was the warmest ever, and again the government concluded that global climate change played a role.
"What's happening is, these normal fluctuations between El Nino and La Nina events that lead to some of the extreme conditions, become more extreme, more intense than they otherwise might have been because we've got increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere leading to a warmer planet," Karl said.
"Dr. Doom" Nouriel Roubini says the "perfect storm" scenario he forecast for the global economy earlier this year is unfolding right now as growth slows in the U.S., Europe as well as China.
In May, Roubini predicted four elements – stalling growth in the U.S., debt troubles in Europe, a slowdown in emerging markets, particularly China, and military conflict in Iran - would come together to create a storm for the global economy in 2013.
“(The) 2013 perfect storm scenario I wrote on months ago is unfolding,” Roubini said on Twitter on Monday.
Chinese inflation data released on Monday, suggested that the economy is cooling faster than expected, while employment data out of the U.S. on Friday indicated that jobs growth was tepid for a fourth straight month in June.
Roubini said that unlike in 2008 when central banks had “policy bullets” to stimulate the global economy, this time around policymakers are “running out of rabbits to pull out of the hat."
Policy easing moves by the European Central Bank, Bank of England and the People’s Bank of China last week did little to inspire confidence in global stock markets.
“Levitational force of policy easing can only temporarily lift asset prices as gravitational forces of weaker fundamentals dominate over time,” he said.
Bill Smead, CEO of Smead Capital Management, agrees that there is little central banks can do to arrest the global slowdown.
Last week, he told CNBC that there is “virtually zero chance” that pump-priming by central banks will succeed, suggesting that policymakers should instead let the economic bust work itself through the system.
After his eponymously-named lab discovered Flame, "the most sophisticated cyber weapon yet unleashed," Eugene Kaspersky believes that the evolving threat of “cyber terrorism” could spell the end of life on Earth as we know it.
Doomsday scenarios are a common occurrence in 2012, but coming from a steely-eyed realist like Eugene Kaspersky, his calls for a global effort to halt emerging cyber threats should raise alarm bells.
A global Internet blackout and crippling attacks against key infrastructure are among two possible cyber-pandemics he outlined.
"It's not cyber war, it's cyber terrorism, and I'm afraid the game is just beginning. Very soon, many countries around the world will know it beyond a shadow of a doubt,” Kaspersky told reporters at a Tel Aviv University cyber security conference.
“I'm afraid it will be the end of the world as we know it," he warned. "I'm scared, believe me."
His stark warning came soon after researchers at Kaspersky Lab unearthed Flame, possibly the most complex cyber threat ever. While the espionage toolkit infected systems across the Middle East, Iran appears to have been its primary target.
Flame seems to be a continuation of Stuxnet, the revolutionary infrastructure-sabotaging computer worm that made mincemeat of Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz in 2009-2010.
As Flame is capable of recording audio via a microphone, taking screen shots, turning Bluetooth-enabled computers into beacons to download names and phone numbers from other Bluetooth enabled devices, Kaspersky is certain that a nation-station is behind the cyber espionage virus.
While Kaspersky says that the United States, Britain, India, Israel, China and Russia are among the countries capable of developing such software, which he estimates cost $100 million to develop, he did not limit the threat to these states.
"Even those countries that do not yet have the necessary expertise [to create a virus like Flame] can employ engineers or kidnap them, or turn to hackers for help.”
Like Stuxnet, Flame attacks Windows operating systems. Considering this reality, Kaspersky was emphatic: "Software that manages industrial systems or transportation or power grids or air traffic must be based on secure operating systems. Forget about Microsoft, Linux or Unix."
Kaspersky believes the evolution from cyber war to cyber terrorism comes from the indiscriminate nature of cyber weapons. Very much like a modern-day Pandora’s Box, Flame and other forms of malware cannot be controlled upon release. Faced with a replicating threat that knows no national boundaries, cyber weapons can take down infrastructure around the world, hurting scores of innocent victims along the way.
Kaspersky believes that it necessary to view cyber weapons with the same seriousness as chemical, biological and even nuclear threats. Mutually assured destruction should exclude them from the arsenals of nation states.
The apocalyptic scenario he painted is fit for the silver screen. No surprise then, that it was a film that converted him to the idea that cyber terrorism was a clear and present danger.
By his own admission, Kaspersky watched the 2007 Film Live Free or Die Hard with a glass of whiskey in one hand and a cigarette in the other shouting: “Why are you telling them [how to do this}?”
The film’s plot revolves around an NYPD detective played by Bruce Willis, fighting a gang of cyber terrorists who are targeting FBI computer systems.
"Before Die Hard 4.0, the word cyber terrorism was a taboo in my company. It could not be uttered aloud or discussed with the media. I tried to keep the Pandora’s Box closed. When the film hit the screens, I canceled that ban," Kaspersky admitted.