"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Archive for January, 2015|Monthly archive page

Mourning Our Planet: Climate Scientists Share Their Grieving Process

In Uncategorized on January 28, 2015 at 8:27 pm

Scientists write their feelings about climate change

Oldspeak: “I have been vacillating between depression and acceptance of where we are, both as victims – fragile human beings – and as perpetrators: We are the species responsible for altering the climate system of the planet we inhabit to the point of possibly driving ourselves extinct, in addition to the 150 to 200 species we are already driving extinct daily….Can you relate to this grieving process?  If so, you might find solace in the fact that you are not alone: Climate science researchers, scientists, journalists and activists have all been struggling with grief around what we are witnessingWe don’t know how long we have left on earth. Five years? 15 years? 30? Beyond the year 2100? But when we allow our hearts to be shattered – broken completely open – by these stark, cold realities, we allow our perspectives to be opened up to vistas we’ve never known. When we allow ourselves to fully experience the crisis in this way, we are then able to truly see it through new eyes.”

-Dahr Jamail

“YESSSSSSS….. This resonates sooo strongly with me right now. I intimately relate to this grieving process. I know intellectually that there are people out there who relate to it as well. However, in my day to day life it’s tough. It’s tough to act like everyone else and pretend what’s happening isn’t happening. I don’t know anyone personally who I can share my grief with, without hopium being shoved in my face in the form of denial of the present moment or certainty “we can fix this.”  I find difficulty expressing my lamentations and really being with them, in a meaningful and fully experienced way with others, without being dismissed as a “downer”, “cynic”, or “super-leftie”. I’m just tired of acting like everything will work out OK and that we’re making progress in the “fight” and that justice and life will win out in the end. I’m past optimism in the face of mass extinction. I’m feeling profound grief, sadness, gratitude, wonder, love and acceptance. There’s nothing left to be done, our doing has brought us to this point.  I don’t feel good about participating in a system of being that is killing me and all life on earth. Our incessant and ever increasing doing has rendered half the biodiversity on earth extinct in the past 40 years.  I don’t want do anything anymore. Nearly everything we’ve done the past 500 years and counted as “industrial civilization” & “human progress”  has in fact been industrial destruction of the ecology and human regress, to astronomical levels of illness (mental and physical), violence, amorality and depravity and brought us and most other life on earth to the brink of likely near term extinction.  I’m accepting that. I just everyone else would. I want to be allowed to feel bad about what is happening and have other people genuinely empathize. But alas I don’t see that being so anytime soon, so I’ll continue to let this blog by my extinction grief counselor. I’m goin to have a drink and maybe forget for a spell. CHEERS!” -OSJ

By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

I have been researching and writing about anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) for Truthout for the past year, because I have long been deeply troubled by how fast the planet has been emitting its obvious distress signals.

On a nearly daily basis, I’ve sought out the most recent scientific studies, interviewed the top researchers and scientists penning those studies, and connected the dots to give readers as clear a picture as possible about the magnitude of the emergency we are in.

This work has emotional consequences: I’ve struggled with depression, anger and fear. I’ve watched myself shift through some of the five stages of grief proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. I’ve grieved for the planet and all the species who live here, and continue to do so as I work today.

I have been vacillating between depression and acceptance of where we are, both as victims – fragile human beings – and as perpetrators: We are the species responsible for altering the climate system of the planet we inhabit to the point of possibly driving ourselves extinct, in addition to the 150 to 200 species we are already driving extinct daily.

Can you relate to this grieving process?

If so, you might find solace in the fact that you are not alone: Climate science researchers, scientists, journalists and activists have all been struggling with grief around what we are witnessing.

Take Professor Camille Parmesan, a climate researcher who says that ACD is the driving cause of her depression.

“I don’t know of a single scientist that’s not having an emotional reaction to what is being lost,” Parmesan said in the National Wildlife Federation’s 2012 report. “It’s gotten to be so depressing that I’m not sure I’m going to go back to this particular site again,” she said in reference to an ocean reef she had studied since 2002, “because I just know I’m going to see more and more of the coral dead, and bleached, and covered with brown algae.”

Last year I wrote about the work of Joanna Macy, a scholar of Buddhism, eco-philosophy, general systems theory and deep ecology, and author of more than a dozen books. Her initiative, The Work That Reconnects, helps people essentially do nothing more mysterious than telling the truth about what we see, know and feel is happening to our world.

In order to remain able to continue in our work, we first must feel the full pain of what is being done to the world, according to Macy.” Refusing to feel pain, and becoming incapable of feeling the pain, which is actually the root meaning of apathy, refusal to suffer – that makes us stupid, and half alive,” she told me. “It causes us to become blind to see what is really out there.”

I recently came across a blog titled, Is This How You Feel? It is an extraordinary compilation of handwritten letters from highly credentialed climate scientists and researchers sharing their myriad feelings about what they are seeing.

The blog is run and operated by Joe Duggan, a science communicator, who described his project like this: “All the scientists that have penned letters for this site have a sound understanding of climate change. Some have spent years designing models to predict changing climate, others, years investigating the implications for animal life. More still have been exploring a range of other topics concerning the causes and implications of a changing climate. As a minimum, they’ve all achieved a PhD in their area of expertise.”

With Joe’s permission, I am happy to share the passages below. In the spirit of opening the door to a continuing dialog among readers about our collective situation, what follows are the – often very personal – thoughts and feelings of several leading climate scientists.

Frustration

“Like many others I feel frustrated with the current state of public discourse and I’m dismayed by those who, seemingly motivated by their own short-term self interest, have chosen to hijack that discussion,” wrote Dr. John Fasullo, a project scientist in the climate analysis section of the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, on the Is This How You Feel? blog. “The climate is changing and WE are the primary cause.”

Professor Peter B. deMenocal with Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory shared an analogy to the climate scientist’s predicament, comparing it to how a medical doctor would feel while having to inform their patient, who is an old, lifelong friend, of a dire but treatable diagnosis. The friend goes on to angrily disregard what you have to say, for a variety of very human reasons, as you watch helplessly as their pain and illness unfold over the rest of their now-shortened life. “Returning to our patient, I feel frustrated that my friend won’t listen,” he concluded.

Dr. Helen McGregor, a research fellow at the Australian National University’s Research School of Earth Sciences, shared a very emotionally honest letter about her experience as a climate scientist. Here is what she wrote in full:

I feel like nobody’s listening. Ok Sure, some people are listening but not enough of our leaders are listening – those that make decisions that influence all our lives. And climate change is affecting and will continue to affect all our lives.

I feel perplexed at why many of our politicians, business leaders, and members of the public don’t get that increased CO2 in the Earths atmosphere is a problem. The very premise that CO2 traps heat is based on fundamental physics – the very same physics that underpins so much of modern society. The very same physics that has seen higher C02 linked with warmer periods in the geological past. And sure, there have been warm periods in the past and the Earth weathered the storm (excuse the pun) but back then there weren’t millions of people, immovable infrastructure, or entire communities in harms way.

I feel astonished that some would accuse me of being part of some global conspiracy to get more money – if I was in it for the money I would have stayed working as a geologist in the mining industry. No, I do climate research because I find climate so very interesting, global warming or not.

I feel both exasperation and despair in equal measure, that perhaps there really is nothing I can do. I feel vulnerable, that perhaps by writing this letter I expose myself to trolling and vitriol – perhaps I’m better off just keeping quiet.

Hope

Dr. Jennie Mallela with the Research Schools of Biology and Earth Sciences at the Australian National University shared a range of emotions, including optimism.

“I believe people are capable of amazing things and I do believe that climate change can be halted and even reversed,” she wrote. “I just hope it happens in my lifetime. I don’t want to become the generation that future children talk of as having destroyed the planet. I’d like to be the generation that fought back (and won) against human induced climate change. The generation that worked out how to live in harmony with the planet – that generation!”

She wasn’t alone.

“So whilst there is enough good and committed people we can change our path of warming,” wrote Dr. Jim Salinger, an honorary research associate in climate science with the University of Auckland’s School of Environment. However, he went on to add, “I am always hopeful – but 4 to 5 degrees Celsius of change will be a challenge to survive.”

I asked Dr. Ira Lefier, an Atmospheric/Oceanic Scientist whose research has focused on methane how he felt about our current situation. He expressed his concerns and frustration, but also optimism.

“I find the current situation is highly distressing, in that the facts regarding global warming have been known for many decades, because like an aircraft carrier avoiding a collision, course changes can easily be managed well in advance, but become impossible at the last minute – inertia seals the future destiny,” he said. “And I ask myself, what did we (scientists and activists and concerned citizens of the planet), how did we get here, so close to the midnight? And I think that there was a tragic underestimate based on the successful campaign to save the Ozone Layer through the fight against CFCs – a gas with almost no political lobby, that the global society could easily accept the widespread changes needed to address global climate change through reducing CO2 emissions – which affects almost everyone on the planet. And that political change could be engendered simply by scientists presenting their facts and observations.

“So yes, I find it highly distressing that we are having a societal discussion on whether to take climate change seriously, half a century late. Still, I refuse not to be an optimist, – it is not yet too late. I continue to do whatever I can both scientifically and by communicating with the public, firstly, because it is the right thing to do, and secondly, in the hope and belief that even now, positive action will reduce the damage from ma warming climate to the ecosystem. I refuse to accept ‘apres moi le deluge’ [after me comes the flood].”

Concern

“As a human-being, and especially as a parent, I feel concerned that we are doing damage to the planet,” wrote Professor Peter Cox, of the University of Exeter, on the blog. “I don’t want to leave a mess for my children, or anyone else’s children, to clear-up. We are currently creating a problem for them at an alarming rate – that is worrying.”

Professor Gabi Hegerl, a professor of climate system science with the University of Edinburgh, wrote, “I look at my children and think about what I know is coming their way and I worry how it will affect them.”

Dr. Sarah Perkins, a climate scientist and extreme events specialist with the University of New South Wales, shared both her concern and hope about our Earth.

