Category Archives: Environment

We Thought We Had Centuries. We Have 12 Years.

The time to act isn’t today or tomorrow. It was years ago. Today, the world’s climate continues to accelerate as governments cave to public pressure at a trickle, passing piecemeal legislation that only scratches the surface of what needs to be done to mitigate the worst case predictions for the climate emergency. When once we thought we had centuries, we now know there are only 12 years left.

One factor frustrating the issue is that the people who contribute most to the worsening climate are not the same people suffering from its effects. “Compare it to the map above. It’s not the same people at all. In economics this is called a ‘negative externality’. Some people get the benefits, other people get the bill.” says writer Indi Samarajiva, “America, Europe, Russia, and China get the benefits of pollution and fossil fuels. Which is perhaps why they are pretending the problem doesn’t exist. Or asking for timid solutions. Because they’re making money off it, and someone else is paying.” He links to a “more robust map” here.

The effects of climate change have been worsening for decades. In the beginning it was easy to write these off as flukes or natural fluctuations in climate. Today, it’s undeniable, with over 99% of scientists in agreement. Europe, a traditionally cool continent is trapped in the worst heatwave its ever seen, with never-before-seen 114 degree days in temperate France, and Swiss glaciers melting. We have entered the Anthropocene epoch, the first geologic era influenced by humanity. The sixth mass extinction the Earth has seen in its 4 billion years of existence, the Holocene Extinction Event. Previous named extinction events killed up to 83% of all life on Earth. The last recorded mass extinction event was the K-Pg Event, precipitated by the asteroid impact in part responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Already we see niche species struggling to survive, as ecological ‘surprises’ make generalist species more prone to stability. A paper by multiple scientists recently published to PNAS reads” Anthropogenic climate change is now adding strong trends on top of existing natural variability. These trends elevate the frequency of “surprises”—conditions that are unexpected based on recent history. Here, we show that the frequency of surprising ocean temperatures has increased even faster than expected based on recent temperature trends. Using a simple model of human adaptation, we show that these surprises will increasingly challenge natural modes of adaptation that rely on historical experience.”

Popular ocean-side vacation destinations are already seeing changes. In this instance, Amazonian deforestation at that hands of the notoriously corrupt Brazilian government are to blame. Most recently Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro threatened to fire an official over damning data on deforestation under his administration. The cutting down of forests, increased wild fires, and fossil fuel use drastically increases the CO2 content of our atmosphere, which is predicted to damage food supplies and even cognitive function.

“I don’t know what’s going on but it’s really not a good sight to see, you know what I’m saying? We’re tourists,” said Sed Walker, 48, who was visiting from Los Angeles.

A study published in July by the University of South Florida in the journal Science concluded that the seaweed problem, which started in 2001 and showed peaks in 2015 and 2018, is here to stay.

Satellite imagery shows blooms of sargassum form at the mouth of the Amazon. From there it spreads across the Atlantic, from the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico to Africa.

Phys.org

And those are tropical regions. The rapidly worsening climate emergency is now affecting our arctic regions at alarming rates that we didn’t think were possible for another lifetime. In Alaska, sea ice has entirely melted away for the first time; a region that even in warm summers retained some of its ice. “I’m losing the ability to communicate the magnitude [of change],” exclaimed Jeremy Mathis, an Arctic researcher and board director at the National Academies of Sciences in an interview with Mashable, “I’m running out of adjectives to describe the scope of change we’re seeing.”

Progressive government officials in the United States are slowly signing on to the Green New Deal, a sweeping and drastic mobilization of US resources on the scale of World War II to combat the climate emergency. Private organizations like the Sunrise Movement are also pushing for its extreme measures. If we do not act now, many fear that it’s not that our great-grand children will suffer, it’s that they won’t ever be born.

11 Billion Tons of Ice Gone In a Single Day

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The Arctic is accustomed to seasonal ice melt and regrowth, or at least it was. The Climate Emergency is changing that, fast. Greenland normally sees its annual melt begin at the end of May. In 2019, the melt came early. In the beginning of May. Admittedly, 11 billion tons of melt in one are not abnormal. What is abnormal, unprecedented even, is when it happens several days in a row. Melt of this degree wasn’t expected until 2070.