For sometime now I’ve been terribly worried. I wish I didn’t have to acknowledge it, but everything I have feared is happening. I used to think I was paranoid, but it’s true. She’s slipping away from us. She’s been showing signs of acute illness for quite a while, but no one has really done anything. Her increased erratic behavior is something I’ve especially noticed. Certain behaviors that were only rare occurrences are starting to occur more often, and with heightened anger. I’ve tried to highlight these changes time and time again, as well as their speed of increase, but no one has paid attention.

It almost seems everyone has been ignoring me completely, and I’m not sure why. Is it easier to pretend there’s no illness, hoping it will go away? Or because they’ve never had to live without her, so the thought of death is impossible? Perhaps they cannot see they’ve done this to her. We all have.

To me this is all false logic. How can you ignore the severe sickness of someone you are so intricately connected to and dependent upon. How can you let your selfishness and greed take control, and not protect and nurture those who need it most? How can anyone not feel an overwhelming sense of care and responsibility when those so dear to us are so desperately ill? How can you push all this to the back of your mind? This is something I will never understand. Perhaps I’m the odd one out, the anomaly of the human race. The one who cares enough, who has the compassion, to want to help make her better.

The thing is we can make her better!! If we work together, we can cure this terrible illness and restore her to her old self before we exploited her. But we must act quickly, we must act together. Time is ticking, and we need to act now.

Sharing both his frustration and concern, Dr. Alex Sen Gupta with the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales wrote:

I feel frustrated. The scientific evidence is overwhelming. We know what’s going on, we know why it’s happening, we know how serious things are going to get and still after so many years, we are still doing practically nothing to stop it. I feel concerned that unmitigated our inaction will cause terrible suffering to those least able to cope with change and that within my lifetime many of the places that make this planet so special – the snows on Kilimanjaro, the Great Barrier Reef, even the ice covered Arctic will be degraded beyond recognition – our legacy to the next generation.

Anger

“My overwhelming emotion is anger; anger that is fuelled not so much by ignorance, but by greed and profiteering at the expense of future generations,” wrote Professor Corety Bradshaw, the director of ecological modeling at the University of Adelaide. “I am not referring to some vague, existential bonding to the future human race; rather, I am speaking as a father of a seven year-old girl who loves animals and nature in general. As a biologist, I see irrefutable evidence every day that human-driven climate disruption will turn out to be one of the main drivers of the Anthropocene mass extinction event now well under way.”

The rest of his letter is worth reading in full:

Public indifference and individual short-sightedness aside, I am furious that politicians like Abbott and his anti-environment henchman are stealing the future from my daughter, and laughing about it while they line their pockets with the figurative gold proffered by the fossil-fuel industry. Whether it is sheer stupidity, greed, deliberate dishonesty or all three, the outcome is the same – destruction of the environmental life-support system that keeps us all alive and prosperous. Climates change, but the rapidity with which we are disrupting the current climate on top of the already heavily compromised environmental health of the planet makes the situation dire.

My frustration with these greedy, lying bastards is personal. Human-caused climate disruption is not a belief – it is one of the best-studied phenomena on Earth. Even a half-wit can understand this. As any father would, anyone threatening my family will by on the receiving end of my ire and vengeance. This anger is the manifestation of my deep love for my daughter, and the sadness I feel in my core about how others are treating her future.

Mark my words, you plutocrats, denialists, fossil-fuel hacks and science charlatans – your time will come when you will be backed against the wall by the full wrath of billions who have suffered from your greed and stupidity, and I’ll be first in line to put you there.

“The Pivotal Psychological Reality of Our Time”

Joe told me the response to his project has been, in general, positive.

“I have received emails from all over the world from people of all walks of life thanking me for establishing the website – from retired grandmothers through to undergraduate university students,” he said. “The letters have been picked up by various social media sites like Science Alert…and have subsequently reached massive audiences.”

He was happy to add that the responses from scientists have been positive, and said his question of “How does climate change make you feel?” is “something they have not been asked before.”

“Of course there have been some very vocal opponents to my work,” Joe added. “This is to be expected. As I have said in the past, there is a small but very vocal group of people out there whose sole goal is to misinform and mislead the general public about climate change. These people don’t have to use the facts, they don’t have to even use the real data. They can cherry-pick from graphs, or even tell flat-out lies in an attempt to mislead the greater public. To what end, who knows? ITHYF [Is This How You Feel] does not exist to change the minds of deniers. It exists to provide an avenue through which every day people can relate to climate change.”

The term “climate change deniers,” then, has an entirely new – and ever more relevant – meaning when viewed through the lenses of the Kübler-Ross five stages of grief, given that “denial” is literally one of the five stages.

Joe is now asking laypeople to send in their letters about how they feel, and plans to publish those as well.

“This approach is not the only way to communicate on climate change, but it is one way, and I certainly feel that it is effective,” he concluded.

The practice of scientists sharing their feelings runs contrary to the dominant consumer capitalist culture of the West, which guards against – and attempts to divert attention from – the prospect of people getting in touch with feelings provoked by witnessing the wholesale destruction of the planet.

In fact, Joanna Macy believes it is not in the self-perceived interest of multinational corporations, or the government and the media that serve them “for us to stop and become aware of our profound anguish with the way things are.”

Nevertheless, these disturbing trends of widespread denial, disinformation by the corporate media, and the worsening impacts of runaway ACD, which are all increasing, are something she is very mindful of. As she wrote in World as Lover, World as Self, “The loss of certainty that there will be a future is, I believe, the pivotal psychological reality of our time.”

We don’t know how long we have left on earth. Five years? 15 years? 30? Beyond the year 2100? But when we allow our hearts to be shattered – broken completely open – by these stark, cold realities, we allow our perspectives to be opened up to vistas we’ve never known. When we allow ourselves to fully experience the crisis in this way, we are then able to truly see it through new eyes.

Like reaching new heights on a mountain, we can see things we’ve never seen before. Our thinking, attitudes, and outlook on life changes dramatically. It is a new consciousness, one in which we realize the pivotal stage in history we find ourselves in.

Perhaps, within this new consciousness, we can live in this time with grace, dignity, and caring. Perhaps, here, we can find ways to save habitat for a few more species, while we share our precious lives and this precious time with loved ones, in the wild places we love so much, on this rare and precious world.

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“The Threat Is Serious And Time Is Short” : Climate Change Moves The “Doomsday Clock” To 3 Minutes To Midnight

In Uncategorized on January 28, 2015 at 6:57 pm

Oldspeak:  “Created in 1947, the clock initially served as a warning about the threat of nuclear weapons, but climate change has started to mess with the hands of time in recent years. This is the fourth update to the clock that explicitly mentions climate change, though it’s an issue that has been on the Bulletin’s radar since 1961The reason the world is closer to doomsday now is the growing clarity about impacts of climate change, including some already occurring, and the failure to address it…The only time the Doomsday Clock has been closer to midnight was in 1953, a year after hydrogen bombs were tested by the U.S. and Soviet Union in an escalating nuclear arms race. The clock also struck 11:57 p.m. in the Cold War chill of 1984.” –Bryan Kahn

The threat is serious, the time short. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists does not move the hands of the Doomsday Clock for light or transient reasons. The clock ticks now at just three minutes to midnight because international leaders are failing to perform their most important duty—ensuring and preserving the health and vitality of human civilization.” -Lynn Eden et al, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

“The difference between this dire pronouncement and those prior, is that the conditions in the past were reversible, and today they are not. Ignore the fine, uncut Hopium put forth toward the end of this piece asserting that solutions exist. There are no solutions. Transitioning away from Dinofuels at this late stage will probably make things worse, as the aerosols produced in the combustion of fossil fuels is thought to be offsetting the greenhouse gases warming effect up to 50 percent. Take those away, and it could lead to a even more pronounced temperature increase that would spell curtains for all carbon-based lifeforms residing here in relatively short order. We’re basically damned if we do, damned if we don’t.  Sadly, in all probability, as conditions worsen, The Doomsday Clock will continue to creep (or race, depending on the speed in increase of the multiple irreversible non-linear positive feedback loops in progress.) to midnight. Our fate is sealed folks. Enjoy the rest of your time in this, the most richly appointed death row. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick….” -OSJ

By Bryan Kahn @ Climate Central:

The end of civilization as we know it just got a little closer. According to an update to the Doomsday Clock, the world is now three minutes from midnight and one of the big reasons is the failure to reduce greenhouse emissions even in the face of climate change.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists maintains the clock and resets the hands every few years based on existential threats to civilization. Created in 1947, the clock initially served as a warning about the threat of nuclear weapons, but climate change has started to mess with the hands of time in recent years. This is the fourth update to the clock that explicitly mentions climate change, though it’s an issue that has been on the Bulletin’s radar since 1961.

The clock was last updated in 2012, when the hands were set at five minutes to midnight. The reason the world is closer to doomsday now is the growing clarity about impacts of climate change, including some already occurring, and the failure to address it.

“The reason we feel greater sense of urgency on the climate issue is quantitatively, if you want to limit climate change to a certain magnitude, you’re only allowed to have a certain amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We’re about halfway there,” Richard Somerville, a oceanographer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a board member of the Bulletin, which maintains the clock, said.

If emissions continue on their current trend, they’ll likely expend the carbon budget — a term used by scientists to describe how much carbon dioxide can be emitted while safely keeping the world from warming more than the 2°C (3.6°F) — in three decades.

Passing that threshold could lead to higher sea levels, an increased rate of ocean acidification, and rising global temperatures at rates that some scientists think could be beyond society’s ability to adapt. Beyond those direct impacts, climate change also poses a threat multiplier problem for the military by potentially increasing migration, destabilizing governments and increasing regional conflicts. The Pentagon already views climate change as an “immediate risk.”

Sivan Kartha, another Bulletin board member and senior scientist at Stockholm Environment Institute, said that international climate treaties have weakened in the 20 years of major negotiations with most emissions cuts going from binding to voluntary and emissions cuts failing to come close to staying within the carbon budget.

The only time the Doomsday Clock has been closer to midnight was in 1953, a year after hydrogen bombs were tested by the U.S. and Soviet Union in an escalating nuclear arms race. The clock also struck 11:57 p.m. in the Cold War chill of 1984. On the positive side, the clock was moved all the way back to 11:43 p.m. in the wake of the Cold War and the start of nuclear disarmament.

What’s keeping the clock from striking midnight now is that despite little to no action on climate change, solutions do exist. Namely, that means transitioning away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy.