NASA

The Climate Emergency, formerly known as Climate Change, is ramping up. Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI) has come forward, telling the world about Greenland’s mass melt-off. 197 billion tons of ice, gone. Many parts of the world have joined the fight against Climate Change, committing to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

CBSN

“It comes in a summer where the Arctic has experienced “unprecedented” wildfires, which scientists say have been facilitated by high temperatures.

Since the start of June, Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), has tracked more than 100 intense wildfires in the Arctic Circle.

Temperatures in the Arctic are rising at a faster rate than the global average, providing the right conditions for wildfires to spread, Mark Parrington, a senior scientist at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECWMF), told CNN last week.”

CNN

Unfortunately, net-zero by 2050 is not enough. To put the Climate Emergency in perspective, one could use an analogy. The Titanic. Climate scientists recently told the world that we have roughly twelve years left to curb the worst-case scenario projections for the Climate Emergency.

So imagine we are the Titanic, and we’ve seen the iceberg coming at us for forty years or so. Nobody really cared much or put much thought into it until the last twenty years. Right, here we are, twelve years to throw the ship into full reverse and dodge the deadly iceberg. Sounds like a plan, let’s do it. Only…that’s not what most governments are doing. The UK’s ‘net-zero by 2050’ plan is the equivalent of killing the throttle, but not reversing it, about twenty years after we’ve slammed into the ice and are well on our way to the bottom of the sea. The final cherry on top? Some people have seen the iceberg, decided it doesn’t exist, and started throwing passengers who do see it overboard.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Be Afraid, Very Afraid: Greenland Ice Sheets Cascading into Ocean 50 Years Ahead of Schedule — olddogthoughts

She also points to this recent science paper that finds a feedback loop. The white fluffy snow that used to cover Greenland reflects sunlight and keeps things cool. When the snow melts, the rock or ice underneath is duller and reflects less light, allowing for greater surface warmth. And more warmth means more snow melt, […]

Be Afraid, Very Afraid: Greenland Ice Sheets Cascading into Ocean 50 Years Ahead of Schedule — olddogthoughts

Tsunami Warning Issued For Jakarta Following Magnitude 7.4 Quake

Potential for a deadly tsunami on the horizon in Jakarta is significant following a 7.4 magnitude earthquake. The Indonesian capital is on high alert mere minutes after being alerted to the quake that occurred just shy of 150 kilometers offshore.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) ranked the earthquake at a 6.8, which though less severe than a 7.4, is still more than capable of producing deadly tsunamis. Officials have warned residents of Pandeglang in Banten and West Lampung to be ready for up to a 3 meter rise in water levels, should a tsunami reach the shores.

Rising Global Temperatures Are Now Pushing Us “Close To Thermal Limits”

The Climate Emergency is introducing humanity to our new, hellish reality with frightening speed. We had every warning possible, but we did not listen. Now, humanity must reap what it has sewn. “The global warming caused by human activities has resulted in a climate emergency that … demands a national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization of the resources and labor of the United States at a massive-scale.” reads Ocasio-Cortez’s draft of the Climate Emergency resolution.

Loughborough University climate scientist Dr. Tom Matthews discusses our new frightening world in The Conversation. Dr. Matthews presents to us the disturbing science of “wet bulb” temperatures. In essence, when it’s both too hot and too humid, the body becomes incapable of producing sweat and thus cannot cool itself. Once this temperature is achieved, death will occur in hours unless you can escape to cooler locations.

“The wet bulb temperature includes the cooling effect of water evaporating from the thermometer, and so is normally much lower than the normal (“dry bulb”) temperature reported in weather forecasts,” He writes. “Once this wet bulb temperature threshold is crossed, the air is so full of water vapour that sweat no longer evaporates,” Dr. Matthews elaborates on the consequences, “Without the means to dissipate heat, our core temperature rises, irrespective of how much water we drink, how much shade we seek, or how much rest we take,”

While humans are currently spared from wet bulb temperatures (having only been measured in the warmest regions of the planet), the animals we share the Earth with are not so lucky. Recently, more than 200 reindeer were found dead in the arctic of starvation. Why’d they starve? The Svalbard reindeer are some of the first victims of the Climate Emergency. The Guardian reports:

“Ashild Onvik Pedersen, the head of the census, said the high degree of mortality was a consequence of climate crisis, which according to climate scientists, is happening twice as fast in the Arctic as the rest of the world. ‘Climate change is making it rain much more. The rain falls on the snow and forms a layer of ice on the tundra, making grazing conditions very poor for animals,’ she said. In winter, Svalbard reindeer find vegetation in the snow using their hooves, but alternating freezing and thawing periods can create layers of impenetrable ice, depriving the reindeers of nourishment.”