“The IPCC concluded unequivocally that we can shift away from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy resources. Moreover, we can afford to do this,” Kartha said, noting it would shave just a fraction of a percent off project global economic growth, which “means instead of global GDP doubling in say 25 years, it would double in 26 years.”

Some countries have started that transition but Kartha said more efforts are needed and that the coming climate negotiations in Paris later this year could be a crucial turning point.

In the meantime, the clock’s ticking.

The World We Are Shaping Is Feeling The Strain: Nearly Half The Systems Crucial To Planetary Stability Are Compromised

In Uncategorized on January 22, 2015 at 6:29 pm

The world we are shaping is feeling the strain

Oldspeak:On the eve of this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, a team of scientists led by Will Steffen of the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University and the Australian National University report in the journal Science that the world has now crossed four of nine planetary boundaries within which humans could have hoped for a safe operating space…. The four boundaries are climate change, land system change, alterations to the biogeochemical cycle that follow phosphorus and nitrogen fertiliser use, and the loss of a condition called “biosphere integrity”…. Transgressing a boundary increases the risk that human activities could inadvertently drive the Earth System into a much less hospitable state, damaging efforts to reduce poverty and leading to deterioration of human wellbeing in many parts of the world, including wealthy countries”, said Professor Steffen. “In this new analysis we have improved the quantification of where these risks lie…. Although the human burden of population has soared from 2.5bn to more than 7bn in one lifetime, in 2010, the scientists say, the OECD countries that are home to 18% of the world’s population accounted for 74% of global gross domestic product, so most of the human imprint on the Earth System comes from the world represented by the OECDIt is difficult to over-estimate the scale and speed of change. In a single human lifetime humanity has become a planetary-scale geological force.” -Tim Radford

“Translation: A small percentage of  “Rich”, “successful”, “productive”, ” economically viable” hyper-consumptive people  in “developed” countries have become a planetary scale geologic force, that has wrought enough destruction and disruption of the ecology which supports all life, to bring about Earth’s 6th Mass Extinction. In the process, they’ve enslaved, exploited and extracted all that’s crossed their paths, for the purposes of their own enrichment, to the detriment of all. This is probably why we’ll continue to race toward the cliff of planetary ecological collapse and extinction unabated. Those who’ve created this calamity are in charge of fixing it. Not gonna happen.  I feel it’s fitting here to quote Audre Lorde: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change…. I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives here. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices.” This reality forces us to reconsider how we think of wealth, success, productivity, and economy. The way we think about them has brought us to the brink of extinction and the destruction of a life-habitable world. -OSJ

By Tim Radford @ Climate News Network:

The world risks being destabilised by human activity, scientists report, most of it the work of a rich minority of us.

LONDON, 16 January, 2015 – Humans are now the chief drivers of change in the planet’s physical, chemical, biological and economic systems according to new research in a series of journals. And the humans most implicated in this change so far are the 18% of mankind that accounts for 74% of gross domestic productivity.

And the indicators of this change – dubbed the “planetary dashboard” – are 24 sets of measurements that record the acceleration of the carbon cycle, land use, fisheries, telecommunications, energy consumption, population, economic growth, transport, water use and many other interlinked aspects of what scientists think of as the Earth System.

Although these indicators chart change since the start of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, the most dramatic acceleration – the scientists call it the Great Acceleration – seems to have begun in 1950. Some researchers would like to set that decade as the start of a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, from Anthropos, the ancient Greek word for mankind.

On the eve of this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, a team of scientists led by Will Steffen of the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University and the Australian National University report in the journal Science that the world has now crossed four of nine planetary boundaries within which humans could have hoped for a safe operating space.

The four boundaries are climate change, land system change, alterations to the biogeochemical cycle that follow phosphorus and nitrogen fertiliser use, and the loss of a condition called “biosphere integrity”.

Past their peak

The scientists judge that these boundary-crossing advances mean that both present and future human society are in danger of destabilising the Earth System, a complex interaction of land, sea, atmosphere, the icecaps, natural living things and humans themselves.

“Transgressing a boundary increases the risk that human activities could inadvertently drive the Earth System into a much less hospitable state, damaging efforts to reduce poverty and leading to deterioration of human wellbeing in many parts of the world, including wealthy countries”, said Professor Steffen. “In this new analysis we have improved the quantification of where these risks lie.”

The Science article is supported by separate studies of global change. These were backed by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, also headquartered in Stockholm, which publishes an analysis in the journal the Anthropocene Review.

Meanwhile a team of European scientists warn in the journal Ecology and Society that out of 20 renewable resources (among them the maize, wheat, rice, soya, fish, meat, milk and eggs that feed the world) 18 have already passed their peak production.

And a separate team led by scientists from Leicester University in Britain has even tried to pinpoint the day on which the Anthropocene era may be said to have commenced. In yet another journal, the Quaternary International, they nominate 16 July, 1945: the day of the world’s first nuclear test.

Unequal world

This flurry of research and review is of course timed to help world leaders at Davos concentrate on the longer-term problems of climate change, environmental degradation, and food security, in addition to immediate problems of economic stagnation, poverty, conflict and so on. But these immediate challenges may not be separable from the longer-term ones. To ram the message home, the authors will present their findings at seven seminars in Davos.

In the Anthropocene Review, Professor Steffen and his co-authors consider not just the strains on the planet’s resources that threaten stability, but also that section of humanity that is responsible for most of the strain.

Although the human burden of population has soared from 2.5bn to more than 7bn in one lifetime, in 2010, the scientists say, the OECD countries that are home to 18% of the world’s population accounted for 74% of global gross domestic product, so most of the human imprint on the Earth System comes from the world represented by the OECD.

This, they say, points to the profound scale of global inequality, which means that the benefits of the so-called Great Acceleration in consumption of resources are unevenly distributed, and this in turn confounds efforts to deal with the impact of this assault on the planetary machinery. Humans have always altered their environment, they concede, but now the scale of the alteration is, in its rate and magnitude, without precedent.

“Furthermore, by treating ‘humans’ as a single, monolithic whole, it ignores the fact that the Great Acceleration has, until very recently, been almost entirely driven by a small fraction of the human population, those in developed countries”, they say.

“…What surprised us was the timing. Almost all graphs show the same pattern. The most dramatic shifts have occurred since 1950”

The IGBP-Stockholm Resilience Centre co-operation first identified their 24 “indicators” of planetary change in 2004, and the latest research is a revisitation. In 2009, researchers identified nine global priorities linked to human impacts on the environment, and identified two, ­ climate change and the integrity of the biosphere, ­ that were vital to the human condition. Any alteration to either could drive the Earth System into a new state, they said.

In fact, since then, greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise, and accordingly global average temperatures have steadily increased, along with sea levels. At the same time, habitat destruction, pollution and hunting and fishing have begun to drive species to extinction at an accelerating rate.

Almost all the charts that make up the planetary dashboard now show steep acceleration: fisheries, one of the indicators that seems to have levelled off, has probably done so only because humans may have already exhausted some of the ocean’s resources.

“It is difficult to over-estimate the scale and speed of change. In a single human lifetime humanity has become a planetary-scale geological force”, said Prof Steffen. “When we first aggregated these datasets we expected to see major changes, but what surprised us was the timing. Almost all graphs show the same pattern.

“The most dramatic shifts have occurred since 1950. We can say that 1950 was the start of the Great Acceleration. After 1950 you can see that major Earth System changes became directly linked to changes related to the global economic system. This is a new phenomenon and indicates that humanity has a new responsibility at a global level for the planet.” ­­­­–­ Climate News Network

 

Scientific Analysis Find Rise In Rapid, Catastrophic, Animal Die-Offs Over The Past 75 Years

In Uncategorized on January 22, 2015 at 5:45 pm

Oldspeak: “Hmm. Curious. The oceans are dying. Scientists have found greater proportions of these die offs among birds, fish, and invertebrates, who just happen to spend most of their time in the oceans.  This data also correlates closely with the what many scientists call “The Great Acceleration”; the time around 1950 to present, characterized by relentless and ever-increasing levels of  human consumption and population and GDP growth. Coincidence? Probably not. All is intimately connected.” -OSJ

By Sarah Yang @ Science Daily:

An analysis of 727 mass die-offs of nearly 2,500 animal species from the past 70 years has found that such events are increasing among birds, fish and marine invertebrates. At the same time, the number of individuals killed appears to be decreasing for reptiles and amphibians, and unchanged for mammals.

Such mass mortality events occur when a large percentage of a population dies in a short time frame. While the die-offs are rare and fall short of extinction, they can pack a devastating punch, potentially killing more than 90 percent of a population in one shot. However, until this study, there had been no quantitative analysis of the patterns of mass mortality events among animals, the study authors noted.

“This is the first attempt to quantify patterns in the frequency, magnitude and cause of such mass kill events,” said study senior author Stephanie Carlson, an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management.

The study, published Monday, Jan. 12 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was led by researchers at UC Berkeley, the University of San Diego and Yale University.

The researchers reviewed incidents of mass kills documented in scientific literature. Although they came across some sporadic studies dating back to the 1800s, the analysis focused on the period from 1940 to the present. The researchers acknowledged that some of their findings may be due to an increase in the reporting of mass die-offs in recent decades. But they noted that even after accounting for some of this reporting bias, there was still an increase in mass die-offs for certain animals.

Overall, disease was the primary culprit, accounting for 26 percent of the mass die-offs. Direct effects tied to humans, such as environmental contamination, caused 19 percent of the mass kills. Biotoxicity triggered by events such as algae blooms accounted for a significant proportion of deaths, and processes directly influenced by climate — including weather extremes, thermal stress, oxygen stress or starvation — collectively contributed to about 25 percent of mass mortality events.

The most severe events were those with multiple causes, the study found.

Carlson, a fish ecologist, and her UC Berkeley graduate students had observed such die-offs in their studies of fish in California streams and estuaries, originally piquing their interest in the topic.

“The catastrophic nature of sudden, mass die-offs of animal populations inherently captures human attention,” said Carlson. “In our studies, we have come across mass kills of federal fish species during the summer drought season as small streams dry up. The majority of studies we reviewed were of fish. When oxygen levels are depressed in the water column, the impact can affect a variety of species.”