The Guardian

As the Earth spirals into potentially irreversible chaos, governments and corporations alike are telling us to calm down. China is on track to meet its climate change mitigation goals, and many other countries are celebrating small successes as well. But scientists say it’s simply not enough.

Even so, CEO of BP, the infamous oil company responsible for the Deepwater Horizon incident, Bob Dudley thinks climate activists are being too polarizing. He told CNBC “I don’t think it helps anything to demonize companies or groups. It gets society polarized and it is really hard to move through big complex problems when you set that up.”

So, as we reach deadly wet bulb temperatures, please do remember not to trouble the billionaires too much. We wouldn’t want to make their lives difficult.

2019 Is Hotter Than Any Year In The Past 2,000 Years, and Scientists Are Panicking Over Earth’s Prognosis

That headline is not clickbait. Scientists are urging legislators and corporations to quit dragging their feet over climate change and call a spade a spade: this is a climate emergency, the biggest existential threat to human life in recorded history.

“We are living a global cataclysm.” Reads an open letter signed by 200 scientists and numerous others, published by France’s biggest news publication Le Monde. “Global warming, drastic decrease of living spaces, collapse of biodiversity, deep pollution of soil, water and air, rapid deforestation: all the indicators are alarming. At the current rate, in a few decades, there will be almost nothing left. Humans and most living species are in a critical situation.”

While politicians bicker and citizens live their lives, scientists are getting increasingly scared, and depressed, over what the data is telling them about our immediate future. They say our ecosystems face collapse, and civilization with it.

“We probably shouldn’t be surprised that some climate scientists are a little spooked by the radical implications of their own research. Most of them were quietly measuring ice cores, running global climate models, and studying ocean acidification, only to discover, as Australian climate expert and author Clive Hamilton puts it, that in breaking the news of the depth of our collective climate failure, they were ‘unwittingly destabilizing the political and social order.’”

Naomi Klein

Despite this, many still (somehow) question climate change. How can the ice caps be melting if it still snows every winter? Perhaps this warming trend is just part of the Earth’s naturally fluctuating temperature. However, at this point the data and evidence are undeniable. The Earth is heating, and far faster than was anticipated even just a few years ago. Not even the best climate skeptic theories stand up to scrutiny, and today nearly 99% of scientists around the globe are in agreement on the climate crisis. These are not natural fluctuations, and here’s why:

Last spring, for example, a number of media outlets and websites reported on a story that looked at data acquired from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP), which estimates changes in global surface temperature. The article discussed a short-term cooling period that showed up in the data in 2017 and 2018 and correctly stated that short-term cooling cycles are “statistical noise compared to the long-term trend.”

Afterward, we received some queries from readers who wanted to know if this finding meant a significant period of global cooling either could be or already was under way.

The answer is no. This story is a great example of why focusing on just a short period of time – say, one, two or even several years — doesn’t tell you what’s really going on with the long-term trends. In fact, it’s likely to be misleading.

Alan Buis, NASA Global Climate Change

What of that other bit in the headline, the one about it being hotter than any year since Christ walked the Earth? The latest studies say it’s true. From the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the sweltering city streets of the Industrial Revolution, this year was hotter than any of those, by a long shot.

University of Bern

One of the three new research publications specifies: “This [research] provides strong evidence that anthropogenic (human induced) global warming is not only unparalleled in terms of absolute temperatures but also unprecedented in spatial consistency within the context of the past 2,000 years.”

We don’t want to leave this on a high note. This is worse than the nuclear threat of the Cold War, worse than 9/11, worse than fears of alien invasions or asteroid impacts. The climate emergency is real, and we’ve already locked in damage that will devastate the planet for your entire life, and far beyond that. There is hope to mitigate the worst case scenarios, but that is our reality now; mitigation instead of prevention.

XKCD.com