The study found that the number of mass mortality events has been increasing by about one event per year over the 70 years the study covered.

“While this might not seem like much, one additional mass mortality event per year over 70 years translates into a considerable increase in the number of these events being reported each year,” said study co-lead author Adam Siepielski, an assistant professor of biology at the University of San Diego. “Going from one event to 70 each year is a substantial increase, especially given the increased magnitudes of mass mortality events for some of these organisms.

This study suggests that in addition to monitoring physical changes such as changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, it is important to document the biological response to regional and global environmental change. The researchers highlighted ways to improve documentation of such events in the future, including the possible use of citizen science to record mass mortality events in real time.

“The initial patterns are a bit surprising, in terms of the documented changes to frequencies of occurrences, magnitudes of each event and the causes of mass mortality,” said study co-lead author Samuel Fey, a postdoctoral fellow in ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale. “Yet these data show that we have a lot of room to improve how we document and study these types of rare events.”

Funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation helped support this research.

 

The Methane Monster Roars; Abrupt Catastrophic Methane Releases Growing More Likely As Earth Warms

In Uncategorized on January 14, 2015 at 12:28 am

Methane monster roars

Oldspeak:It is my view that our climate system is in early stages of abrupt climate change that, unchecked, will lead to a temperature rise of 5 to 6 degrees Celsius within a decade or two. Obviously, such a large change in the climate system will have unprecedented effects on the health and well-being of every plant and animal on our planetAs the methane concentrations increase in the Arctic from the large warming rates there in both the atmosphere and ocean, the jet streams will be greatly disrupted even more than now…. Physics dictates that this will continue to increase the frequency, severity and duration of extreme weather events like torrential rains leading to widespread flooding in some regions and droughts in other regions. Needless to say, this causes enormous economic losses and poses a severe and grave threat to our global food supply. Thus, the Arctic can be considered the Achilles heel in our climate system… There will be continuing disruption and fracturing of our weather and climate systems… Further acceleration of these processes is very likely to lead to a ‘abrupt climate change’ system reorganization from a cold, snowy, ice-covered Arctic Ocean to a ‘blue Arctic Ocean’ regime… The final state could have a global temperature average being 5 or 6 degrees Celsius warmer and the transition to this state could occur in one to two decades… Recently, it has been announced that 2014 is the warmest year ever in the instrumental records…. A large preponderance of the heat added to the climate system over the last decade or so has gone into heating the oceans and when this heat balance cycles back to the atmosphere we will see a very rapid rise in global average temperatures.” -Dr. Paul Beckwith, Professor of Climatology & Meteorology, University of Ottawa

“Yep. What he said. Some serious volume of toxic gas is getting passed world wide. It’s not gonna stop. It’s getting worse. Seems the madness will truly begin when the worlds oceans start expelling the massive amounts heat they’ve been sequestering the past decade or so.” -OSJ

By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

During a recent hike in Washington State’s Olympic National Park, I marveled at the delicate geometry of frost-covered ferns. White crystalline structures seemed to grow from the green leaves, encasing them in a frozen frame of temporary beauty.

Progressing further up into the mountains, I stopped to lunch and sip hot coffee from a thermos while gazing across a river valley at a snow-covered mountainside, sizing up a frozen waterfall for a possible ice climb in the future. Yet I found myself beginning to wonder how many more winters ice would continue to form there.

The disparity of the beauty before me with my troubled thoughts about the planet has found no reconciliation. I had been collecting data and conducting interviews for articles about methane releases in the Arctic for weeks, and pondering the information through the holidays only led me into depression. Going out into the mountains helped, but also provoked grave concerns for our collective future.

To consider the possibility that humans have altered the atmosphere of the earth so drastically as to put our own lives in danger seems, at least emotionally, unfathomable. Given the scale of the planet, one would think, logically, it might not even be possible. Yet the majestic snow-covered peaks near where I live may no longer have glaciers (or even snow) within my lifetime, according to some of the scientists I’ve interviewed.

Paul Beckwith, a climatology and meteorology professor at the University of Ottawa, Canada, is an engineer and physicist who researches abrupt climate change in both the present day and in the paleoclimatology records of the deep past.

“It is my view that our climate system is in early stages of abrupt climate change that, unchecked, will lead to a temperature rise of 5 to 6 degrees Celsius within a decade or two,” Beckwith told me. “Obviously, such a large change in the climate system will have unprecedented effects on the health and well-being of every plant and animal on our planet.”
A Very Different Planet

Vast amounts of methane lie frozen in the Arctic. It’s not news that the Arctic sea ice is melting rapidly, and that it will likely be gone for short periods during the summers starting as early as next year. Losing that ice means releasing larger amounts of previously trapped methane into the atmosphere.

Additionally, lying along the Arctic’s subsea continental margins and beneath Arctic permafrost are methane hydrates, often described as methane gas surrounded by ice. In March 2010, a report in Science indicated that these cumulatively contain the equivalent of 1,000 to 10,000 gigatons of carbon.

For perspective, humans have released approximately 1,475 gigatons in total carbon dioxide since the year 1850.

Beckwith warns that losing the Arctic sea ice will create a state that “will represent a very different planet, with a much higher global average temperature, in which snow and ice in the northern hemisphere becomes very rare or even vanishes year round.”

In the simplest terms, here’s what an ice-free Arctic would mean when it comes to heating the planet: Minus the reflective ice cover on Arctic waters, solar radiation would be absorbed, not reflected, by the Arctic Ocean. That would heat those waters, and hence the planet, further. This effect has the potential to change global weather patterns, vary the flow of winds and even someday possibly alter the position of the jet stream. Polar jet streams are fast-flowing rivers of wind positioned high in the earth’s atmosphere that push cold and warm air masses around, playing a critical role in determining the weather of our planet.

“What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic,” Beckwith explained. “The rapidly warming Arctic relative to the rest of the planet (five to eight times global average temperature rise) is decreasing the temperature gradient between the Arctic and the equator.”

This decreased gradient is disrupting the jet stream, leading to further warming in the Arctic, forming a runaway feedback loop, which in turn is causing the release of more methane in the Arctic.

And on land, it’s already happening as well. On Siberia’s Yamal Peninsula, mysterious holes in the ground drew international attention before they became not-so-mysterious when Russian researchers found significant amounts of methane inside them. Now, that same area is making news again as researchers have found increasing amounts of methane emissions coming from thawing permafrost there.

“As the methane concentrations increase in the Arctic from the large warming rates there in both the atmosphere and ocean, the jet streams will be greatly disrupted even more than now,” Beckwith said. “Physics dictates that this will continue to increase the frequency, severity and duration of extreme weather events like torrential rains leading to widespread flooding in some regions and droughts in other regions. Needless to say, this causes enormous economic losses and poses a severe and grave threat to our global food supply. Thus, the Arctic can be considered the Achilles heel in our climate system.”

US Navy researchers have predicted periods of an ice-free Arctic ocean in the summer by 2016.

British scientist John Nissen, chairman of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, suggests that if the summer sea ice loss passes “the point of no return” and “catastrophic Arctic methane feedbacks” kick in, we’ll be in an “instant planetary emergency.”

Why should we be so concerned about methane, when all of the talk around climate disruption seems to focus on carbon dioxide levels?

In the atmosphere, methane is a greenhouse gas that, on a relatively short-term time scale, is far more destructive than carbon dioxide. When it comes to heating the planet, methane is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide, per molecule, on a 100-year timescale, and 105 times more potent on a 20-year timescale – and the Arctic permafrost, onshore and off, is packed with the stuff.

According to a study published in Nature Geoscience, twice as much methane as previously thought is being released from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, a 2 million square kilometer area off the coast of northern Siberia. The recent study’s researchers found that at least 17 teragrams (17 million tons) of methane are being released into the atmosphere each year, whereas a 2010 study had found only seven teragrams heading into the atmosphere.

To gain a better understanding of the implications of Arctic warming, I interviewed some of the scientists conducting the most cutting edge and current methane studies in the Arctic.

Dr. Leonid Yurganov is a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland Physics Department and the Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology, and his current research expertise is connected with remote sensing of tropospheric composition and Arctic methane levels. He is a co-author of an upcoming research paper that will show how recent Arctic warming has stimulated speculations about the release of methane from the seabed there and kicked off a new climatic positive feedback loop. Using remote sensing technology, his team has detected long-term increases of methane over large areas of the Arctic.

Yurganov warns of the consequences of a rapidly warming Arctic.

“The difference in temperatures between the poles and the equator drives our air currents from [the] west to [the] east,” he told Truthout. “If this difference diminishes, the west to east transport becomes slower, and north-south currents become stronger. This results in frequent changes in weather in mid-latitudes.”

While Yurganov isn’t seeing “fast and immediate liberation of methane from hydrates” at this very moment, he warned of what would happen if and when it does occur.

“Increased methane would influence air temperature near the surface,” he said. “This would accelerate the Arctic warming and change the climate everywhere in the world.”

Yurganov does not foresee an immediate global collapse within a decade. In his view, the summer Arctic sea ice will continue to shrink in a more linear fashion, but the frequency of extreme weather events and rising sea levels will continue to accelerate. “People should accommodate to climate change and be prepared to a decline in life-level caused by it,” he warned.

Yurganov sees population reduction via people not having as many babies as one answer to our predicament.

“Depopulation, that resolves all the problems,” he said. “The earth with [a] lower global population, say, twice as low, would emit less carbon dioxide.”

Another Russian scientist who has been studying methane releases in the Arctic, however, had even more worrying news.

The Looming Specter of Abrupt Methane Release

Natalia Shakhova is a research associate professor of the University Alaska Fairbanks, International Arctic Research Center, where she focuses on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS). Shakhova believes we should be concerned about her group’s findings from the ESAS, specifically, because that area differs significantly from methane emissions happening elsewhere around the world.

The ESAS is the largest shelf in the world, encompassing more than 2 million square kilometers, or 8 percent of the world’s continental shelf. Shakhova believes it holds an area-weighted contribution to the global hydrate inventory of “at least 10 to 15 percent.”

“These emissions are prone to be non-gradual (massive, abrupt) for a variety of reasons,” she told Truthout. “The main reason is that the nature of major processes associated with methane releases from subsea permafrost is non-gradual.”

This means that methane releases from decaying frozen hydrates could result in emission rates that “could change in order of magnitude in a matter of minutes,” and that there would be nothing “smooth, gradual or controlled” about it; we could be looking at non-linear releases of methane in amounts that are difficult to fathom.

She explained that the transition from the methane being frozen in the permafrost, either on land or in the shallow northern shores of the East Siberian Arctic, “is not gradual. When it comes to phase transition, it appears to be a relatively short, jump-like transformation from one state of the process to another state. The difference between the two states is like the difference between a closed valve and an open valve. This kind of a release is like the unsealing of an over-pressurized pipeline.”

These immediate methane releases in the ESAS could be triggered at any moment by seismic or tectonic events, the subsiding of sediments caused by hydrate decay or sediment sliding due to permafrost degradation and thaw. The ESAS is particularly prone to these immediate shifts because it is three times shallower than the mean depth of the continental shelf of the world ocean.

“This means that probability of dissolved methane to escape from the water column to the atmosphere is from three to 10 times greater than anywhere in the world’s oceans,” Shakhova said. “In the ESAS, methane is predominantly transported as bubbles. Methane bubbles rise to the surface at a speed from 10 to 40 cm s-1; this means that it only takes minutes for methane to reach the water surface and escape to the atmosphere.”

Including all factors, Shakhova estimates that the carbon pool of the ESAS is in orders of magnitude greater than 180 gigatons, and added that “its role will increase over time.”

A study published in the prestigious journal Nature in July 2013 confirmed what Shakhova has been warning us about for years: that a 50-gigaton “burp” of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost beneath the East Siberian sea is “highly possible at anytime.” That would be the equivalent of at least 1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide. (Remember, for perspective, humans have released approximately 1,475 gigatons in total carbon dioxide since the year 1850.)

Even the relatively staid Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned of such a scenario: “The possibility of abrupt climate change and/or abrupt changes in the earth system triggered by climate change, with potentially catastrophic consequences, cannot be ruled out. Positive feedback from warming may cause the release of carbon or methane from the terrestrial biosphere and oceans.”

In the last two centuries, the amount of methane in the atmosphere has increased from 0.7 parts per million to 1.7 parts per million. The introduction of methane in such quantities into the atmosphere may, some climate scientists fear, make increases in the global temperature of 4 to 6 degrees Celsius inevitable.

Yet some of the scientists I spoke with warned of even worse consequences.

Global Implications

Ira Leifer, an atmospheric and marine scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of several Arctic methane studies, told Truthout that the scientific community has learned that methane emissions from the Arctic are already larger than previously thought, and said, “The warming trend in the Arctic is clear.”

The dangers of methane-related warning are staggering, according to Leifer.

“The amount of methane trapped in submerged permafrost is vast, and if even a small fraction reaches the atmosphere on the time scale of a few decades, it would lead to a dramatic increase in warming on a global scale,” he warned. “Furthermore, it could lead to a positive feedback where warming oceans release more methane which warms the Arctic more and leads to more methane release. Worse, the warming only slowly percolates to lower latitudes – and therefore it contributes to the enhanced Arctic warming.”

Just as Beckwith, Yurganov and Shakhova noted, Leifer warned that a warming Arctic has “global implications.”

Earth’s weather is controlled in three cells: the tropics, mid-latitude and polar. So a weakening of the difference in temperature between the pole-equator areas causes an expansion of the tropical cell, which drives desertification in some places and increased flooding in others. All the while, polar weather is expanding, as we’ve been seeing in the United States during recent winters.

While humans can adapt to these new fluctuations in the weather, agriculture and ecosystems cannot.

Like Shakhova, Leifer also expressed concern about the ESAS.

“The potential is there for hydrate emissions to increase with warming oceans due to increased dissociation,” he warned. He also confirmed that his recent studies of methane emissions in the Arctic even found the gas hundreds of miles from the coast. This means that the methane cannot be coming from land sources; Leifer has concluded that his recent studies “confirm a local marine source.”

Meaning, the subsea hydrates are already releasing their methane very far from shore. Beckwith notes that the increasing methane releases in the Arctic and the massive impact they will have on the planetary weather system mean “there will be continuing disruption and fracturing of our weather and climate systems.”

He went on to issue a stark warning. “Further acceleration of these processes is very likely to lead to an ‘abrupt climate change’ system reorganization from a cold, snowy, ice-covered Arctic Ocean to a ‘blue Arctic Ocean’ regime,” he said. “The final state could have a global temperature average being 5 or 6 degrees Celsius warmer and the transition to this state could occur in one to two decades, as has occurred many times in the past as recorded in paleorecords.”

The advent of the “blue Arctic Ocean” Beckwith warns us of is only a matter of time, and will most likely happen before 2020, considering that exponential decline in Arctic summer sea ice volume has already been determined by the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System data and models, which have been corroborated with recent CryoSat measurements, as well as modeling by the Naval Graduate School Regional Climate Models.

Beckwith believes the first of these “blue ocean” events will likely last a few weeks to one month the first time it happens, but then extend to several months just a few years later.

Meanwhile, the IPCC has not addressed Arctic methane releases as a runaway feedback loop, nor has the mainstream media across the political spectrum.

“Then, the greatly increased Arctic warming from albedo collapse would likely result in a year round ‘Arctic blue ocean’ within a decade or two, completing the regime shift to a much warmer climate,” he said.

Thus, Beckwith, like Shakhova, warns of the 50-gigaton methane burst, and fears it is only a matter of time before it occurs.

I asked Leifer if he believed we have already triggered a rapid increase in global temperatures that could lead to the kind of abrupt climate shifts of which Beckwith warns.

“Recently, it has been announced that 2014 is the warmest year ever in the instrumental records,” he said. “A large preponderance of the heat added to the climate system over the last decade or so has gone into heating the oceans and when this heat balance cycles back to the atmosphere we will see a very rapid rise in global average temperatures.”

Another “Great Dying?”

The Permian mass extinction that occurred 250 million years ago was related to methane – in fact, the gas is thought to be the key to what caused the extinction of approximately 95 percent of all species on the planet.

Also known as “The Great Dying,” it was triggered by a massive lava flow in an area of Siberia that led to an increase in global temperatures of 6 degrees Celsius. That, in turn, caused the melting of frozen methane deposits under the seas. Released into the atmosphere, it caused temperatures to skyrocket further. All of this occurred over a period of approximately 80,000 years.

We are already in the midst of what scientists consider the sixth mass extinction in planetary history, with between 150 and 200 species going extinct daily, a pace 1,000 times greater than the “natural” or “background” extinction rate. This event may already be comparable to, or even exceed, both the speed and intensity of the Permian mass extinction. The difference: Ours is human caused. (Plus, it probably isn’t going to take 80,000 years; it has so far lasted just a few centuries, and is now gaining speed in a non-linear fashion.)

It is possible that, on top of the vast quantities of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels that continue to enter the atmosphere in record amounts yearly, an increased release of methane could signal the beginning of the sort of process that led to the Great Dying.

Some scientists fear that the situation is already so serious and so many self-reinforcing feedback loops are already in play that we are in the process of causing our own extinction. Worse yet, some are convinced that it could happen far more quickly than generally believed possible – in the course of just the next few decades – or, as Beckwith believes, possibly even sooner than that.

Back in Olympic National Park, when I was returning from my hike, I happened upon a small herd of elk. I watched them as they watched me, before they slowly began to retreat further into the forest. As I continued along, I wondered how they are responding to what is happening to the planet. Their habitat is shifting dramatically, as are their food and water sources. Approaching the trailhead, I marveled at green moss-covered trees – and contemplated how the magnificent natural landscape of Olympic National Park will respond as the climate is rapidly disrupted. The Olympic Mountains support the third largest glacier system in the 48 contiguous United States and are rapidly losing their glaciers. And with at least four already endangered species living within the park the impacts are already clear, and are guaranteed to worsen.

I went on to wonder how humanity will respond, but then checked myself with the fact that the Arctic methane feedback loops are most likely already well underway, only an international emergency immediate response to cease all global carbon emissions might slightly mitigate the crisis, and yet most world governments’ responses are laughable.

Naturally, what was left was to ask myself: How am I responding?

How are you?

 

 

Warming Oceans Speeding Up Cycle of Climate Change

In Uncategorized on January 13, 2015 at 12:09 am
https://i1.wp.com/www.truthdig.com/images/eartothegrounduploads/CROP-Arctic_ice_floe.jpg

Sun on the water, as Arctic ice increasingly melts, is part of the “positive feedback” process warming the oceans and reducing CO2 storage. Photo by Paul Gierszewski via Wikimedia Commons

 

Oldspeak: “Yep. The worlds oceans are locked into an irreversible non-linear positive feedback loop. It is accelerating. As the oceans warm, their ability to sequester CO2 diminishes and more and more of the potent greenhouse gas methane bubbles towards the surface as the deep water begins to warm. Human actions cannot reverse or decrease what has been started. These are observable, ongoing, and ever increasing impacts. They will continue to worsen. As time passes the changes will become impossible to ignore. We would do well to acknowledge and accept our fate. Only the Love remains…” -OSJ

By Tim Radford @ Climate News Network:

LONDON—The warming oceans could start to return more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as the planet warms, according to new research.

And since 70% of the planet is covered by clear blue water, anything that reduces the oceans’ capacity to soak up and sequester carbon could only make climate change more certain and more swift.

It is a process that engineers call “positive feedback”. And under such a cycle of feedback, the world will continue to get even warmer, accelerating the process yet again.

Many such studies are, in essence, computer simulations. But Chris Marsay—a marine biochemist at the UK’s National Oceanography Centre in Southampton—and colleagues based their results on experiments at sea.

Sediment traps

They report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they examined sediment traps in the North Atlantic to work out what happens to organic carbon—the tissue of the living things that exploit photosynthesis, directly or indirectly, to convert carbon dioxide—as it sinks to the depths.

Sooner or later, much of this stuff gets released into the sea water as carbon dioxide. This is sometimes called the ocean’s biological carbon pump. In deep, cold waters, the process is slow. In warmer, shallower waters, it accelerates.

And as there is evidence that the ocean is responding to atmospheric changes in temperature, both at the surface and at depth, the study suggests that “predicted future increases in ocean temperatures will result in reduced CO2 storage by the oceans”.

The research was conducted on a small scale, in a limited stretch of ocean, so the conclusion is still provisional—and, like all good science, will be confirmed by replication. But it is yet another instance of the self-sustaining momentum of global warming.

Such positive feedbacks are already at work in high latitudes. Ice reflects sunlight, and therefore the sun’s heat. So as the Arctic ice sheet steadily diminishes over the decades, more and more blue water is available to absorb heat—and accelerate warming.

“The world is at a crossroads in terms of climate health and climate change”

The same gradual warming has started to release another greenhouse gas trapped at the ocean’s edge. Natural “marsh gas”, or methane, is stored in huge masses, “frozen” as methane hydrate in cold continental shelves.

Methane exists in much smaller quantities than carbon dioxide, and has a shorter life in the atmosphere, but is far more potent, volume for volume, as a greenhouse gas.

Researchers at the Arctic University of Norway in Tromso reported last month in Geophysical Research Letters that once-frozen methane gas was leaking from thawing ocean floor off Siberia. Some of this thaw is natural, and perhaps inevitable. But some is connected with human influence and could accelerate.

Alexei Portnov, a geophysicists at the university’s Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Climate and Environment  says: “If the temperature of the oceans increases by two degrees, as suggested by some reports, it will accelerate the thawing to the extreme. A warming climate could lead to an explosive gas release from the shallow areas.”

Biological origin

Arctic methane, like ocean organic carbon, has a biological origin. It is released by decaying vegetation under marshy conditions and tends to form as a kind of ice at low temperatures and high pressures, much of it along continental shelves that, at the height of the Ice Ages, were above sea level.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature also reminded the world last month that the ocean plays a vital role in climate, and that plankton, fish and crustaceans could be considered as “mobile carbon units”.

In this sense, the fish in the sea are not just suppers waiting to be caught, but are important parts of the planetary climate system. The healthier the oceans, and the richer they are in living things, the more effective they become at soaking up atmospheric carbon.

“The world is at a crossroads in terms of climate health and climate change,” said Dan Laffoley, vice-chairman of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, introducing a new report on the marine role in the carbon cycle.

“Neglect the ocean and wonder why our actions are not effective, or manage and restore the ocean to boost food security and reduce the impact of climate change. The choice should be an easy one.”

 

Smoke & Mirrors Will Not Save Us From Anthropogenic Climate Disruption

In Uncategorized on January 12, 2015 at 1:27 am

(Photo: papadont)

Oldspeak: “Flashback to 2009. From the mouths of over 60 International Polar Year study scientists from the World Meteorological Organization who were speaking not for attributionally to the one reporter who showed up to their conference. …These scientists who had previously sworn that a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas reduction by 2020 was the only way to save the world, acknowledged that the figure was bogus. They continued by revealing that …the warnings which had been issued in the IPCCs fourth assessment must be seen as merely the minimal – least disturbing – assessment. The scientists painted a far different, and… far more realistic picture of what is happening…Asked what, then, a realistic prescription for survival would be, they were categorical: greenhouse gases must be reduced by 80 percent – by 2015. That was 6 years ago. So. there’s that. It’s 2015. Greenhouse gasses have not been reduced. They’ve steadily increased. Warming has continued unabated. The prescription for survival is not possible. Scientists are being compelled to publicize the least disturbing assessments of the situation. However, denial does not make the truth any less true.” -OSJ
By Robert James Parsons @ Truthout:

With 2015 billed as the make-it-or-break-it year for climate control, in anticipation of next December’s Paris conference, and in the midst of much vehement – if not downright virulent – controversy, it is worth proposing some perspective beyond what most of the media deign to serve up to us.

In an article that appeared in mid-November in the French online journal A l’encontre, Daniel Tanuro analyzed the “unprecedented” and “historic” agreement between the United States and China resulting from Barack Obama’s encounter with Xi Jinping just before the November G20 conference in Brisbane.

The insufficiency – to put it mildly – of this agreement, in comparison with the warnings issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its most recent report, is unbridgeable, he points out.

Citing the reduction of 26% promised by Obama for 2025, which ought to lower United States emissions to 5.368 gigatonnes (Gt), he notes: “According to the Kyoto Protocol (which the United States signed but never ratified), Uncle Sam should have reduced his emissions by 8% by 2012, relative to 1990. That means that the emissions should have dropped from 6.233 Gt (1990 figure) to 5.734 Gt – instead of which, they increased 0.2% per year, on average, to reach 6.526 Gt. In other words, Obama has committed the United States to reaching by 2025 a target that is almost no better than than the one that the United States was supposed to have reached two years ago.”

For China, it is similar: “Xi Jinping stipulated that China would begin to reduce its absolute emissions at the latest in 2030 and that ‘zero-carbon’ sources would then cover 20% of its energy needs. To take the full measure of this promise, one must bear in mind that these ‘zero-carbon’ energy sources, already in 2013, represented in China 9% of the primary consumption of energy and that the twelfth five-year plan has set a target of 15% for 2020. Given the current amounts being invested, an increase of a further 5% in over ten years is anything but a ‘performance’: US$ 65 billion have already been invested in ‘non-fossil’ energy.”

According to the Kyoto Protocol, the ratifying countries committed themselves to reducing their green house gas emissions between 8% and 20% relative to 1990. As these emissions have continued to increase, the reductions since then have been completely canceled out.

In 2007, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the International Council for Science undertook the third International Polar Year (IPY) study, with the intention of exploring the role played by the polar regions in the world’s climate configurations. It was to be one of the biggest scientific studies ever undertaken, if not the biggest outright. More than 1,500 scientists took part during two years, thus completely covering the north and south polar cycles.

In March 2009, to present the IPY’s preliminary conclusions, the WMO organized a conference at its headquarters in Geneva involving some 60 of the IPY scientists, several of whom participated through video teleconference from the four corners of the earth. The Geneva media representatives – multitudinous, to say the least – had been invited (through several announcements), and a major section of the auditorium was reserved for them. In the end, this journalist – with an intern in tow – was the only one to turn up.

In view of the Copenhagen conference (considered “crucial”) scheduled for the following December, a succession of prep conferences had been held (with more planned) without ever coming anywhere near a tentative text to be presented in Copenhagen to replace the Kyoto Protocol. The target consistently sought in the new document, repeatedly proposed and scuttled, was a 40 percent greenhouse gas reduction by 2020 – a target that the scientists at the Geneva gathering insisted was the only one capable of averting a cataclysmic warming of the planet.

However . . .

That evening, during the reception (with the superb Geneva wines ubiquitously and abundantly in attendance) following the closing of the conference, as is often the case in such situations, people relaxed, chatted amiably and even openly – some would say indiscreetly. The same scientists who that afternoon had sworn that a 40 percent reduction was the only way to save the world, acknowledged that the figure was bogus.

It is worth noting that there is a golden rule within governmental organizations, and it is that no official document may ever contain anything that displeases a member state. Thus, the conclusions made public there, just like those of the IPCC reports and any other report on a controversial subject, represented the least common denominator. In other words, it was the least that could be stated without losing credibility.

An example of how this works, regarding the first installment of the four-part series of the most recent fifth assessment report, was discussed by Justin Gillis, in his New York Times article “Climate Alarm, Too Muted for Some.” He mentioned two areas where the IPCC went “a little bit conservative on a couple of issues related to both sea level and temperature.”

The estimates ranged from three to five feet for the rise in the oceans by 2100. The IPCC chose to use the lower estimate, he pointed out, even though the higher, although not endorsed by the majority of scientists, would be the more realistic one in view of the way that all estimates so far have been far below the reality (in keeping with the whole process of minimizing the message).

He continued. The majority of scientists say that the continued burning of fossil fuels, with a doubling of the amount of carbon in the atmosphere from the estimated preindustrial level (280 p.p.m.) will result in a temperature rise of 3.6° F. to 5°F., with the higher temperature likely. The minority are saying that the temperature rise could be well below 3°F. Here the IPCC chose to use the minority figure.

Thus, the warnings issued by the IPCC in the November fourth installment that has garnered so much attention must be seen as merely the minimal – least disturbing – assessment. The answers given this journalist that evening at the WMO – all most emphatically NOT for attribution – painted a far different, and, according to the scientists, a far more realistic picture of what is happening.

Asked what, then, a realistic prescription for survival would be, they were categorical: greenhouse gases must be reduced by 80 percent – by 2015.

That was almost six years ago. Everything seems to be on schedule for the worst, including the denial from most of those on the top on down to most of the grassroots. While climatologists making candid public assessments have been decried as “doom-and-gloom” people, they more and more appear to be the lucid voices of reality in a fantasy world.

Among them, Guy McPherson could be said to have one of the most reasonable approaches: Make the most, imperatively, of what we have and can do now, with an emphasis on excellence in every endeavor, all while accepting that everything is telling us that we are on our way to extinction (soon rather than later), and prepare to take leave of the good earth without losing our humanity – graciously, with dignity.

______________________________________________________________________________

Robert James Parsons, a freelance journalist based in Geneva, writes regularly on international affairs (among other things) for the Geneva newspaper Le Courrier, and Le Courrier has turned 147 years old and is the last independent daily in Switzlerland, supported, like Truthout, by its readers.

 

2014 Was The Hottest Year On Record Globally By Far

In Uncategorized on January 7, 2015 at 1:29 am
JMA2014

Oldspeak: “It’s official. 2014 was hot as fuck. Like, Siberian permafrost melting hot. My question is, if it’s already record-shattering hot, what happens when El Nino, that usually accounts for abnormally hot periods arrives?!?!? I’m gonna the proverbial hell of all breaks loose. It’s my feeling that this is extinction event is happening far faster than even our most learned scientists realize. It is gaining speed in a non-linear fashion. Every single update and revision of the latest science and data speaks of underestimation. This is happening faster and far more unpredictably than even the most advanced climate models can predict. Given these facts, the likelihood of even more abrupt changes and effects, increases daily. Still, something close to silence on this, the only thing that is news, in corporate media. There has been more reporting on NYPD cops turning their backs on the mayor. We need a truth and reconciliation commission on the fate of our Great Mother.” -OSJ 

By Joe Romm @ Think Progress:

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has announced that 2014 was the hottest year in more than 120 years of record-keeping — by far. NOAA is expected to make a similar call in a couple of weeks and so is NASA.

As the JMA graph shows, there has been no “hiatus” or “pause” in warming. In fact, there has not even been a slowdown. Yes, in JMA’s ranking of hottest years, 1998 is in (a distant) second place — but 1998 was an outlier as the graph shows. In fact, 1998 was boosted above the trendline by an unusual super-El Niño. It is usually the combination of the underlying long-term warming trend and the regional El Niño warming pattern that leads to new global temperature records.

What makes setting the record for hottest year in 2014 doubly impressive is that it occurred despite the fact we’re still waiting for the start of El Niño. But this is what happens when a species keeps spewing record amounts of heat-trapping carbon pollution into the air, driving CO2 to levels in the air not seen for millions of years, when the planet was far hotter and sea levels tens of feet higher.

The JMA is a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Regional Climate Center of excellence. The WMO had announced a month ago that 2014 was on track to be hottest year on record. Different climate-tracking groups around the world use different data sets, so they can show different results for 2014 depending on how warm December turns out to be.

But in mid-December, NOAA said it’s all but certain 2014 will be a record setter. It released this figure showing that

NOAA-YTD-11-14

all plausible scenarios for December still leave last year as the hottest ever (click to enlarge):

If you were wondering how 2014 could be the hottest year on record when it wasn’t particularly hot in the United States (if we ignore California and Alaska), NBC News has the story. It turns out there’s like a whole planet out there that has been getting very toasty:

Some of the hottest places in the world in 2014 included:

          • Europe was the hottest it’s been in 500 years. One new analysis concluded “global warming has made a temperature anomaly like the one observed in 2014 in Europe at least 80 times more likely.”
          • California had record-smashing heat, which helped create its “most severe drought in the last 1200 years.”
          • Australia broke heat records across the continent (for the second year running). Back in January, “temperatures soared higher than 120°F (49°C).”
          • Much of Siberia “defrosted in spring and early summer under temperatures more than 9°F (5°C) above its 1981 to 2010 average,” as Live Science noted. This is the second exceptionally hot summer in a row for the region, and scientists now think the huge crater discovered this year in the area “was probably caused by thawing permafrost.”
            • The permafrost (soon to be renamed the permamelt) contains twice as much carbon as the entire atmosphere. If we don’t reverse emissions trends sharply and soon, then the carbon released from it this century alone could boost global warming as much as 1.5F

 

 

 

Weather Extremes Rise As Planet Gets Hotter & Colder

In Uncategorized on January 6, 2015 at 11:49 pm

An island left high and dry in the English Lake District when water levels fell drastically during the 2003 heat wave. Photo by Chris Tomlinson via Wikimedia Commons

Oldspeak: “In the wake of yet another extreme temperature fluctuation, (2 days ago, it was a spring-like 55 degrees  here in New York, today it was snowing and in the 20’s) This sounds about right. Expect this trend to continue to worsen.” -OSJ

By Tim Radford @ Climate News Network:

-Scientists predict that lethal heat waves in Europe, and ice storms and big freezes across the globe, could become regular events if greenhouse gas emissions are not controlled.

Global average temperatures continue to rise, but new research shows that the extremes of heat and cold are rising even faster.

Scientists report that heat waves have got hotter and cold snaps have got colder at a more extreme rate – and that continuing greenhouse gas emissions will mean that, in another two decades, Europe could experience once every two years the sort of lethal heat waves that occurred once in a thousand years.

Scott Robeson, professor of geography at Indiana University Bloomington in the US, and colleagues report in Geophysical Research Letters that they analysed a set of temperature records from 1881 to 2011 and graded them according to how near or far they were from the normal averages of any particular region of the globe.

Temperature anomalies

They found that the temperature anomalies – extremes of heat and cold – increased more than the overall average temperature of the whole planet. They  also found that cold anomalies – unexpected ice storms, blizzards and big freezes − increased more than the warm anomalies until about 30 years ago. Since then, the heat waves have started to outpace the cold snaps.

The study offers a new way to consider the much-debated “pause” in global warming since 1998. It could be that warming continued over most of the planet, but was offset by strong cooling in the winter months in the northern hemisphere.

Professor Robeson says: “There really hasn’t been a pause in global warming. There has been a pause in northern hemisphere winter warming.

“Arguably, these cold extremes and warm extremes are the most important factors for human society”

“Average temperatures don’t tell us everything we need to know about climate change. Arguably, these cold extremes and warm extremes are the most important factors for human society.”

Robeson and his colleagues are not the first to identify the importance of extremes of temperature in the pattern of global averages. Nor is this the first time that UK Met Office scientists – this time led by Nikos Christidis – have forecast more, and more severe, heat waves, not just in Europe but in many regions.

In 2004, Met Office researchers looked at statistics since 1990 and decided that the 2003 European heat wave − estimated to have claimed at least 20,000 lives, and possibly many more − had been made more than twice as likely because of human influence on the climate.

Pattern of warming

In a paper in Nature Climate Change, they look at the pattern of warming between 2003 and 2012. In that period, summers on average warmed by 0.81°C.

This warming means, they say, that heat waves − and extreme heat waves such as the lethal event in 2003 − have become 10 times more likely.

“Extremely warm summers that would occur twice in a century in the early 2000s are now expected to happen twice a decade,” Dr Christidis says.

“Moreover, the chances of heat waves as extreme as seen in 2003 have increased from about one in a thousand to about one in a hundred years, and are projected to occur once every other year by the 2030-40s under continuing greenhouse gas emissions.”

 

As Climate Disruption Advances, 41% Of Amphibians, 26% Of Mammals & 13% Birds Face Extinction

In Uncategorized on January 6, 2015 at 10:58 pm

Polar bear / air pollution

Oldspeak: “We are in the position where we think we are going to fight it and win. We are not going to win.”

-Dr. Harold Wanless, Chair, Department of Geological Sciences, University Of Miami

“Truer words never spoken there Doc. This month’s Climate Disruption Dispatch from Dahr Jamail details the latest developments in the rapidly accelerating ongoing climate calamity. He provides some encouraging news about those in denial beginning to face reality and folks making efforts to “mitigate” and “prepare” for what’s to come. While that’s lovely, it doesn’t change the fact that nothing humans do will make anything better at this point. We’re rapidly running out of clean water, crop yields are down, ecosystems are deteriorating,  greenhouse gas emissions steadily increasing the warming of our environment and decreasing its ability support life.  There is no fighting or winning in this scenario. The damage is long done. Only Love remains.” -OSJ

By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

Two recently released studies brought bad news for those living near coastlines around the world. One published in the peer-reviewed Nature Climate Change, the other in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the studies showed that existing computer models might have severely underestimated the risk to the Greenland ice sheet from warming global temperatures.

Bear in mind that if Greenland’s entire ice sheet melts, 20 feet would be added to global sea levels.

As if that isn’t enough of an indicator of how fast anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) is happening across the globe, two days after delegates from more than 190 countries had gathered in Peru at the annual climate summit, the World Meteorological Organization reported that 2014 was tied with 2010 as the hottest year on record, and rejected popular claims that global warming had “paused.”

Also last month, leading atmospheric scientist Dr. Philip Mote released some of his latest numbers on ACD and went on to say, “We’re running out of time to control dangerous climate change.” He pointed out that a mere 2.2 percent rise in temperature would increase the areas burned in Idaho by a staggering 500 to 600 percent.

Mote’s warning, like countless other warnings from leading scientists about the necessity for immediate and dramatic actions toward mitigating ACD, is already going unheeded. This was evidenced by the so-called Lima climate deal that was reached at the aforementioned climate summit in Peru, where every country in attendance agreed to submit a plan for addressing their carbon dioxide emissions. However, the plans are only voluntary, and countries can promise to cut as much or little as they wish.

As ACD progresses, the financial costs continue to escalate. The UN’s environment agency recently announced that the cost to poor countries that are being forced to adjust to increasingly hot temperatures would be at least two to three times higher than was thought previously. To add insult to injury, these estimates are based on best-case scenarios that predict dramatically reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, several key charts show that the United States is on track for at least a catastrophic 9-degree Fahrenheit increase by 2100, and drought conditions for most of the country that will likely exceed those of the Great Dust Bowl before the end of this century.

In this month’s Climate Disruption Dispatch, we look at how ACD is progressing rapidly on every front – and how even some diehard climate deniers are starting to recognize the dire danger we face.

Earth

Up in Alaska, melting permafrost is threatening even more infrastructure and homes, given that bridges, roads and airport runways have been built upon permafrost in many areas of the state. A recent report showed that permafrost south of Alaska’s Brooks Range (the northernmost mountain range in the state) is now becoming unstable.

Also in Alaska (as well as Canada), winter ticks are becoming more prevalent with warming temperatures, endangering the survival of the moose population, according to another recent report.

Warming temperatures in the Arctic are causing shifts in the gene pool of animals: Scientists are reporting an increasing likelihood of “grolar bears,” which are a cross between grizzly and polar bears. According to scientists, this would bring deleterious consequences, given that “genetic incompatibilities in hybrids will erase traits crucial to the long-term survival of both parent species.” They warn that if that happens, “then we can expect a great reduction in those populations, and possibly extinctions.”

Dramatic changes are occurring in the tropical regions of the planet as well. Researchers recently released a report that issued a stunning warning about an impending coral bleaching event that would be the worst seen in at least the last two decades. Coral bleaching is happening in large part due to ocean acidification that is resulting from ACD, and is particularly worrisome when one considers that more than half of all oceanic life spends some of its life in coral reefs.

Warming temperatures have also increased the likelihood that dengue fever could spread to Europe and the mountainous regions of South America, according to the UN University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health.

Another recent study showed that tropical deforestation, caused by both ACD and logging, could cause “significant and widespread” shifts in rainfall distribution and temperatures, which will affect agriculture far and wide.

Pine bark beetle infestations, which are exploding across vast swaths of North America, are now happening as far south as Tucson, Arizona, where pine trees are now dropping like flies.

California’s ongoing drought is having profound impacts on wildlife: Animals like squirrels, deer and bear are fleeing their homes and even risking their lives to search for food sources that have been dramatically diminished.

Another recent study showed that ACD-related habitat loss is now a threat to 314 more species of birds, whose numbers are already in decline.

Major western US cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas are on an increasingly perilous path to losing access to water, according to a recent report. Without a dramatic shift in how they manage their water resources, devastating results are guaranteed.

As storms continue to intensify, the Philippines’ climate chief warned recently that his country lacks the systems necessary to cope with the worsening impacts of ACD. The Philippines was recently hammered by yet another massive typhoon.

In Australia, Sydney and its surrounding region can expect an increasing number of hot days, shifting rainfall patterns and more extreme fire danger as a result of ACD, according to recently published high-resolution modeling of the future climate there.

A recently published study revealed that deadly cholera outbreaks are almost certain to increase in the more vulnerable regions of the world due to ACD, since severe heat waves and more frequent and intense flooding are on the rise.

Lastly in this section, another recent study showed that the Amazonian peatlands store approximately 10 times the amount of carbon as do undisturbed rainforests in adjacent areas, which makes them all the more critical in efforts to mitigate ACD. The areas in question are already mostly unprotected, and the deforestation there would result in “massive carbon emissions,” according to the report.

Water

California’s ongoing drought once again leads the water section of the dispatch this month. A recently released study showed that the drought was that state’s worst in 1,200 years. Clearly an end to the drought is nowhere in sight, as recent NASA satellite data showed that it will take 11 trillion gallons of water to recover from the drought. In some areas of California, rural wells are running dry, forcing residents to carry their water in buckets.

The drought, which is bringing one of the richest states in the United States to its knees, is turning much of the center of California into a dust bowl. That area happens to be where the United States gets half of all of its vegetables and nuts.

California’s almonds, which provide $11 billion annually to the state’s economy, are now under threat due to the drought, as the water supply for the almond orchards is running dry. In fact, it’s gotten so bad that farmers in the southern Central Valley have to depend on charity to fill their pantries with food since agricultural yields have diminished so dramatically.

Governors of eight western US states met recently in, ironically, Las Vegas, in order to discuss how to cope with the ongoing drought that is severely impacting the majority of the American West. At the meeting, Jeff Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, acknowledged that his agency is dealing with a two-headed dragon: drought on the Colorado River (which 40 million people rely upon for their water) as well as in the Sierra Nevada and Northern California.

Further south in Central America, drought has pushed 2.5 million people into food insecurity, according to a recent UN report. UN spokesperson Jens Laerke said the drought there is “turning into a creeping humanitarian crisis.”

Continuing south, the melting of glaciers in the Andes Mountains of South America is now threatening the populations of several countries, including Bolivia and Peru, which rely on the glaciers for much of their water supply. In Peru, a country that has more tropical glaciers than any other on earth, ice masses have shrunk by 40 percent.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil, a metropolis of 20 million, water shortages this year have been so severe that schools have been forced to suspend classes and restaurants have shut down. Unless dramatic rainfalls happen very, very soon, the possibility of a mega-city running dry will begin to come into focus.

A study that was published recently in Science magazine revealed that glaciers in China that are critical for that country’s drinking supply are now under “continuous warming,” and that glaciers in China overall are “disappearing quickly.” This will also dramatically impact the water situation in India, which is heavily reliant upon said glaciers.

The other primary element in this section is rising sea levels around the globe.

Back in the United States, Assateague, a small coastal island off the coast of Maryland and Virginia, is considered by many to be the East Coast’s canary in the coal mine of climate change. It is likely to be one of the first places in the United States to have to be abandoned by humans due to rising sea levels. Options being considered by people living there are using portable buildings, dumping more money into trying to keep the rising seas in check or relocating themselves altogether.

A place that could possibly beat out Assateague in becoming a new Atlantis is Florida, where South Beach, Miami, has to regularly pump water out of areas in an ongoing effort to prevent inundation.

Moving westward from Florida, the state of Louisiana is planning on spending $50 billion in money it doesn’t have on a 50-year effort to try to save its rapidly disappearing coastline – based on untested science.

Looking across the Atlantic, in the United Kingdom, nearly 7,000 homes and buildings will be sacrificed to rising seas around England and Wales over the next 85 years, according to an Environment Agency analysis that has yet to be published. More than 800 of those properties will be lost to coastal erosion within the next two decades.

In Malaysia, the worst flooding in more than a decade has killed at least five people and forced more than 160,000 to flee their homes, while that country’s prime minister was busy playing golf in the United States.

Off the coast of Maine, the Gulf of Maine’s waters are warming faster than nearly every other ocean on earth, according to scientists. This is causing massive disruptions in the ecosystem there, forcing fish to find cooler places to live and upending the region’s fishing industry.

Ocean acidification, which is increasing dramatically around the globe as carbon dioxide emissions continue without abatement, means that mussels could soon be off the menu; their shells are becoming increasingly unlikely to form due to the shifting oceanic water chemistry.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, currently engaged in a several-month study of the waters off the coast of California, is reporting the presence of several unusual marine mammals, like dark dolphins and pygmy whales, that have never been found there, which they attribute to warmer-than-usual temperatures.

To make matters worse, a recently published study predicted that the Arctic could be ice-free during the summertime within six years. This would dramatically accelerate ACD and its impacts, as solar radiation that is currently reflected by that ice would then be absorbed by the Arctic Ocean, hence speeding up the warming process, along with a further increase in sea level rise.

That study, however, is far more conservative than a study conducted by the US Navy, which predicts an ice-free Arctic by 2016.

Air

A study recently published in Nature Climate Change states that deadly heat waves in Europe are now 10 times more likely than they were just a decade ago. This is troubling news, given that during the summer of 2003 when temperatures soared to over 100 degrees throughout Western Europe, more than 35,000 people were killed – and that was the most intense heat the continent had seen in over 500 years.

As the planet goes, so goes Europe. A recent study by three independent teams of climate scientists has tied that continent’s record-breaking heat of 2014 directly to ACD. The report also showed that record-breaking years are now 35 to 80 times more likely, again thanks to ACD.

Indeed, recently released research shows that extremes of both hot and cold temperatures across the planet are increasing faster than previously believed.

A recent study showed that the Arctic is continuing to warm faster than the rest of the planet, as annual average temperatures there have continued to heat up twice as fast as the rest of the globe.

Two recent studies revealed that millions of abandoned oil and gas wells spanning the United States are likely releasing a “significant quantity” of methane into the atmosphere, which is not being included in total Environmental Protection Agency emission counts.

Lastly and perhaps most distressing in this section, new modeling revealed how warming ocean waters could well already be triggering massive methane leaks off the Pacific Northwest Coast, where 4 million tons of the potent greenhouse gas have already been released since 1970.

Denial and Reality

ACD denial persisted steadily in the last month of 2014 – particularly evidenced by the large number of ACD deniers in the US Congress. Yet interestingly, pushback against ACD denial is now happening even within the Republican ranks.

Rep. Chris Gibson (R-New York) announced plans to introduce a pro-climate science bill in an effort to help others “recognize the reality” of the situation. His effort would also put lawmakers on the record during the process, so that their denial position would become part of the permanent public record.

A recent poll revealed that half of all Republican lawmakers back limits on carbon dioxide emissions.

Seattle billionaire Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and owner of the Seattle Seahawks, recently took it upon himself to pay the tab on a lawsuit against the US Department of the Interior, which oversees the leasing out of public lands to coal-mining companies.

The White House issued climate change guidelines for hospitals, and declared that ACD is a public health hazard. The issuing of the hospital guidebook was an effort to assist health-care facilities in coping with the multiple threats posed by extreme weather.

The city of Salem, Massachusetts, has taken matters into its own hands, releasing a 212-page report aimed at guiding the city on how it can best protect itself from rising seas and temperatures.

Another phenomenon that could help in breaking through Republican-led climate denial in Florida politics is the fact that rising sea levels will likely cause many Florida residents to become climate refugees. While the US government and corporate media won’t talk about it, the CBC in Canada will, given that half a million Canadians own property in the Sunshine, or Rising Sea Level, State.

Religious groups around the world are making ACD an advocacy priority. For example, the Church of England has stepped up to the plate: It has challenged both BP and Shell over ACD, asking the two oil giants to take responsibility for their carbon footprints and seriously limit their mutual contributions to ACD.

In Australia, religious leaders are taking on Big Coal via letter-writing campaigns and even coal blockades, and recently announced they are in the fight for the long haul.

And Catholic bishops around the globe are pushing hard to secure a global treaty that will put an end to all fossil fuel use.

Even the pope thinks that ACD is a major threat, and has issued a first-ever comprehensive set of Vatican teachings on ACD, coming in the form of a “papal letter.” The pope is also going to lobby for climate action in a series of high-profile meetings ahead of the next UN ACD negotiations in Paris later this year.

In the entertainment/distraction arena, the Simpsons video game was recently updated to show Santa moving his workshop out of the North Pole and into a quaint town called Springfield, due to ACD.

For a sobering look at the history of the record highs and lows of the planetary annual temperatures, have a look at this short video clip.

Another denial-breaker comes from NASA, which published this incredible map of carbon dioxide around the planet, generated by its new Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2.

A very interesting thought experiment can be viewed here. It’s produced by a group that broke down parts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report and created a slide show through time that shows increasing planetary temperatures accompanied by likely news headlines. It is definitely worth a watch.

The Washington Post published a useful multimedia guide to the worst disasters of 2014, which ranged from catastrophic flooding to the “polar vortex,” most of which are clearly tied to ACD.

A recently aired Smithsonian Institute documentary titled Mass Extinction: Life at the Brink provided a frightening warning of how we humans are racing toward our own destruction, taking the rest of the planet with us. The documentary also predicts a global temperature increase of between 9 and 11 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, which is dramatically higher than even the worst-case IPCC prediction.

Lastly for this month’s dispatch, a special analysis carried out by the prestigious Nature magazine has sounded the alarm that a staggering 41 percent of all amphibians on the planet now face extinction, and 26 percent of mammals and 13 percent of birds face the same threat.